Prospect of the Week: February 3, 2014

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 February 3, 2014 is … Adam Wilcox, G, Minnesota Golden Gophers (NCAA – USA).

They call Adam Wilcox “the Iron Man.” The Gophers goalie and Tampa Bay Lightning sixth round draft pick (2011) has the Marvel Comics character on his mask and has played in nearly every game since starting his collegiate career with the University of Minnesota.

In November, Wilcox sat for a game and ended his consecutive games played streak at 47 – a streak that started just a few games into his freshman season. He’s been in every game since sitting backup for one game in the fall, including two this week where he went 1-0-1 with a 1-0 shutout win over Michigan State. That performance earned him our Prospect of the Week award.

For the season, the sophomore goaltender is second in the nation in wins at 18-2-5. He’s also among national leaders in goals against average (1.96), save percentage (.931), and shutouts (3). He hasn’t lost since just before Thanksgiving (shootouts aren’t official in the NCAA).

The Gophers have been No. 1 in the rankings for much of the season and Wilcox is a huge reason why. He is positionally sound and poised while athletic enough to make the tough saves. He’s got decent size at 6-foot, but like former Lightning prospect Dustin Tokarski, plays bigger than his size due to his positioning and high shoulders technique. Like Tokarski, his poise and maturity stand out among his peers.

With the way the Lightning system stacks up for next year, it’s highly likely Wilcox remains at Minnesota for at least another season, if not two. The Lightning are big believers in development-through-ice-time, so there’s really no reason to rush Wilcox into the professional ranks until he graduates.

A native if South St. Paul, Minnesota, Wilcox projects to get a contract offer when he’s ready to go pro, which is no small feat for a sixth rounder. He could rise as high as a nice NHL starter one day, or top out as a solid AHL starter. It could be 3-4 years before he knocks at the NHL door.

In the meantime, Gopher fans (and there are many) will enjoy Wilcox and the top-ranked Gophers as they make a run at the Big 10 and national championship. If both of those happen, Wilcox could go down in history as one of the Gopher greats.

Honorable Mention: Slater Koekkoek, D (Windsor, OHL); Matt Peca, C/W (Quinnipiac, NCAA).

2013-2014 Prospect of the Week winners:

January 27: Dylan Blujus, D, (North Bay Battalion, OHL, Canada).
January 20: Mark Barberio, D, (Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL, USA).
January 13: Kristers Gudlevskis, G, (Syracuse Crunch, AHL, USA).
January 6: Ondrej Palat, LW, (Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL, USA).
December 17: Tyler Johnson, C, (Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL, USA).
December 10: Ondrej Palat, W, (Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL, USA).
December 3: Cedric Paquette, C, (Syracuse Crunch, AHL, USA).
November 26: Tyler Johnson, C, (Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL, USA).
November 19: Jonathan Drouin, C/W, (Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL, Canada).
November 13: Jonathan Drouin, C/W, (Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL, Canada).
November 4: Nikita Kucherov, W, (Syracuse Crunch, AHL, USA).
October 29: Kristers Gudlevskis, G, (Syracuse Crunch, AHL, USA).
October 24: Henri Ikonen, W, (Kingston Frontenacs, OHL, Canada).
October 16: Nikita Kucherov, W, (Syracuse Crunch, AHL, USA).
October 9: Henri Ikonen, W, (Kingston Frontenacs, OHL, Canada).
October 1: Andrey Vasilevskiy, G, (Salavat Yulaev, KHL, Russia).
September 24: Adam Erne, W, Tampa Bay (NHL) and Quebec (QMJHL)