Lightning prospect followers expected one high profile Tampa Bay draftee to be selected in today's Canadian Hockey League Import Draft, but not two.
Andrei Vasilevski, the Lightning's second first round selection (19th overall) in last week's NHL Entry Draft, is reportedly trying to buy out his contract with Ufa of the KHL to play Canadian junior hockey. As of early Wednesday morning, the Lightning said there was no news regarding Vasilevski, and after several teams took goaltenders in the first round, it appeared his situation with Ufa was far from settled.
While the Valisevski watch was in full effect, Nikita Kucherov, last year's second round pick out of CSKA in Russia, was taken by Patrick Roy's Quebec Remparts. The Remparts may lose former Kucherov linemate and Sabres 2012 first round pick Mikhail Grigorenko to the NHL next year and Kucherov would provide instant offense for Roy's roster. There is also a possibility they are reunited in Quebec City. Roy said Tuesday that the Sabres were non-committal to Grigorenko's immediate NHL future, so it is still possible he could return to Quebec.
Kucherov spent most of last year with CSKA's junior team, where he racked up 24 goals and 41 points in just 23 games. He also had seven points in seven games at the World Junior Championships. He was able to get in 18 games at the professional level with CSKA's KHL side, but only managed a goal and five points in limited action. His selection was surprising to many prospect followers as Kucherov is expected to challenge for more games in the KHL this year. However, initial reports on Twitter from a sports.ru reporter said Kucherov was coming to North America. Roy, who has to secure Kucherov's release from CSKA, is already talking about where Kucherov could fit in his lineup.
Should Kucherov join the wide-open QMJHL, he could very well top 120 points next season.
Quebec chose Kucherov with the 43rd pick in the Import Draft, near the bottom of the first of the two round draft.
Vasilevski ended up a second round selection as the newly-renamed Mississauga Steelheads took him with pick number 69.
Mississauga lost last year's No.1 goalie and Vasilevski could make his path to the NHL a lot clearer by joining the Steelheads in the Ontario Hockey League. It's worth a shot for Mississauga, who is no doubt hoping the off-the-ice situation can be settled shortly.
The strength of the Lightning organization remains at the forward positions, where the team still boasts an impressive mix of star veterans like Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, and Ryan Malone, and the game's best young star, Steven Stamkos. The team will spend some of its offseason tweaking its third line, and they made overtures to Swiss star Damien Brunner to try to improve their scoring depth on the wings. But, ultimately, the team should feel pretty solid offensively. Keeping the puck out of the back of their own net has always been the bigger challenge.
MHL Finals (Russia Jr.):
Omsk Jr. beat CSKA Jr. 3-1 in Game Five to clinch their MHL Finals series 4 games to 1. Omsk Jr. unseats CSKA Jr. as the champions of the Russian junior league. Nikita Kucherov did not play in the match. The game concludes the Lightning European prospect season.
MHL Finals (Russia Jr.):
Maxim Kazakov's goal at 1:39 of overtime lifted Omsk Jr. to a 2-1 Game Four win over CSKA Jr. and delivered to them the MHL championship. The MHL Finals are the lone best-of-seven series in the tournament, so CSKA Jr. faces elimination in Game Five on Thursday. Nikita Kucherov did not appear in the match.
SM-liiga Finals (Finland):
(2)Pelicans Lahti 1 @ (4)JYP 2 (OT)
JYP Wins the Series 4-1
JYP Wins the SM-liiga Championship
Riku Helenius, JYP, Win, 45/46, 0.90 GAA, .978 sv%
Playoff totals: 13 GP, 11-2-0, 0 SO, 1.73 GAA, .947 sv%
Regular season totals: 33 GP, 21-9-1, 7 SO, 1.64 GAA, .936 sv%
Completing arguably the greatest season of redemption in Bolt Prospects history, Lightning prospect Riku Helenius turned away 45 shots to help lead JYP to a 2-1 overtime Game Five win. The victory clinched the series and the SM-liiga championship for JYP. Former Lightning forward Eric Perrin (shown celebrating like a wild man) scored the overtime winner at 6:58 of overtime and assisted on JYP's other goal in the victory.
Helenius, the former Lightning first rounder, goes from being a tandem starter on a Sodertalje club in the Swedish Elitserien that had to fight off relegation last year to backstopping the best club in the Finnish Elitserien.
MHL Championship (Russia Jr.):
Nikita Gusev had 1 goal and 1 assist as CSKA Jr. cut Omsk Jr.'s series lead in half in their 3-1 Game Three win over Omsk Jr. Nikita Kucherov did not appear in the match. Game Four is Tuesday.