Panik, Richard

Lightning Announce Contract for Prospect Richard Panik

Last night CapGeek.com reported Lightning prospect Richard Panik was signed by Tampa Bay to a standard three year entry contract. The Lightning made the signing official today.

Panik, 20, was surprisingly sent back to the Ontario Hockey League after training camp last fall despite being eligible to play for AHL Norfolk. It was later revealed he was sent back with instructions to play at a higher level, and Panik did just that.

The Slovakian native scored a career high 27 goals (many in highlight-reel fashion) and 56 points in 51 games for Belleville and Guelph. As captain of Slovakia's World Junior Championship entry, he led the team with seven goals and nine points in six games. He had five points (two goals) in seven games at the WJCs in 2009.

He again was eligible to join Norfolk after Guelph was eliminated in the OHL playoffs, but the 2009 second round pick of the Bolts chose to return home in an attempt to make the Slovakian World Championship roster for the second year in a row. Since Slovakia was the tournament host, the team loaded up with veterans and Panik was among the last cut from the team. He had two assists in six games played in the men's tournament a year ago as a teenager.

Panik, when driven, can be an offensive force in pro hockey and could flirt with a possible position on the Lightning next fall. He has NHL size (6'1" 218), skating, hockey sense, and shot. He has to put it all together and do it consistently. His mean streak/arrogance could be his most valuable asset, too. His biggest "weakness" is his inconsistent work ethic, which combined with some perceived character issues was why he fell to the second round in 2009.

With Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman's patient approach, one would expect Panik to begin next year in the AHL and work his way into an impact role with the Admirals before being considered for the Lightning.

Here's a few Panik highlights from his junior career:

AHL Playoff Game Night: 4/23/11 Admirals at Penguins

A brave Norfolk Admirals team has nothing to be ashamed about effort-wise in this playoffs.

NOR-3
WBS-6

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Wins the Series 4-2

Dustin Tokarski allowed 4 goals on 27 shots, including an unsuccessful third period penalty shot by Joe Vitale in the third period. Considering the winning goal was essentially a 3-on-1, there's not much more Tic could've done tonight. He finishes the playoffs with 1 shutout, a 2.20 GAA, and a .924 save percentage, and he looks like a lock to be Norfolk's starter next season. In all likelihood, Cedrick Desjardins will be the backup in Tampa Bay next season, and Tokarski's play down the stretch seems to indicate he's the type of netminder who wants and needs to be the clear cut #1 in order to be at his best after struggling a bit as a tandem starter with Desjardins. He's regained the title of the Lightning's "Goaltender of the Future" and the priority for next season, his third pro season, will be for Tokarski to prove he can be that consistent #1 goalie before potentially moving up to the NHL in the 4th season of his pro career. At least, that seems to be what the plan is for Tic.

First Period
WBS Wagner, (1) (Walker, Craig), 2:13 (PP)
WBS Wagner, (2) (Potter, Walker), 3:58 (PP)
WBS Wagner, (3) (Wallace, Potter), 18:36

Second Period
NOR Pouliot, (4) (Ritola, Vernace), 14:18
NOR Jones, (1) (Ritola, Milam), 16:03 (PP)

Third Period
WBS Vitale, (2) (Wallace, Collins), 7:23
NOR Wright, (1) (Fornataro, Pouliot), 10:35 (PP)
WBS Wallace, (1) (Vitale, Potter), 18:57 (EN)
WBS Sill, (1) (Strait, Thiessen), 19:21 (EN)

Marc-Antoine Pouliot was the game's third star.

When you consider the Penguins came into this series the best team in the Eastern Conference, and the Admirals had to win their last game just to avoid having to cross over into the Atlantic Division, the Admirals have nothing to feel ashamed of in playing this series so tightly. The hard work and character of this Admirals team is worthy of mention, and the team and organization have come such a long way in 4 seasons since the Lightning started their affiliation with Norfolk.

Coincidentally, the East's crossover team, Binghamton, just knocked off Manchester in Game 7 to advance to the Atlantic Division final against Portland. One wonders what shape a Norfolk/Manchester series might have taken if Norfolk hadn't beaten Connecticut to close the regular season.

The big question now is what this Norfolk Admirals team will look like next season, with several of their older players facing contract decisions and several of the Lightning's best young prospects ticketed for Virginia next season.

Will veterans like Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Chris Durno, Mike Vernace, Mathieu Roy, and Troy Milam be back with the team next year? What about long-time pros like Blair Jones, Mike Angelidis, Mattias Ritola, and Vladimir Mihalik? Mihalik and Ritola just finished their 4th years of pro hockey and Jones and Angelidis finished their 5th. Many of these players will surely have opportunities to play in European leagues next season. We know Johan Harju will, for instance, and the question is whether Johan will stay in North America after a disappointing second half. And will Kevin Quick's time in the Lightning organization be over as well?

Conversely, the Admirals will need to free up spots for several of the Lightning's top prospects. Carter Ashton and Charles Landry have already made appearances for the club this season in the playoffs. Richard Panik and Tyler Johnson seem like locks to be in Norfolk next season, too.

Next season could be a big change for the Admirals organization, as the last vestiges of previous regimes pass on. Change is inevitable for a minor league club, but the Admirals seem destined for even more change than is the norm. The good news is that they seem to have good goaltending locked down and even better coaching after a successful inaugural campaign by Head Coach Jon Cooper and assistant Mike Flanagan along with player development consultant Steve Thomas. This group seems to have taken a decent foundation laid by earlier teams and made it even stronger this year, and that foundation can help the new Admirals grow to be even more successful than this year's edition, in time. Look at how well guys like Mark Barberio and Radko Gudas took to the league this season. It portends good things.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

North American Juniors Game Night: 4/3/11

OHL

Western Conference Quarterfinals

No.2 Saginaw Spirit 6 @ No.7 Guelph Storm 5
Saginaw wins best of seven series 4-2

C/W Richard Panik, GUE: 0-0-0, -1, 2 PIM (check to the head)
Season Totals: 51 GP, 27-29-56, -6, 75 PIM
Playoff Totals: 6 GP, 1-2-3, -4, 10 PIM

Guelph had leads of 1-0 and 2-1 in Game 6, but needed three late goals just to pull within one score of the higher seeded Spirit. The Storm also had a series lead of 2-1, but couldn’t win Game 4 and eventually lost the series. Panik, who had another check-to the head penalty, can now join the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL again since his team is finished. Panik’s junior career is also over. He is expect to play for Norfolk or Tampa Bay next season. Step 1 is a contract, however.

Western Conference Quarterfinals

No.1 Owen Sound Attack 1 @ No.8 London Knights 0
Owen Sound wins best of seven series 4-2

D Geoffrey Schemitsch, OS: 0-0-0, +1, 0 PIM
Season Totals: 45 GP, 1-19-20, +17, 14 PIM
Playoff Totals: 4 GP, 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM
G Michael Zador, OS: Win, 23 saves on 23 shots, shutout, *Second Star*
Season Totals: 31 GP, 19-5-1-1, 3.23 GAA, .888 sv%, 0 SO
Playoff Totals: 3 GP, 2-0-0, 0.00 GAA, 1.000 sv%, 1 SO

Zador (pictured) is taking the No.1 job and running with it. The former London Knight first rounder stopped 23 of 23 shots Sunday to shut out the Knights and help the Attack advance to the second round of the playoffs. Zador was part of London’s trade that brought John Tavares to the Knights from Oshawa. The Gens traded Zador to Owen Sound this season when the Attack was looking for a backup goaltender. Zador had fallen to No.3 in Oshawa. Owen Sound is the first team from the Western Conference to advance.

WHL

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

No.1 Saskatoon Blades 2 @ No.8 Prince Albert Raiders 1
Saskatoon wins best of seven series 4-2

D Teigan Zahn, SAS: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM
Season Totals: 72 GP, 3-20-23, +39, 133 PIM
Playoff Totals: 6 GP, 0-2-2 +2, 6 PIM

Top-seeded Saskatoon got an overtime goal from Matej Stransky (2011) to finally put away the pesky Raiders. Prince Albert goaltender Jamie Tucker turned the puck over in overtime when a Blades player yelled “Tucks!” Tucker thought it was a teammate and handed the puck to him and before he knew it, the puck was in the net. Saskatoon will play either Kootenay or Brandon in Round 2.

North American Juniors Hockey Night: 4/2/11

USHL

Indiana Ice 3 @ Fargo Force 5
C Jimmy Mullin, FGO: 2-2-4, +4, 0 PIM, 6 SOG
Season totals: 50 GP, 22-36-58, +28, 26 PIM

Mullin scored shorthanded and into an empty net to give him 22 goals on the year. He also added two assists and was plus-4. Not a bad night. Fargo remains in fourth in the conference, but are two points out of second. They have two home games left next weekend before the playoffs start.

OHL

Western Conference Quarterfinals

No.7 Guelph Storm 4 @ No.2 Saginaw Spirit 5
Saginaw leads best of seven series 3-2

C/W Richard Panik, GUE: 0-0-0, -2, 2 PIM (check to the head)
Season Totals: 51 GP, 27-29-56, -6, 75 PIM
Playoff Totals: 5 GP, 1-2-3, -3, 8 PIM

Saginaw scored the tie-breaking goal just past the half-way point of the third period and held on for a Game 5 win over Guelph. Panik was penalized for a check to the head at the 20:00 mark of the third period. Two other Guelph players were also penalized after the final horn. No Spirit players were called for an infraction at that time. Game 6 is Sunday in Guelph.

Western Conference Quarterfinals

No.8 London Knights 0 @ No.1 Owen Sound Attack 6
Owen Sound leads best of seven series 3-2

D Geoffrey Schemitsch, OS: 0-0-0, +1, 0 PIM
Season Totals: 45 GP, 1-19-20, +17, 14 PIM
Playoff Totals: 3 GP, 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM
G Michael Zador, OS: Win, 13 saves on 13 shots in 51:26
Season Totals: 31 GP, 19-5-1-1, 3.23 GAA, .888 sv%, 0 SO
Playoff Totals: 2 GP, 1-0-0, 0.00 GAA, 1.000 sv%, 0 SO

Zador, who was once a first round pick of London, got the start in the pivotal Game 5 for Owen Sound and didn’t disappoint, stopping 13 of 13 shots before leaving the game midway through the third period. It was his first career playoff win. The Attack’s usual No.1 keeper, Jordan Binnington, didn’t dress for the game. He’s been shaky this series and was pulled in favor of Zador in Game 4. There are no reports of an injury to Zador, so it’s likely he was pulled in the third period with the game out of hand to prevent an injury.

"I felt like it was just an every day game, I was comfortable," Zador told the Owen Sound Sun Times after the game. "Our team played great in front of me so I'm really happy how it turned out. I'm just going to take it day-to-day and keep playing the way I am right now."

The Knights only had 14 shots in Game 5 despite having four power plays. Game 6 is Sunday in London.

WHL

Western Conference Quarterfinals

No.7 Chilliwack Bruins 4 @ No.2 Spokane Chiefs 6
Spokane wins best of seven series 4-1

C Tyler Johnson, SPO: Did not play – injured.
Season Totals: 71 GP, 53-62-115, +27, 48 PIM
Playoff Totals: 3 GP, 2-2-4, +1, 0 PIM

Johnson missed his second full game with a head injury. His Chiefs teammates were able to overcome playing without their leading scorer and eliminated the Bruins in five games. This may have been the last time the Bruins represented Chilliwack as reports state a move to Victoria is expected. Spokane will face Lightning prospect Carter Ashton and Tri-City in the next round starting next Saturday. Hopefully the week off allows enough time for Johnson to recover.

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

No.8 Prince Albert Raiders 0 @ No.1 Saskatoon Blades 8
Saskatoon lead best of seven series 3-2

D Teigan Zahn, SAS: 0-0-0, +1, 0 PIM
Season Totals: 72 GP, 3-20-23, +39, 133 PIM
Playoff Totals: 5 GP, 0-2-2 +2, 6 PIM

After seeing their 2-0 series lead disappear at the home of eighth-seeded Prince Albert, Saskatoon made a statement in Game 5, destroying the Raiders 8-0. The Blades scored six times in the second period to break a 0-0 tie. Game 6 is Sunday in Prince Albert.

North American Juniors Game Night: 3/31/11

USHL

Des Moines Buccaneers 3 @ Fargo Force 2
C Jimmy Mullin, FGO: 0-1-1, E, 2 PIM (holding), 2 SOG
Season totals: 48 GP, 20-34-54, +26, 26 PIM

Mullin has just one assist in his last three games, two of those being losses. Fargo has clinched a playoff spot despite a mediocre 13-11-3 home record. They are in fourth in the West, but are two points out of second place.

OHL

Western Conference Quarterfinals

No.2 Saginaw Spirit 4 @ No.7 Guelph Storm 3
Best of seven series tied 2-2

C/W Richard Panik, GUE: 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM
Season Totals: 51 GP, 27-29-56, -6, 75 PIM
Playoff Totals: 4 GP, 1-2-3, -1, 6 PIM

Guelph had a chance to go up 3-1 at home as underdogs in their series and held a 2-0 lead going into the second period before giving up four goals in the middle stanza. The pivotal Game 5 is Saturday in Michigan.

Western Conference Quarterfinals

No.1 Owen Sound Attack 2 @ No.8 London Knights 5
Best of seven series tied 2-2

D Geoffrey Schemitsch, OS: 0-0-0, -2, 0 PIM
Season Totals: 45 GP, 1-19-20, +17, 14 PIM
Playoff Totals: 2 GP, 0-0-0, -2, 0 PIM
G Michael Zador, OS: 12 saves on 12 shots
Season Totals: 31 GP, 19-5-1-1, 3.23 GAA, .888 sv%, 0 SO
Playoff Totals: 1 GP, 0-0-0, 0.00 GAA, 1.000 sv%, 0 SO

Zador entered the game down 5-1 at 8:02 of the third period and was perfect for the remainder of the game. The Knights pounded Top seeded Owen Sound is struggling with London as the series goes back to Owen Sound for Game 5 Saturday.

WHL

Western Conference Quarterfinals

No.7 Chilliwack Bruins 2 @ No.2 Spokane Chiefs 4
Spokane leads best of seven series 3-1

C Tyler Johnson, SPO: Did not play.
Season Totals: 71 GP, 53-62-115, +27, 48 PIM
Playoff Totals: 3 GP, 2-2-4, +1, 0 PIM

Johnson missed the game due to an injury sustained when he was elbowed by Chilliwack’s Tyler Stahl in the second period of Game 3. Stahl was suspended for Thursday’s game. No timetable has been given for Johnson’s return. Spokane was able to overcome not playing with the WHL’s leading goal scorer and second leading point producer in Game 4, but unless Johnson returns, their shot at the conference and/or league titles is in jeopardy. The Bruins have their own distractions now since there are heavy rumors the team is moving to Victoria, B.C. after being sold. The Chiefs can close it out Saturday at home in Game 5.

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

No.1 Saskatoon Blades 2 @ No.8 Prince Albert Raiders 5
Best of seven series tied 2-2

D Teigan Zahn, SAS: 0-0-0, E, 4 PIM (goaltender interference, roughing)
Season Totals: 72 GP, 3-20-23, +39, 133 PIM
Playoff Totals: 4 GP, 0-2-2 +1, 6 PIM

The WHL’s top team, Saskatoon, now finds themselves tied with upstart Prince Albert 2-2 in their conference quarterfinals series. The Raiders outshot the Blades by a wide margin (41-30) for the second straight game. Game 5 is Saturday in Saskatoon.

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