Prospect of the Week: April 3, 2013

We continue our 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 Prospect of the Week for April 3 is … Matthew Peca, W, Quinnipiac (NCAA – USA).

Matt Peca made sure his Quinnipiac Bobcats would advance to the Frozen Four in their first national tournament last week.

The Lightning’s 2011 seventh round pick scored the fastest natural hat trick in tournament history on Sunday, notching three goals in just over three minutes in the Bobcats’ victory over Union. He had one goal in QU’s win over Canisius College in the regional seminfinals on Friday.

His hat trick earned him the top play on ESPN's SportsCenter and he was one of two poll options on ESPN's front page for most impressive weekend showing.

QU will now face St. Cloud State University in 10 days at the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh.

The sophomore’s coming out party came on national television, as the game was aired on ESPNU. Each goal was scored off effort plays – a calling card of Peca.

The 5-9 winger was drafted out of Pembroke of CHL-Tier 1 where he captained the Lumber Kings to a national championship. He was named top forward at the RBC Cup. Peca’s coach, GM, and owner in Pembroke was former Lightning prospect and player Sheldon Keefe, who played a similar gritty style, but may have lacked Peca’s natural skill level.

Multiple junior clubs, including Patrick Roy’s Quebec Remparts, tried to sway Peca to join them instead of going to school, but the son of a teacher (his mom) decided to go the scholastic route. He is now majoring in business.

The college route has worked for Peca so far as he was second on the club in scoring as a freshman with eight goals and 39 points in 39 games. This year he started slow, but finished the year strong and currently sits at 15-15-30 in 37 games, which is tied for the club lead.

Peca projects as a scoring winner at the NHL level should he add weight and take full advantage of his development time. That will likely have him in Connecticut for at least another year – and possibly two – before joining AHL Syracuse. That development path worked well for Alex Killorn, and could produce similar results for Peca.

Honorable Mention: Congratulations to Tanner Richard (OHL Guelph) and Luke Witkowski (Western Michigan University) for signing their first pro contracts. Both have joined the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch.

Previous 2012-2013 Prospect of the Week winners:

March 25, Tyler Johnson, C, Tampa Bay, NHL-USA
March 19, Dylan Blujus, D, Brampton, OHL-Canada
March 12, Radko Gudas, D, Tampa Bay, NHL-USA
March 4, Ondrej Palat, W, Syracuse, AHL-USA
February 25, Ondrej Palat, W, Syracuse, AHL-USA
February 19, Nikita Kucherov, W, Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL-Canada
February 12, Alex Killorn, C/W, Tampa Bay, NHL-USA
February 5, Cory Conacher, W, Tampa Bay, NHL-USA
January 30, Nikita Kucherov, W, Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL-Canada
January 23, Cory Conacher, W, Tampa Bay, NHL-USA
January 15, Artem Sergeev, D, Val-d’Or, QMJHL-Canada
World Juniors break
December 17, Alex Killorn, C/W, Syracuse, AHL-Canada
December 10, Nikita Kucherov, RW, Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL-Canada
December 3, Cedric Paquette, C, Blainville-Boisbriand, QMJHL-Canada
November 25, Tyler Johnson, C, Syracuse, AHL-USA
November 20, Richard Panik, W, Syracuse, AHL-USA
November 12, Alex Hutchings, W, Florida, ECHL-USA
November 5, Nikita Kucherov, W, Quebec, QMJHL-Canada
October 30, Slater Koekkoek, D, Peterborough, OHL-Canada
October 23, Dustin Tokarski, G, Syracuse, AHL-USA
October 15, Cory Conacher, W, Syracuse, AHL-USA
October 9, Cedric Paquette, C, Blainville-Boisbriand, QMJHL-Canada
October 2, Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, Ufa Jr, MHL-Russia
September 25, Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, Ufa Jr, MHL-Russia