After only a handful of games, Jon Cooper saw the signs of what was to come from Vladislav Namestnikov.
The Syracuse Crunch head coach watched the same progression in many of the rookies on the Calder Cup-winning Norfolk Admirals last year, whether they were Tampa Bay Lightning picks like Ondrej Palat and Richard Panik, or undrafted free agents like Tyler Johnson and Cory Conacher.
“Those guys that came in, felt out the league, learned it and after Christmas, took off,” Cooper said. “That’s where Vladdy would have been this year, but we’re just going to have to wait a few months for that to happen.”
Quebec Major Junior Hockey League
Quebec Remparts 3 @ Shawinigan Cataractes 2 (OT)
W Nikita Kucherov, QUE: Did not play
Season totals: 6 GP, 3-7-10, -1, 2 PIM
Nikita Kucherov sat for the second straight game, then after the game reports began to surface that Kucherov was on the QMJHL trading block. One reporter said Kucherov had been playing “lazy.” Quebec has three import players and one has to move, though it was assumed Kucherov and his good friend Mikhail Grigorenko would be the ones staying. Nick Sorensen is the other import player. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Kucherov was a surprise Import Draft selection because few expected him to be interested in coming to North America. Quebec’s Patrick Roy knew something others didn’t, and having Grigorenko on the Remparts was no doubt a big help in getting that talented Kucherov to North America. Kucherov could choose to return to Russia if he’s not happy with his next playing situation. Stay tuned.
Drummondville Voltigeurs 3 @ Blainville-Boisbriand Armada 6
C Cedric Paquette, BLB: 0-1-1, -1, 0 PIM, 1 SOG, 2 Hits
Season totals: 22 GP, 10-16-26, +7, 45 PIM
Marc-Olivier Roy (undrafted) had two goals and an assist for the Armada in their win over the visiting Volts.
Val-d’Or Foreurs 5 @ Moncton Wildcats 4
D Artem Sergeev, VDO: 1-0-1, +1, 4 PIM, 1 SOG, 0 Hits
Season totals: 22 GP, 5-9-14, +6, 14 PIM
Artem Sergeev (pictured) snapped a 3-game scoreless streak with a goal in New Brunswick. He is within two goals of his career high of seven goals, scored last year in 46 games. Moncton outshot the Foreurs, 42-21, on Friday.
Ontario Hockey League
Brampton Battalion 4 @ Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds 3
D Dylan Blujus, BRAM: 1-0-1, E, 0 PIM
Season totals: 22 GP, 2-8-10, -9, 20 PIM
Dylan Blujus scored his second goal of the year in a 4-3 win in Wayne Gretzky’s old stomping grounds. The Soo had a 2-0 lead entering the second period before the Battalion scored three times in the middle frame. Blujus had seven goals in 66 games last year.
Owen Sound Attack 2 @ London Knights 5
D Jake Dotchin, OS: 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM
Season totals: 21 GP, 1-4-5, E, 22 PIM
Former Lightning camper Seth Griffith (Bruins) had a goal and two assists for London and was given First Star honors. Griffith and Lightning prospect Vladislav Namestnikov were linemates last year in London. With the win, the Knights leapfrogged the Attack for first in the Midwest Division. They also took over the OHL lead in points by one over Barrie and Owen Sound.
Mississauga Steelheads 2 @ Guelph Storm 7
C/W Tanner Richard, GUE: 0-3-3, +2, 2 PIM
Season totals: 20 GP, 2-25-27, +6, 44 PIM
Tanner Richard had three helpers to regain the OHL assist lead from Islanders first rounder Ryan Strome (Niagara) at 25. Richard has played in two fewer games than Strome, who leads the league with 39 points. Former Lightning prospect Brock Beukeboom scored his first of the year for Guelph.
Peterborough Petes 3 @ Kingston Frontenacs 7
D Slater Koekkoek, PBO: 0-0-0, -2, 2 PIM
Season totals: 23 GP, 3-15-18, -14, 18 PIM
This was a 3-2 game halfway through the game until the Fronts exploded for a 7-3 win.
Tic gets on track.
Dustin Tokarski (pictured) allowed 2 goals on 27 shots for his first victory of the season. That was a very solid rebound performance, especially in the Third Period, after an ugly stat line on opening night. So Tic just raised Riku, and we'll see what Helenius can do tomorrow to answer. It's great to have two really good young goaltenders who are the cusp of making the jump to the bigs pushing each other.
ALB Hoeffel, (1) (Josefson), 0:58
SYR Johnson, (4) (Palat, Conacher), 7:45 (PP)
ALB Tedenby, (1) (Sestito), 16:44
SYR Brown, (1) (Killorn, Namestnikov), 10:44 (PP)
SYR Angelidis, (3) (Barberio, Nightingale), 16:44
J.T. Brown scored his first goal as an AHLer to tie the game up in the second stanza.
There's a little rust on this Syracuse team that still needs to be knocked off. The east-west guys are still getting their timing back and the north-south guys, stylistically, are clearly ahead. So, I'd definitely say the Paniks and the Connollys are still feeling things out. It'll come, though. It's good to be 2-0-0-1 knowing these guys aren't close to what they're capable of yet.
For being such a young pup, Vladislav Namestnikov is holding his own. His power play assist from the Hershey game got switched to Cory Conacher shortly after the game, but he got his second helper of the season tonight and looks every bit as feisty as the scouting report says he is, even despite being on the skinny side. It wouldn't shock me, at all, if he had a really good second half once Coach Cooper gets him settled in. There's a slightly built guy wearing #12 for the Crunch who had a similar story last season.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Syracuse hangs on hard against one of the league's perennial powers.
Riku Helenius allowed 3 goals on 26 shots for the victory, in a successful return to North American hockey. This battle between Helenius and Dustin Tokarski for the top spot between the pipes in Syracuse is going to rage all season, and both guys are going to be better for it. It's an embarrassment of riches to boast two guys who won championships last season in the AHL and Finnish SM-liiga, respectively. Good. Problem. To. Have.
SYR Angelidis, (2) (Wyman), 11:23 (SH)
SYR Johnson, (3) (Conacher, Palat), 5:36
HER Mitchell, (1) , 7:26 (SH)
HER Almeida, (1) (Taffe, DiSalvatore), 14:36
SYR Conacher, (2) (Taormina), 18:44
SYR Connolly, (1) (Barberio, Conacher), 5:02 (PP)
HER DiSalvatore, (1) (Kundratek, Taffe), 13:04 (PP)
Cory Conacher (pictured) and Tyler Johnson were the game's first and second stars. For my money, Conacher was the best player in the league the first half of last season and Johnson the best in the second half. Why wouldn't they lead the Crunch in the home opener this year? With a little offseason rest, Conacher looks every bit the pesky scorer that tore up the league to start last year.
No offense to our friends in Hershey, but I have to confess to being a little stunned that this year's version of the Bears is the least stacked, on paper, I've seen in a while. Sure, there's some fine players like Orlov and Holtby, but without the likes of Bourque or Giroux, this year's team lacks the fear factor of many recent editions. It's going to be interesting to see how the division plays out over the course of the season.
The Crunch travel to Albany next on Friday.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
A Syracuse comeback takes away a point on opening night.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 5 goals on 24 shots and 1 of 5 shooters to convert for the shootout loss. That's an ugly stat line for a young man trying to stave off a Riku Helenius challenge for the starting job.
RCH Tropp, (1) (Hodgson), 0:24
SYR Barberio, (1) (Namestnikov, Killorn), 5:28 (PP)
RCH Tropp, (2) (Adam, Schiestel), 14:52
RCH Foligno, (1) (Porter, Mancari), 16:12
RCH Pysyk, (1) (Rankin, Varone), 3:22
SYR Angelidis, (1) (Wyman), 19:14
SYR Conacher, (1) (Palat), 1:42
SYR Johnson, (1) (Conacher, Taormina), 8:01
SYR Johnson, (2) (Conacher, Palat), 10:09 (PP)
RCH Mancari, (1) (Brennan, Foligno), 12:42 (PP)
Cory Conacher (pictured) was the game's second star after posting 1 goal and 2 assists on opening night.Tyler Johnson had a pair of goals and Ondrej Palat also had a multi-point night with a pair of helpers. Youngster Vladislav Namestnikov also posted his first professional point on an assist on Mark Barberio's game opening goal.
I'm stunned that Syracuse threw out a shootout lineup of Palat, Connolly, Panik, Johnson, and Conacher and got nothing. That's five stud prospects with a lot of skill and... nada. I wouldn't have bet on that.
Syracuse outshot Rochester 34-25 in the game, and was very game to come out of a three goal hole to get a point out of the night. When Johnson pulled Syracuse ahead for the first time in the Third Period, you even had to think for a moment that maybe that killer instinct from Norfolk last season was still in effect. There was plenty of good, plenty of bad, and plenty of coachable moments for Jon Cooper to work on the team with after this one.
On to Syracuse tomorrow and the home opener against perennial power Hershey.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Despite the large void the NHL lockout created, the hockey season is already long underway. Various amateur and professional leagues throughout North America and Europe have wrapped up their preseasons and are set to begin or are already in the thick of regular season action.
The Lightning's new AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, open their 2012-2013 season tonight with an impressive roster that boasts the nucleus of last season's Calder Cup-winning roster and an infusion of talent with varying professional experience: (J.T. Brown, Brett Connolly, Danick Gauthier, Riku Helenius, Dmitry Korobov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Jared Nightingale, Matt Taormina and J.T. Wyman). In the absence of big-league action, watching much of the (currently foreseeable) lifeblood of the Lightning's future skate and bond together is a much-welcomed tonic.
The Tampa Bay Lightning assigned 18 players to the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL ahead of what appears to be an NHL lockout, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
Among the players moving to New York are reigning AHL Most Valuable Player Cory Conacher, former No.6 overall pick Brett Connolly, and last year's late-season signing, J.T. Brown. Others include recently signed prospects Vladislav Namestnikov, Danick Gauthier, Dmitry Korobov, and Riku Helenius. The additions of Connolly, Brown, Namestnikov, and Korobov will make the Crunch a stronger team, which is scary considering they were already among the favorites to claim the Calder Cup.
The full list of new Syracuse residents includes forwards Brown, Conacher, Connolly, Gauthier, Alex Hutchings, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Namestnikov, Ondrej Palat, Richard Panik; defensemen Mark Barberio, Radko Gudas, Korobov, Charles Landry, Dan Milan; and goaltenders Helenius, Dustin Tokarski, and Pat Nagle.
We'll offer some opinions shortly on who could end up in ECHL Florida with the Everblades and who likely stays in Syracuse.
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.
With the Lightning prospect season finally completed, it is now time to turn our attention to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. While the team's prospect system enjoyed unprecedented success, the team's struggles at the NHL level last season left the Lightning with a draft pick bonanza after a bevy of pre-deadline deals. Heading into the draft, the Lightning currently holds a pair of first round picks, and at least one second round pick following the trade of picks 37 and 50 to Nashville in the Anders Lindback trade.
2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup
Shawinigan Cataractes 2 vs London Knights 1 (OT)
C Vladislav Namestnikov , LDN: 0-0-0, -1, 2 SOG, 2 PIM (holding), 0 Hits
MemCup Totals: 4 GP, 2-0-2, -3, 4 PIM
Playoff Totals: 19 GP, 4-14-18, +10, 18 PIM
Season Totals: 63 GP, 22-49-71, +15, 50 PIM
Shawinigan won the Memorial Cup for the first time in their history (43 years) when undrafted Russian import player Anton Zlobin, a 40-goal scorer in the regular season, scored late in the first overtime for the Cats. It was Zlobinâ€™s second goal of the game. He will re-enter the draft this year.
Columbus prospect Michael Chaput, a former Flyers draft pick acquired in a trade, was named the tournamentâ€™s most valuable player. Lightning prospects Brad Richards and Dustin Tokarski have won it in the past.
Shawinigan was only the second team to win the tiebreaker, semifinals, and finals en route to the championship (Windsor Spitfires).
Current Lightning prospect Vladislav Namestnikov was involved in three prime scoring chances, including one in overtime when he was stationed at the side of the net and he had the puck bounce over his stick. Earlier in the game he set up longtime linemate and former Lightning camper Seth Griffith for a nifty one timer that was saved. Namestnikov used his speed to chase down Coyotes first rounder Brandon Gormley, but instead of beating him to the puck he faked like he was going to challenge for the puck from the inside, then darted around him to the outside, lifted Gormleyâ€™s stick, stole the puck, pivoted, and found a trailing Griffith for the shot.
Early in the third period Namestnikov was the victim of a late hit and he hit the boards hard â€“ possibly his head. He remained on the ice for a few minutes before being escorted to the bench by a trainer. He was out on the power play seconds later, but had a bad giveaway then looked shaky on his skates as he prevented a scoring chance at the other end of the rink. He didnâ€™t see the ice again until overtime, and he didnâ€™t look like himself in the extra session.
Next year Namestnikov will be in the AHL or back in the Ontario Hockey League. His skill set, speed, and vision project as first-line quality, but his frame is slender and he will be knocked around easily at the NHL level. Plus, Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman likes his prospects to patiently develop if the situation allows it. Namestnikov is already signed to an NHL contract. He has a long offseason of weight training ahead of him.