On the heels of a national holiday, 32 prospects--most drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning, others signed as free agents and a handful of invitees--gathered on the ice Saturday at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon to begin several days of on-ice and off-ice conditioning as well as instruction in organizational values and the culture of professional hockey for both returning and first-time participants.
"Let's call this what it is: summer hockey," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper told assembled media. "Part of what [the players] get out of this camp is the chance to get to know myself, Rob Zettler, the staff. Getting to know expectations and being a pro."
"A lot of these kids are coming from juniors programs, college, all these different walks of life, but here at the Tampa Bay Lightning we've got a certain code of conduct," Cooper noted. "This is where it starts."
Having concluded fitness testing and physicals, players hit the ice and rounded out their day with an hour-long practice spent completing basic drills as well as a forty-five minute power skating session.
"The first day is always kind of a feel out day," Cooper said. "Some of these guys, I'm sure, have been skating and some haven't been."
Keeping in mind that the 3-on-3 tournament scheduled to begin Tuesday and wrap-up on Wednesday, the final day of camp, will provide better opportunities to gauge player abilities and hockey sense, here are some brief and selected observations:
The Tampa Bay Times is reporting the Tampa Bay Lightning have signed free agent left winger Retu Suri out of Zug in the Swiss NLA league. Suri, 24, had 14 goals and 25 points in 46 games last season in the top Swiss men's league. Suri will remain in Switzerland for the upcoming season in the hopes of earning a spot on Switzerland's Olympics team in Sochi before joining the Lightning organization for the 2014-2015 season.
Despite standing at just 6'0" 185 lbs, Suri has a reputation as a hard charging, north-south style forward with a game that seems like it should adapt well to North American hockey. Red Line Report ranked Suri their 11th best European Free Agent of Interest this year also noting the forward's quick release, quick hands in tight, and his penchant for scoring big goals. Suri scored the shootout winner against Canada in this year's World Championships Round Robin for the Swiss on their improbable, Silver-medal winning run to the tournament's championship game.
Russia 3 vs. USA 8
Ben Bishop, USA, DNP
Tournament totals: 5 GP, 3-2-0, 0 SO, 2.83 GAA, .876 sv%
Matt Carle, USA, 0-0-0, +2, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Tournament totals: 8 GP, 0-2-2, +2, 0 PIM
Nate Thompson, USA, 1-0-1, +1, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Tournament totals: 8 GP, 1-2-3, +1, 8 PIM
Vasily Koshechkin, Russia, DNP
Tournament totals: 1 GP, 0-1-0, 0 SO, 2.04 GAA, .895 sv%
USA recovered from their 4-1 loss in the final game of the round robin by clubbing Russia 8-3 in the Quarterfinals. Colorado's Paul Stastny had 2 goals and 2 assists to help Team USA en route to the snowman. Nashville's Craig Smith also chipped in 5 helpers. Ex-Lightning first rounder Alex Svitov had a goal in defeat for the Russians, but also posted an ugly -4 rating. Vasily Koshechkin did not suit up in the match for the Russians. Ben Bishop sat backup to young John Gibson for Team USA.
Finland 4 vs. Slovakia 3
Jaroslav Janus, Slovakia, DNP
Tournament totals: 2 GP, 0-2-0, 0 SO, 3.00 GAA, .875 sv%
Tournament star Petri Kontiola had 2 goals and 3 points as Finland squeaked by Slovakia 4-3 to advance to the tournament Semifinals. Ex-NHLer Branislav Mezei had 3 assists in defeat for the Slovakians. Jaroslav Janus did not suit up in the match.
Canada 2 vs. Sweden 3 (SO)
Steven Stamkos, Canada, 1-0-1, +1, 2 PIM, 4 SOG
Tournament totals: 8 GP, 7-5-12, +6, 6 PIM
Buffalo's Jhonas Enroth recorded 39 saves to lead Sweden to a 3-2 shootout win over Team Canada. Steven Stamkos scored the opening goal of the match on the power play for Canada, but did not take an attempt in the shootout session. Ex-Lightning netminder Mike Smith made 30 saves in defeat.
The tournament is now over for the Russians, Slovakians, and Canadians. Team USA advances to face Switzerland on Saturday in one Semifinal match while co-host nations Sweden and Finland will square off in a rivalry match in the other Semifinal tilt.
France 2 vs. Slovakia 6
Jaroslav Janus, Slovakia, DNP
Tournament totals: 0 GP, 0-0-0, 0.00 GAA, 0 SO, 1.000 sv%
Jaroslav Janus sat backup to Rastislav Stana in Slovakia's 6-2 win over France. Ex-NHLer Miroslav Satan had a goal in the match for the Slovaks. Ex-Lightning prospect Michal Sersen is also on Slovakia's roster and was scoreless in the match.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have agreed to terms with defenseman Nikita Nesterov on a three-year, entry-level contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
Nesterov, 6-foot, 183 pounds, played in 35 games with Chelyabinsk Traktor of the KHL this season, recording 14 penalty minutes while averaging 12:21 in average ice time. He also appeared in 19 playoff games, recording four assists as Traktor lost to Dynamo Moscow in the Continental Cup Finals. Nesterov has played in 45 career KHL games, all with Traktor, recording one assist.
A native of Chelyabinsk, Russia, Nesterov has represented his country in each of the previous two seasons. He played for Russia at the 2011 IIHF World Under-18 Championships, recording two goals and four points in seven games. Nesterov then played in last year’s IIHF World Junior Championships, skating in seven games and registering two goals and five points.
Nesterov, 20, was selected by Tampa Bay in the fifth round, 158th overall, of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He participated in the 2012 Lightning Development Camp at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum. Nesterov’s team, also made up of Vladislav Namestnikov, Slater Koekkoek and Cedric Paquette, took home the annual 3-on-3 tournament championship.
Nesterov is an undersized puck mover who plays a strong positional game. He has a high hockey IQ, which helped keep him in the KHL this year. In fact, Nesterov was used at both forward and a defense for Chelyabinsk late in the year and in the playoffs.