Prospect of the Week: January 6, 2013

After a short break for the holidays and World Juniors, 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 December 30 - January 5, 2013 is … Ondrej Palat, W, Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL – USA).

As crazy as it may sound, rookie Ondrej Palat may be playing the best hockey of any Lightning forward right now. The Czech Republic native and former 7th round draft pick has been a fixture on the Lightning’s top line with fellow rookie Tyler Johnson and Martin St. Louis since Steven Stamkos went down with a broken leg on November 11. He’s currently riding a six-game point streak in which he has a plus-7 rating, and has been consistently producing in all three zones.

This past week Palat had two goals and three assists in four games. He also graduated from prospect status on our site and on Monday was named to the Czech Olympic team. It’s hard to have a bigger week, so we’re giving him our Prospect of the Week award.

For the season, Palat has seven goals and 19 points in 42 games. He ranks fourth in the league among rookie forwards for average ice time per game (16:38) and is tied for third (Hertl) for plus/minus (+11). He plays on the power play and is on the first penalty kill forward pair with Johnson.

Palat hasn’t been mentioned in Calder Trophy talk for top rookie – Johnson has because he has more points, but as we’ve said before, Palat’s scoresheet contributions are just bonuses to what he gives a coach and team. Palat continues to play like a veteran, making few mistakes while paying attention to his defensive responsibilities and choosing puck possession over a high-risk play at necessary times.

It will be interesting to see if Palat remains at left wing on the first line when Stamkos returns after the Olympics, as is speculated. That spot has been a turnstile in the last two years, though Alex Killorn was playing well there when Stamkos went down. Palat’s chemistry with the “other” winger on that line, Martin St. Louis, may win out.

Palat is already playing in his projected role – a strong 2-way complimentary winger who can play on lines 1-3. He will be a valuable piece to the Lightning’s championship puzzle in the near future.

Honorable Mention: Dylan Blujus, D (North Bay, OHL).

2013-2014 Prospect of the Week winners:

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)