Prospect of the Week (3.27.12)

This season Bolt Prospects introduced our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their on-ice contributions. There are no trophies or plaques, but a Hockey Hall of Fame entry may be in the works.

We wanted to highlight prospects throughout the year to help fans get better acquainted with the next round of Lightning stars while recognizing the prospect’s achievement on the ice.

This week’s BP Prospect of the Week award goes to … the entire Norfolk Admirals hockey club (AHL) and their fans.

On January 31, Steven Stamkos followed a Martin St. Louis overtime shot and banged a rebound behind Washington netminder Tomas Vokoun to give the Lightning a 4-3 win and their fifth win in a row. What a feeling. The grass was greener, sky was bluer, Dale Mabry Boulevard was less congested… it was impressive.

Now double that. And go ahead and double that, too.

Twenty.

This past week the Norfolk Admirals, the Lightning’s top affiliate, won their 20th straight game. They haven’t lost since you were watching New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw try to sit down at the 1 yard line in the Super Bowl and then wondering if that brown M&M really was naked.

So much has been written about what is now the longest winning streak in professional hockey history: Rookies are leading the way, Jon Cooper should be coach of the year and may be in the NHL next season somewhere, Jaroslav Janus and Dustin Tokarski continue to take turns setting club records, Tyler Johnson scoring a billion points – including goals in his last nine games, and the team is setting records despite the Lightning reinstalling Rick Dudley’s revolving door at the arena entrance for new players coming from the minors.

Our Jon Cooper for AHL Coach of the Year campaign manager has had the easiest job in America right now. In fact, he’s turned his attention to the new Angry Birds.

And then there are the Norfolk fans. Years ago when the Lightning became affiliated with the Admirals, there was hope for a quality farm system and pipeline to the pros. Used to success with the Blackhawks, Norfolk fans waited. And waited.

The ownership commitment simply wasn’t there from the Lightning until Jeff Vinik took over in Tampa, yet through it all the diehard Norfolk fans stuck by an ever-changing team clinging to hope. Hope is here. You’ll recognize these fans now – they’re the ones skipping down sidewalks at the Norfolk waterfront passing out lollipops and pinwheels. They’ve even been so kind as to put up Bandwagon Parking signs outside of Scope Arena. For win No.18 in a row, many of them drove five hours to Charlotte to watch history be made, though no commercial was made about history being made.

So congratulations to the Admirals, their fans, the city, Salty, Scott Jackson’s beard, Richard Panik’s dancing, Mike Kostka’s lettuce, the Picard-Johnson Twitter feud, and anyone and thing else associated with the history-making Norfolk Admirals.

However…

“20 is a fluke, 21 is a streak. #character”

Previous BP Prospects of the Week:

Richard Panik, Norfolk Admirals (AHL) - March 21, 2012
Tyler Johnson, Norfolk Admirals (AHL) - March 13, 2012
Danick Gauthier, Saint John (QMJHL) - March 6, 2012
Matt Peca, Quinnipiac (NCAA) - February 29, 2012
Pat Nagle, Florida (ECHL) - February 21, 2012
Alex Hutchings, Florida (ECHL) - February 14, 2012
Alex Killorn, Harvard (NCAA) - February 6, 2012
Adam Wilcox, Tri-City (USHL) and Alex Killorn, Harvard (NCAA) - January 30, 2012
Nikita Kucherov, CSKA Jr. (Russia) - January 24, 2012
Riku Helenius, JYP (Finland) - January 16, 2012
Brett Connolly, Canada (U20 WJC) - January 10, 2012
*Due to the Christmas break when few games below the NHL level were played, no POTW award was given.
Mark Barberio, Norfolk Admirals (AHL) - December 19, 2011
Vladislav Namestnikov, London Knights (OHL) - December 12, 2011
Tyler Johnson, Norfolk Admirals (AHL) - December 5, 2011
Alex Killorn, Harvard (NCAA) - November 28, 2011
Nikita Kucherov, Team Russia/CSKA Jr. (MHL) - November 21, 2011
Vladislav Namestnikov, London Knights (OHL) - November 14, 2011
Dustin Tokarski, Norfolk Admirals (AHL) - November 6, 2011
Riku Helenius, JYP (Finland) - October 30, 2011
Matthew Peca, Quinnipiac Bobcats - October 23, 2011
Radko Gudas, Norfolk Admirals - October 16, 2011
Carter Ashton, Norfolk Admirals - October 9, 2011
Brett Connolly, Tampa Bay Lightning - October 2, 2011
Mattias Ritola, Tampa Bay Lightning - September 25, 2011