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:

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With Windsor in 2009:

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He also likes to fight (with Belleville):

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