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Crunch Rookie Paquette Climbing the Charts


By Jeremy Houghtaling

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.”

BP Mailbag: 2-5-14

Thanks for the questions this week as we move closer to the Olympic break and the trade deadline.

The tea leaves reveal...

@Jayslightning79:
@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.

Witkowski Learning from Increased Ice Time


By Jeremy Houghtaling

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.”

Prospect of the Week: February 3, 2014

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 3, 2014 is … Adam Wilcox, G, Minnesota Golden Gophers (NCAA – USA).

They call Adam Wilcox “the Iron Man.” The Gophers goalie and Tampa Bay Lightning sixth round draft pick (2011) has the Marvel Comics character on his mask and has played in nearly every game since starting his collegiate career with the University of Minnesota.

Sustr Focuses on Big Picture After Reassignment to Syracuse


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Despite being sent to Syracuse for more ice time, Andrej Sustr hasn't seen much game action.

The 6-8 defenseman, hurt on his second shift since being reassigned by the Tampa Bay Lightning earlier this month, practiced with the Crunch Tuesday. After missing five games, he is nearing a return to the lineup.

“It’s been pretty good,” Sustr said of working his way back into game shape Tuesday. “I’m aiming for this weekend.”

With Syracuse on a five-game losing streak, the addition of Sustr is a major shot in the arm to a struggling Crunch defense that has surrendered 23 goals in the past five games.

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