The web site of the Finnish SM-Liiga team Rauma Lukko is reporting that Lightning forward prospect Lauri Tukonen has left the Tampa training camp early and will be arriving back in Rauma on Saturday in time to participate in team drills on Monday. Tukonen, while not yet reassigned to Norfolk, failed to make the team roster for either of the Lightning's first two exhibition games. The Lightning signed the former LA Kings 1st round pick to a one-year, two-way contract on July 16, but his contract reportedly has a European out-clause allowing the winger to return to Lukko instead of reporting to Norfolk.
Open roster slots on the Tampa forward lines are heavily contested and the competition apparently has gotten even tougher with head coach Rick Tocchet quoted as saying today that 2009 1st round pick Carter Ashton "has shown enough that he could stay. He's done everything asked of him." Ashton will make his NHL debut tonight against the Atlanta Thrashers in Tampa's only home pre-season match, and he is expected to start on Tampa's top line alongside Vincent Lecavalier and free agent acquisition Alex Tanguay.
Meanwhile, the Norfolk Admirals have announced that their 2009 training camp will open Wednesday, September 23 with the scheduled Admirals vs. Lightning exhibition match two days later on Friday at the Scope. Admirals GM Mike Butters announced that the following free agents will attend training camp: D Ben Wright, D Trevor Hendrikx, C Ryan McDonald, C Travis Whitehead, former Lightning prospect LW Justin Keller, RW Matt Dias, RW Stephen Werner, RW Erick Lizon, RW Chaz Johnson and RW Tommy Goebel. These free agents will join Lightning prospects Kevin Quick, Scott Jackson, Chris Lawrence, and Mitch Fadden who were assigned to Admirals yesterday from the Tampa training camp. Other Lightning players will join the Admirals camp as the Tampa staff continue to trim down the NHL roster.
The Admirals will hold on-ice practice sessions at The Scope next week. Beginning on Thursday, September 24, all weekday on-ice practices will be open to the public. Wednesdayâ€™s training camp testing sessions and all weekend practices will be closed to the public. The Admiral camp schedule is as follows:
Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune has released the roster for the Tampa Bay Lightning's only pre-season home game Friday night against the Atlanta Thrashers. 2009 1st round draft picks Victor Hedman and Carter Ashton highlight six prospects that will get important starts in a star-filled lineup in front of an expectant home crowd. After playing 27+ minutes against Dallas Wednesday night, Hedman will get a chance to showcase why he was the #2 overall pick this summer. Ashton will line up on right wing alongside franchise center Vincent Lecavalier and Alex Tanguay on what presumes to be Tampa's top line. A heady start for the young power forward whom most believe is headed back Lethbridge for one more year of juniors. Forwards Paul Szczechura, Richard Panik and Blair Jones get their second consecutive starts after playing Wednesday against the Stars. Jones tallied the go-ahead goal in the third period before the Bolts succumbed to a shootout loss. Prospect goaltender phenom Dustin Tokarski will relieve Mike Smith for the third period and demonstrate to the home crowd as to why he won the 2008 Memorial Cup.
The expected forward lines for Friday's game are:
Joining Hedman on the blueline for a second straight game are David Hale, Kurtis Foster, and Mike Lundin. Mattias Ohlund will be making his Lightning debut and Lukas Krajicek rounds out the Bolt defensive corps. Joining Tokarski in net is Lightning #1 goalie Mike Smith in his first game action since a concussion prematurely ended his 2008-09 season.
In recent CHL exhibition action:
Richard Panik (2009 2nd) had a goal and three assists in a 5-3 Windsor exhibition win over Plymouth Saturday afternoon. Panik has three goals and five assists in his first two North American games. And he's not even playing next to likely 2010 No.1 overall pick Taylor Hall yet. Panik couldn't be in a better situation. He's playing for a coach (Bob "The Boogie Man" Boughner) and GM (Warren Rychel) who were both hard-nosed, disciplined players and expect the same out of their Spitfire players. As the defending Memorial Cup and OHL champions, and expected 2010 champion for both, the Spits will be in Canada's spotlight and have targets on their backs all year. They'll get everyone's A-game defensively. This should help Panik speed his development for NHL play. Finally, he'll be surrounded by players such as Hall, Ryan Ellis, and Cam Fowler, which means he has a very high statistical ceiling. This will be fun to watch.
Goaltender Jaroslav Janus made his exhibition debut for Erie Saturday, stopping 31 shots in a 4-4 tie with Niagara. Janus can return to Erie this year as an overager, though there was speculation he'd go to Europe or be signed by the Lightning and placed in the Central League or assigned to an ECHL team. It's good to see him back with the Otters, even if it's just to get work before Tampa Bay's rookie camp this week.
The "other" 2009 Lightning first rounder, Carter Ashton, had an assist for Lethbridge in preseason action Friday.
Matias Sointu, who is making his North American debut with Ottawa this year, has one assist through two exhibition games for the 67's. Sointu missed most of last season with an injury in Finland.
The Q opens regular season play this week, so look for BoltProspects' Game Night summaries to appear shortly.
It's almost impossible to beat the haul the Lightning got in 1998 (Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards, Dimitry Afanasenkov, and Martin Cibak), but I think the Lightning might've just completed their second best draft in team history. They already completed a first in history making a pair of first round picks on night one of the draft with Victor Hedman and Carter Ashton, so they were on their way already.
However, their second and fourth round selections really put this draft over the top. Richard Panik is a big time gamble, but he's going to a very good program in Windsor and will be playing for Bob Boughner. On pure talent, he could be even better than Ashton if you can get his head on straight, and he'll be in the environment in Windsor to facilitate that.
And, we love that Alex Hutchings pick. Absolutely love it. You got a hockey player who can play center or wing. Good skater. Good hockey sense. He can pass. He can shoot. He mucks well for a little guy. He just knows how to play the game. It's shocking he fell into the Lightning's lap in the fourth round, and in getting Hutchings the Lightning completed a very successful first four rounds where they got 4 of the top 48 rated prospects by THN and 4 of the top 60 by Red Line. That's in a deep draft, no less, so they got a lot of quality.
The goaltenders, Zador and Janus, seem like a reaction to Karri Ramo's defection. Zador's got to get playing time, but he was a first rounder in the OHL Priority Draft in 2007, so he's got raw ability. Janus made his name at the WJC's and had decent statistics for Erie this season. Because Janus was an overager, he'll probably only have one more year in junior. Zador probably gets two. You're just wishing and hoping one of them develops the way Ramo did when the Lightning took a sixth rounder on him out of Lahti.
I have a feeling the Lightning got some value out of that Gotovets pick. I'm guessing if his name was Johnson or Wilson, he might've gone a couple of rounds sooner, but teams are terrified of the KHL poaching their players. Yes, there's a danger if Gotovets develops he could be poached by Dynamo Minsk, but he's already taken the step of coming over to Shattuck and he already speaks pretty flawless English. I don't think you make that commitment and go to an Ivy League school like Cornell only to turn back around and go back to Belarus, and I have yet to hear about anything glaringly wrong with his game other than the fact he's pretty skinny. He'll be a darkhorse to watch over the next few years.
The only regret is that the Lightning didn't find a way to get an offensive defenseman or two into the system. That'll be something they'll need to look at next year, and they'll certainly continue to try to flesh out their forward depth. Getting Ashton, Panik, and Hutchings was a whale of a start, though. Very good draft. I suspect they get at least three NHL players out of this group.
Evidently, Janus would've gone to Russia to play in the KHL if he hadn't been drafted, and he wants to play pro this season and not go back to junior. That's an interesting problem for a Lightning organization that has Riku Helenius and Dustin Tokarski all but inked into the lineup in Norfolk next season.