For those paying attention to the past three drafts by Steve Yzerman and Al Murray, the Tampa brain trust seems to cast an eye on at least one juniors or European player that can provide immediate help to the AHL affiliate or at least fast tracked to help the following season.
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed goaltender Andrei Vasilevskii to a three-year, entry-level contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
Vasilevskii, 6-foot-3, 203 pounds, played in 28 games with Salavat Yulaev Ufa of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League this season, posting a 14-8 record with three shutouts, a 2.21 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage. He led all Ufa goaltenders for games played, goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts. Vasilevskii also led his team to the semi-finals of the KHL playoffs in 2014, posting a 9-9 record with a 1.99 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage with one shutout. He ranked tied for fourth in the KHL during the playoffs for save percentage and eighth for goals-against average.
The native of Tyumen, Russia made his KHL debut last season, playing in eight games for Salavat Yulaev. He went 4-1 with a 2.22 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage. In all, Vasilevskii has appeared in 36 KHL games, with an 18-9 record, a 2.21 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage with four shutouts. Prior to joining Salavat Yulaev, he played for their junior team, Tolpar Ufa, in the MHL.
Vasilevskii has shined on the international stage with Russia, appearing in each of the previous three IIHF U-20 World Junior Championships. He won the Silver Medal in 2012 as well as Bronze Medals in 2014 and 2013. Vasilevskii was voted by participating coaches as one of Russia’s top three players in each of the tournaments he has played in. He also participated in the 2011 IIHF U-18 World Junior Championships where he won the Bronze Medal.
The 19-year-old was drafted by the Lightning in the first round, 19th overall, at the 2012 NHL Draft.
Igor Eronko of Sports.ru's hockey department tweeted this morning that prized Lightning prospect goaltender Andrey Vasilevskiy has decided to leave Salavat Ufa of the KHL and sign with Tampa Bay.
The Lightning have not announced the signing.
Vasilevskiy, who led Salavat to the KHL semifinals, was under contract in the KHL until the end of April. With the turn of the calendar page, he was eligible to sign with the Lightning and come to North America. Reports surfaced during the KHL playoffs that Salavat was going to offer the 2012 19th overall pick a hefty deal to remain in Russia for at least one more year. At the time of the reports, Vasilevskiy said he wasn't going to discuss his options until after the KHL playoffs were over.
With the end of the Lightning and Crunch seasons, we conclude our Bolt Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their recent contributions on and off the ice.
The Bolt Prospect of the Week for April 23, 2014 is … Luke Witkowski, D, Syracuse Crunch (AHL – USA).
Twenty-eight Bolt Prospect of the Week awards have been handed out this season, usually for offensive production or goaltending mastery. Not this week.
This week’s award goes to a rarely appreciated player type, a stay-at-home defenseman.
Luke Witkowski finished his rookie pro season last week, taking another step toward his dream of playing in the NHL. Not every prospect can step right into the NHL. Most have to be grown, groomed, and guided along the developmental path to the big show. Witkowski, who is now six seasons removed from his draft year, was named the Syracuse Crunch’s Most Improved Player for the year last week. To celebrate, he scored his second goal of the season on Sunday, though it didn’t make any highlight reels.
Young Bolts defeat Baby Habs. It's an omen!
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 1 goal on 23 shots for the win in possibly his last game in the Lightning organization.
HAM Beaulieu, (7) (Blunden, Tokarski), 8:14 (PP)
SYR Rankin, (16) (Namestnikov), 15:07
SYR Witkowski, (2) (Paradis, Desjardins), 16:17
SYR Marchessault, (23) , 14:27
Jonathan Marchessault and Desjardins were the game's first and third stars.
Syracuse finished the season 1 game under .500, but it's important to note the team did earn points in 10 of its last 13 games. Those expecting an instant reload after seeing 9 prospects under 24 move up to Tampa Bay this season are probably overly optimistic, but the performance of players like Marchessault down the stretch do give hope that Syracuse can get into the postseason again next year.
In the meantime, several Crunch players should join the Lightning and if the team can extend their series against the Habs, could possibly provide some depth options for Jon Cooper.
Box score from TheAHL.com.