Features

Articles that are feature stories.

Rookie Witkowski Quickly Earning Zettler’s Trust

By Jeremy Houghtaling

After his first game of the season, Luke Witkowski wasn’t all that thrilled with the results.

The defenseman, in his first full professional season out of Western Michigan University, was the only Syracuse Crunch player to register a plus-3 rating in the 4-3 overtime loss to the Binghamton Senators last Saturday.

"Personally, plus-3, that's alright," Witkowski said. "Obviously, the outcome of the game wasn't what I wanted or what anyone else wanted. So, maybe on the stat sheet it looked good, but there's still some other things I need to work on."

With only six games of American Hockey League experience on his resume, Witkowski is just trying to keep his game simple as he develops.

The 23-year-old’s first game of the season impressed Syracuse coach Rob Zettler, who expects to keep Witkowski paired with Dmitry Korobov, who was plus-20 in 65 games with the Crunch last season, for the foreseeable future.

JT Brown Ready for Bigger Role

By Jeremy Houghtaling

No longer a rookie, JT Brown’s role with the Syracuse Crunch has changed.

Last year, the Minnesota native learned how to grind it out and shut down the opposition’s top lines. At Thursday’s practice at the Onondaga County War Memorial, Brown was paired with first-rounder Vlad Namestnikov and top prospect Nikita Kucherov on a scoring line.

Prospect of the Week: October 9, 2013

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 September 24, 2013 is … Henri Ikonen, W (Kingston Frontenacs, OHL, Canada).

Watching the Lightning’s camp this September, a smallish forward kept demanding my attention with his energy and surprisingly successful plays along the boards. At least three times I remember thinking to myself, “Who is 57 again?” before seeing “Ikonen, Henri” on the roster in front of me.

Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman likes skill and compete level in prospects and Ikonen boasts both. He also grades out high in hockey sense, another prioritized trait by Yzerman.

'Hockey Paradis' in Syracuse

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Philippe Paradis describes it as one of his best memories.

Surrounded by friends and family at the Bell Centre in Montreal, not far from his hometown of Normandin, Paradis was selected 27th overall by Carolina Hurricanes in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

As Paradis made his way to the stage, one TV analyst mentioned his height, 6-1, and his ability to shoot the puck – 95.7 mph in the hardest shot competition during the CHL Top Prospects Game.

Zettler in No Rush to Name No. 1

By Jeremy Houghtaling

A little more than 24 hours before the puck drops on a new season, Syracuse Crunch Head Coach Rob Zettler still didn't know who was going to start between the pipes.

With no clear-cut No. 1 starter heading into Saturday's contest at Binghamton, Zettler is going to start the season by platooning netminders Cedrick Desjardins and Riku Helenius.

"They'll likely get equal time early on, and then we'll see where it goes," Zettler said.

The two candidates have more than 280 games and a dozen professional seasons between them, so Zettler has time to let it pan out.

Lofty Expectations for Lightning's AHL Affiliate

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Despite another short summer, Mike Angelidis had time to reflect.

The Syracuse Crunch captain, who hoisted the Calder Cup with the Norfolk Admirals in 2012, remembers the letdown of the Game 6 finals loss last June. The recent success of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization provides a winning atmosphere, but it's not complete without the Calder Cup.

Prospect of the Week: October 1, 2013

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 September 24, 2013 is … Andrey Vasilevskiy (Salavat Yulaev, KHL, Russia).

If Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman wakes up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night worried about Tampa Bay's goaltending, there’s probably a framed photo of Andrey Vasilevskiy on his nightstand calming him down.

J-P Cote an Elite Player for Lightning Organization

Jean-Philippe Cote is not a household name.

The son of former Quebec Nordique Alain Cote, “J-P” has been with the Lightning organization for the past two seasons. A two-time Calder Cup winner, the defenseman is as much a reason for the Tampa Bay affiliate’s Cup runs these last two years as more recognizable names like Tokarski, Desjardins, Gudas, Panik, Johnson, and Palat.

Cote is 31 years old. He’s not a young prospect like Andrej Sustr or J. T. Brown in the early stages of their development. But Sustr and Brown don’t come close to their talent ceilings without Cote and players like him.

“He’s invaluable,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said last year when coaching Cote’s Syracuse Crunch.

"He's a guy who's been around the block and has played a few games in the NHL," Cooper said. "He's seen it all and done it all. You can't have enough of those guys around."

Cooper has kept Cote around throughout the Lightning’s training camp. The former Leafs ninth round pick has survived every round of cuts so far and is the only player left in camp who is not on an NHL contract.

Prospect of the Week: September 24, 2013

We continue our Prospect of the Week award this season, 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 September 24, 2013 – our first of the season – is … Adam Erne, Tampa Bay (NHL) and Quebec (QMJHL).

Like we've been saying, it's Adam Erne's world.

When Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman passed on defenseman Seth Jones in the first round at this summer’s entry draft in favor of dynamic winger Jonathan Drouin, we figured Yzerman’s target in the second round would be a defenseman or power forward.

'Bonus Pick' for Bolts?

Each summer for the past three years Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman has added an extra prospect – or “bonus draft pick” – to his prospect pool. A player the organization considers worthy of a pro contract but slips through the draft is signed and the player development process begins.

In 2010, Yzerman’s first year on the job, it was free agent defenseman Charles Landry. Tampa Bay signed the righty two-way defenseman to a standard rookie contract and sent him back to QMJHL Montreal.

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