Prospect of the Week (9.25.11)

(Week ending September 25)

This season Bolt Prospects will be introducing our Prospect of the Week award. The award is (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their on-ice contributions. There are no trophies or plaques or women jumping out of a cake involved (unfortunately), but we’re fairly certain this will carry heavy weight among players in the global hockey community and with agents negotiating contracts (were this Twitter, we’d use #sarcasm here).

Quite simply, 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.

The first ever BP Prospect of the Week award goes to … Mattias Ritola, Tampa Bay Lightning.

As has been well documented since last winter, Ritola overcame his Meniere’s disease to get his hockey career back on track. As Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman said, he “dominated in Norfolk” when demoted last season and Ritola has been his best ever since. He got off to a slow start in camp scrimmages, then turned it on and has been on fire in recent weeks. He told Bolt Prospects last week that he is excited to be in Tampa and stressed hard work as the reason why he’s there.

That hard work showed up on the scoresheet last week as he had two goals and two assists in three NHL preseason games. We’re going to count the Panthers as an NHL team for the purposes of this story.

Ritola is tied with newcomer Ryan Shannon and the rejuvenated Pavel Kubina for the team lead in points. Ritola is also tied for the team lead in plus/minus at plus-2.

He also gets the award because we have a heart. Ritola turned 24 in the spring and under Bolt Prospects’ strict guidelines, he will not be considered a prospect on opening day. This is us saying thanks for the memories. No one player has made us recall throat lozenge commercials so frequently (And it’s not just us, someone in the Lightning lockerroom during camp was yelling out Riiiii-tola!).

Congratulations again to Mattias Ritola for being our first Prospect of the Week.