We continue our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their recent contributions on and off the ice.
The Prospect of the Week for February 10, 2014 is … Matt Peca, C, Quinnipiac Bobcats (NCAA – USA).
Matt Peca was one of the best-kept secrets in the NCAA until his natural hat trick last year in the East Regional Finals.
As the 2013-2014 collegiate hockey season got underway, much was expected from the junior forward. He was coming off an excellent post-season and regular season in which he had 15 goals and 15 assists. Many thought Peca would challenge for the Hobey Baker as the NCAA’s top player, but Peca found himself in a little different role.
The Lightning recalled center Vladislav Namestnikov and goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis from the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced Friday. Gudlevskis was recalled on an emergency basis due to an injury to Ben Bishop.
According to the Lightning’s press release, Namestnikov, 21, has skated in 31 games this season with Syracuse, posting 13 goals and 30 points to go along with 19 penalty minutes. He ranks tied for first on the team for points and assists. The Zhukovskiy, Russia native also ranks tied for first on the Crunch for power-play goals with six. The 6-foot, 183-pound forward has skated in 75 career AHL games over the past two seasons, all with the Crunch, recording 20 goals and 51 points.
He was originally drafted by the Lightning in the first round, 27th overall, at the 2011 NHL Draft.
At the beginning of the season, Cedric Paquette classified himself as a third line center.
A defensively responsible forward that plays with an edge, Paquette knew where he was likely to find ice time. But with injuries and call-ups constantly shuffling the Syracuse Crunch lineup, the rookie has found a home where he didn’t expect — on a scoring line.
Paquette has seen spot duty on the top line, but has spent most of the season on the Crunch’s second unit. Forty-five games into Syracuse’s season, the 20-year-old leads the team with 14 goals and is tied for first with 30 points.
“He’s quickly found his way up the charts,” said Crunch coach Rob Zettler. “He just does a lot of really good things. Above all the things he does well, he’s a competitor. He plays hard every night, and that’s why he’s been successful.”
Thanks for the questions this week as we move closer to the Olympic break and the trade deadline.
The tea leaves reveal...
@BoltProspects Do you see Yzerman making a spot for Brett Connolly? ..or do you see him traded? #BPMailbag
I think the only way to do that is to trade Teddy Purcell (top-9 forward who’s moderately expendable and doesn’t have a no-trade clause), but that wouldn’t be the wisest move mid-season as experience is a big deal in a playoff push. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Connolly move as I think Drouin and Kucherov are ahead of him on the projected 2014 roster for roughly the same spots (skill, possession forward). I think, big picture-wise, better balance could be attained by trading Connolly for a defenseman close in age/development (I’ve always thought Ryan Ellis would be a logical target. Not so much anymore, but there’s a name).
I’d like to say Yzerman likes his young forward prospects too much to deal one, unless it’s a Bishop-type deal, but after last week’s Mailbag projecting the roster for the next two years, there’s just not room for them all.
Luke Witkowski has learned many lessons in the first half of his rookie season.
The defenseman is surrounded by quality teachers, whether its a coaching staff with decades of experience in professional hockey or the many veterans that dot the Syracuse Crunch lineup.
But sometimes, the best lessons are taught through personal experience.
“These guys help him and we try to help him as much as possible, but I think sometimes you have to live through some of those mistakes,” said Crunch coach Rob Zettler. “You can tell a guy to move the puck quickly as much as you want, but sometimes he has to learn the hard way and get caught doing it.”