This season Bolt Prospects introduced our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their on-ice contributions. There are no trophies or plaques, but a player-devoted YouTube channel could be in the works.
We wanted to highlight prospects throughout the year to help fans get better acquainted with the next round of Lightning stars while recognizing the prospectâ€™s achievement on the ice.
This weekâ€™s BP Prospect of the Week award goes to â€¦ Richard Panik, RW, Norfolk Admirals (AHL).
The record goes down, and it goes down hard.
Jaroslav Janus stopped all 20 shots he faced for his 10th consecutive victory. It's also his first shutout of the season, and he pushes his save percentage up to .909 for the year.
NOR Conacher, (33) (Kostka), 11:25
NOR Johnson, (27) (Palat, Panik), 17:14
NOR Hutchings, (2) , 5:38
NOR Panik, (18) , 6:53
NOR Conacher, (34) (Panik, Johnson), 8:07 (PP)
Conacher scored on a fortuitous bounce that went through Justin Peters for the game opening goal and then a shot from the right wing circle on the power play on a busted play that was supposed to go into the slot. The most impressive play of the day to me, though, was when he picked up 196 pound defenseman Michal Jordan and threw him to the ice like a piece of garbage during a goal mouth scrum.
You're going to see Panik's breakaway goal on youtube. The Panik attack came in the form of a deke to the right where he came back through his legs and roofed it going top shelf to his left. So much skill there for a guy who is also so strong on his skates. He had a 3 point night tonight to put him at 18 goals and 37 points in 54 games. To put that in perspective, Carter Ashton had 19 goals and 35 points in 56 games before he left the Admirals. The two are now tied for 15th in rookie scoring in the league, and the emergence of Panik and Tyler Johnson, who set an Admirals goal scoring streak record tonight, is what made Ashton expendable, to a degree.
So, the Admirals now own the all-time AHL record for a single-season winning streak at 18 games. They also tied the mark set by Syracuse a few years back of 18 wins that they spread over 2 years winning 15 to end one season and 3 to start the next. Norfolk can break that record, too, with a win against Albany on Friday. That's the last bit of streak business that's left to take care of before they need to divert their attention to locking down their division and the conference, and getting into the playoffs healthy and ready to smoke through the early rounds quickly.
I'll have a separate story up later on the streak from the perspective of Bolt Prospects and the Lightning organization sometime within the next day or two. Suffice it to say, there's a reason why we have spent the past 6-1/2 years or so doing the website, and days like this validate the effort.
With St. John's losing to Manchester today, Norfolk opened up a 10 point lead in the conference with the IceCaps holding 3 games in hand. So, Norfolk now controls its destiny in the conference with a key weekend set against St. John's still on the schedule. Norfolk also maintained a 10 point edge on the Pens in the division, with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton holding a game in hand. Remember, the AHL reduced its regular season schedule to 76 games starting this year, down from 80 in order to reduce heavy scheduling and promote better player health. So, Norfolk has just 10 games left on their schedule before the postseason, so the magic numbers are going to come up really quickly now for clinching. Norfolk's remaining games are against: Albany (3 games), Binghamton (3 games), St. John's (2 games), Adirondack (1 game), and Wilkes/Barre-Scranton (1 game). So only 3 of Norfolk's remaining contests are against teams that would make the playoffs if the season ended today. Advantage: Admirals.
Oh, and all 5 goals today came from rookies. If Jon Cooper's not the AHL Coach of the Year this year, then obviously the award is trash.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Norfolk has a date with history this weekend.
Jaroslav Janus allowed 1 goal on 13 shots (no, not a typo) for the win. Janus is now 16-8-2 on the season, which puts him at the door step of the top-20 in the league in wins. Dustin Tokarski still rules the roost with 27 wins despite being out of the league for the last week. Two good young goaltenders = good problem to have.
WBS Lerg, (23) (O'Reilly, Strait), 8:47
NOR Panik, (16) (Barberio, Johnson), 11:28 (PP)
NOR Gudas, (7) (Jackson, Hutchings), 11:59
NOR Johnson, (25) (Panik, Picard), 0:10 (PP)
NOR Oberg, (6) (Palat, Johnson), 2:37
Halfway through the month of March, Johnson's got to be the runaway favorite to win the league's Player of the Month award. He has 7 goals and 14 points in 6 games, which already matches what he put up in February. That's pretty amazing considering last month was no slouch for TJ, who put up 14 points in 13 games. He's now tied with Gustav Nyqvist at 55 points for 2nd among league rookies in points, and he's moved into a tie for 9th in the AHL in points, overall.
Johnson's linemate, Richard Panik, continues to quietly ramp up his play after a quiet first half of the year. He's within 1 point now of breaking into the top-20 in the league in rookie scoring himself, and the Panik attack shows no signs of letting up.
Mark Barberio is 5th in the AHL in assists. Discuss.
What I take away from tonight's game, given the Admirals outshot their nearest division rivals 33-13, is that they're going for it. And, I'm not talking about winning the division (now a 10 point lead over the Pens), or the conference (6 point lead over the IceCaps). This team wants the record, and they can tie the single-season win streak record of 17 on Friday in Charlotte. The Checkers are no slouches, mind you. They lead the Midwest Division and Norfolk will have to beat them on Friday and Sunday to set the record. And, despite the challenge, Norfolk's going for it. When a team holds another to 13 shots on goal, that's complete team buy-in at playoff level intensity. They just threw the keys to the tractor and the deed to the farm in the middle of the table. They're going for it, and it's going to take a team playing a playoff-level game to stop them.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Jaroslav Janus started his third game in three nights and stopped 27 of 30 for his 7th consecutive victory.
NOR Smith, (22) , 15:00
BRI Frischmon, (8) , 1:17 (SH)
NOR Barberio, (10) (Conacher, Johnson), 17:16 (PP)
NOR Panik, (14) (Smith, Johnson), 19:28 (PP)
BRI Mouillierat, (7) (Riley, Oleksy), 7:50
BRI McNeely, (7) (Sinkewich, Rakhshani), 11:14
NOR Barberio, (11) (Johnson, Ouellet), 13:12 (PP)
NOR Panik, (15) (Labrie), 15:52
NOR Johnson, (24) (Panik, Ouellet), 17:32 (PP)
Barberio's 2 goals moved him to 11 on the season, which is 2 better than his rookie campaign last year. He holds an 11 point advantage on St. John's defenseman Paul Postma for the league lead in scorers amongst blueliners.
Tyler Johnson has moved into 3rd amongst all AHL rookies in scoring, 3 points back of Gustav Nyqvist of Grand Rapids and 16 points back of teammate Cory Conacher.
Panik is enjoying the month of March so far with 3 goals and 8 points in 5 games. Today's Panik attack was his first 3-point game of his career.
Wednesday night in Norfolk becomes a big game for two reasons now. It was always going to be a big game with the rival Pens in town lurking 8 points back with a game in hand. But, now, it becomes even bigger with the Admirals' ridiculous, video game-like winning streak hitting 15 with a chance to run to 16. If the Admirals pull of the win against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, they hop a bus to Charlotte on Friday with the opportunity to tie the all-time AHL record for consecutive victories at 17. If they pull that off, the rematch is in Charlotte at 3 pm on Sunday, with a chance to make history. It will not be easy. The Pens currently are the 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and the Checkers are the 3 seed in the West. But, at least its not another 3 games in 3 nights marathon like this weekend was.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Lucky number 13.
Jaroslav Janus allowed 1 goal on 24 shots for the victory. He picked up his 5th consecutive victory tonight, and don't look now but the save percentage has creeped up to .903.
NOR Johnson, (21) (Panik), 8:54
NOR Picard, (5) (Palat, Smith), 10:31 (PP)
NOR Johnson, (22) (Panik, Cote), 19:30
ADK Hamel, (17) (Kessel, Akeson), 13:19 (PP)
Tyler Johnson and Richard Panik were the game's first and second stars. Johnson's been on a hellacious tear the past dozen games, posting 7 goals and 18 points over that span. He's also had back-to-back 2 goal games, for that matter. The Panik attack has meshed well on TJ's line recently and on the power play with back-to-back multi point games of his own.
Does a baker's dozen wins during the stretch run of a season and becoming the first AHL team to hit 40 wins make you the frontrunner for AHL coach of the year? We think it does. Only one coach in the AHL can claim to have a winning streak that matches the number of donuts that Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau eats on an average morning, and only one coach runs big surpluses with a +57 goal differential. Only one man in the AHL builds a bridge to the future as he wins in the present, with 6 rookies in his lineup tonight. That man is Jon Cooper. A bold vision: less goals against, more goals for, more wins. The American Hockey League needs Jon Cooper. Now, more than ever.
(This message was paid for by the American Coaches Winning Tomorrow Today PAC.)
Box score from TheAHL.com.