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 25 is … Ondrej Palat, W, Syracuse (AHL – USA)
Ondrej Palat doesn’t make headlines.
The Syracuse Crunch forward is a complimentary winger, usually photographed in the background of a dramatic goal or its celebration. But without him, that play probably doesn’t happen.
Palat gives a scoring line 2-way ability or playmaking, whichever is needed the most. Like Martin St. Louis with the Lightning, if a coach adds him to a line, that line gets better.
By Pete Choquette
It's been a long, strange trip for Bolt Prospects to arrive at this year's Midterm Prospect Rankings. Between the end of the NHL lockout and an abbreviated training camp, call-ups, graduations, and trades, there's been a lot of movement in the rankings. One lesson learned from the first half of this season: no more standing still for Lightning prospects. Even first and second round picks can't afford to stagnate in their development with so much quality depth within the organization. More than that, the youth movement is already beginning in Tampa Bay with three prospects currently up with the Lightning and recently graduated Keith Aulie also with the NHL club.
Desjardins, 27, has appeared in 22 games this season with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League, compiling a record of 7-13-2 with a 2.94 goals-against average and .905 save percentage. The Edmundston, New Brunswick, native has played in two career NHL games, both with the Lightning during the 2010-11 season, picking up a pair of victories while recording a 1.00 goals-against average and .968 save percentage.
The Syracuse Crunch's recent slide is the result of a myriad of factors.
After losing two straight games and six of their last seven, it is impossible for the Crunch to pinpoint one specific problem. With a little bit of everything to blame, the answers range from a mix of bad luck and tough opposition in net to defensive lapses and a lack of scoring.
“We just haven’t been playing the way we want to play,” said Crunch forward Tyler Johnson.
The Crunch hopes to remedy one of those problems, an absence of offense, by combining their top three point-scorers on the same line. With Tampa Bay Lightning prospects Johnson, Alex Killorn, and Brett Connolly practicing on the same unit, Syracuse hopes it becomes the team's slump-buster when Albany and Adirondack visit the Onondaga County War Memorial on Friday and Saturday.
Jean-Philippe Cote has changed in many ways since his brief stint in the National Hockey League seven years ago.
The defenseman's experience since has helped show him how to do his job better, and he might be even a little faster. But he knows his chances of a call-up have likely passed.
"Obviously, there's that dream still, but I do know my role," Cote said. "I know, compared to maybe five years ago, I'm not the next guy on the list (of guys being called-up)."
Instead, the 30-year-old has embraced his new purpose – being a leader and mentor on and off the ice for some of the Tampa Bay Lightning's top prospects with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch.
Danick Gauthier started the season as the odd man out.
With the Syracuse Crunch already loaded with talented forwards and further enhanced with players being sent down from Tampa Bay as a result of the NHL lockout, the rookie had trouble cracking the lineup.
Crunch coach Jon Cooper told Gauthier to expect to be sit out most nights, and the 21-year-old suited up for just 10 games in the first three months of the season.
"It was hard to be scratched almost every game, but I just kept working in practices, and I got a couple chances," Gauthier said.
"Every chance I got on the ice, I needed to make a good impression for the coaches," the Quebec-native added.
From The Windsor Star
Defenceman Slater Koekkoek wasn't about to miss a chance to make an early debut with the Windsor Spitfires.
Just hours after being dealt by the Peterborough Petes to the Spitfires Thursday for Michael Clarke and second-round picks in 2014 and 2015, the former Peterborough captain was on the ice for Windsor's 3-0 win over the Brampton Battalion at the WFCU Centre.
"I had no idea I was going to be a Spitfire, but I'm pretty thrilled," said the 18-year-old Koekkoek, who was a 10th pick overall in the first round of last year's NHL Draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It was Windsor's last deal before Thursday's Ontario Hockey League trade deadline, but one that brought the club a cornerstone defenseman.
From FoxSports North
Adam Wilcox came to the University of Minnesota campus this fall for a job interview of sorts.
The freshman from South St. Paul was in a competition with junior Mike Shibrowski to become Golden Gophers' starting goaltender. For the first few weeks of the college hockey season, Minnesota coach Don Lucia played each goalie for one game a weekend to see how they handled certain situations.
But there was one game — and perhaps even one play — in October when Wilcox seized the starting job and made it his own.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie estimates his first National Hockey League assist came about 200 feet from the Phoenix Coyotes net.
The Syracuse Crunch forward, up for more than a dozen games with the Tampa Bay Lightning last season, had chipped the puck past defenseman Rostislav Klesla, and his linemates, Trevor Smith and Martin St. Louis, were off to the races.
It wasn't the prettiest play, but it got the job done.
"Just a simple play," Labrie said. "Keep it simple. That's my type of game."
In his sixth professional season, Labrie has had to grind out a career by doing a little bit of everything on the ice.
The Lightning had five prospects at the 2013 Under-20 World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia, and four came away with medals.
Here’s a look how each prospect fared, and what their future might look like.
Nikita Kucherov, RW, Russia
7 Games Played, 5-3-8, +4, 4 PIM, 21 SOG
While Kucherov may only remember his missed shootout attempt against Sweden in the semifinals right now, years from now will look at his Bronze medal and be satisfied with his play throughout the competition. Kucherov was arguably Russia’s best forward in the tournament, though Mikhail Grigorenko (Sabres) was the only forward named among the team’s three best by the coaches at tournament’s end. In the opinion of TSN commentator Ray Ferraro, Kucherov was the team’s best forward. He and Grigorenko were by far the most consistent and dangerous forwards for the Russians at the event, and the two were responsible for 14 points together.