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:
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed forward Geoff Walker to a one-year, two-way contract, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.
Walker, 25, skated in 51 games last season with the Lake Erie Monsters of the American Hockey League, collecting five goals and 20 points to go along with 55 penalty minutes. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound forward ranked 11th on the Monsters in assists with 15.
The Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island native has skated in 226 career AHL games with the Manchester Monarchs, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Monsters, recording 39 goals and 108 points to go along with 326 penalty minutes. Walker set career highs for goals (18), assists (26), points (44) and penalty minutes (114) during the 2011-12 season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He’s also appeared in 24 career Calder Cup playoff games, registering two goals and nine points.
Walker originally went undrafted.
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed goaltender Cedrick Desjardins and defenseman Matt Taormina to one-year, two-way contracts, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.
Desjardins, 27, appeared in three games with the Lightning last season, compiling a record of 0-3-0 to go along with a 3.00 goals-against average and .890 save percentage. The Edmundston, New Brunswick native played in 36 games in the American Hockey League last season, splitting the season between the Hamilton Bulldogs and Syracuse Crunch, registering a record of 15-18-3 to go with a 2.61 goals-against average and .910 save percentage. During the 2012-13 AHL season, Desjardins recorded five shutouts, including three in just 14 games while with the Crunch. He appeared in 18 Calder Cup playoff games with Syracuse, posting a record of 13-5-0 to go along with a 2.30 goals-against average and .908 save percentage.
The 6-foot, 192-pound goaltender has appeared in five career NHL games, all with the Lightning, during the 2010-11 and 2012-13 seasons, notching a record of 2-3-0 with a 2.14 goals-against average and .926 save percentage. He has also played in 184 career AHL games with the Bulldogs, Norfolk Admirals, Lake Erie Monsters and the Crunch, compiling a record 95-62-12. Desjardins was the recipient of the AHL’s Harry “Hap” Holmes Memorial Award for recording a 2.00 goals-against average during the 2009-10 season, given annually to the goalie with the lowest goals-against average. That same season he also appeared in the 2010 AHL All-Star Classic, in which he was named top goaltender during the skills competition, as well as being named on the 2010 AHL Second All-Star Team following the season.
He was acquired by the Lightning on February 14, 2013 from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for goaltender Dustin Tokarski.
Taormina, 26, skated in two games with Tampa Bay last season and was held scoreless. He made his Lightning debut on April 6 at the New York Islanders. He also skated in 55 games with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League, collecting four goals and 24 points to go along with 21 penalty minutes and a plus-10 rating. The Warren, Michigan native ranked second on the Crunch defense for points and assists. Taormina has skated in 254 career AHL games with the Binghamton Senators, Lowell Devils, Albany Devils and the Crunch, collecting 18 goals and 74 points, including a career-high 10 goals and 50 points in 2009-10.
The 5-foot-10, 182-pound defenseman has appeared in 49 career NHL games, with the New Jersey Devils and Lightning, recording four goals and 12 points with a plus-3 rating. He made his NHL debut with the Devils on October 8, 2010 against the Dallas Stars.
Taormina went undrafted and was signed as a free agent by the Lightning on July 6, 2012.
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have acquired defenseman Drew Olson from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for future considerations, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.
Olson, 23, skated in five games with the Peoria Rivermen of the American Hockey League last season, collecting one assist and two penalty minutes. He made his AHL debut with the Rivermen on April 13 against the Grand Rapids Griffins and recorded his first AHL point (assist) on April 16 versus the Charlotte Checkers. Olson also skated in 38 games with the University of Minnesota-Duluth last season, collecting a goal and seven points to go along with 28 penalty minutes. Olson also served as an alternate captain with the Bulldogs during the 2012-13 season.
As Syracuse Crunch captain Mike Angelidis paused, cheers could still be heard from the ice.
After beating the Syracuse Crunch 5-2 in Game 6 of the American Hockey League finals at the Onondaga County War Memorial Tuesday, each member of the Grand Rapids Griffins took their turn hoisting the Calder Cup.
"It's tough, it's really tough," Angelidis said. "You compete that long in the season. It kills you."
Despite becoming the first team in league history to win back-to-back road elimination games after going down 3-0 in the series, the end result was hard to take.
"You're just disappointed, you're upset," said Angelidis, one of almost a dozen players who won the cup last year with the Norfolk Admirals. "When we don't win the Calder Cup, it's a failure for us. We lost. There's nothing good about this. We have to learn from this, I guess. We know what it takes to win every night, we just fell a little short."
Crunch defenseman Jean-Philippe Cote described the feeling as "devastating."
"This is what we play for…It's hard," he said. "Yes, you have to keep your head up, you made it that far, but it's a disappointment."