Prospect of the Week: October 23, 2012

This week 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.

This week’s winner is no stranger to winning.

The Prospect of the Week for October 23 is … Dustin Tokarski, goaltender, Syracuse Crunch (AHL - USA)

Spoon!

Despite winning a Calder Cup last season, Lightning goaltending prospect Dustin “Tic” Tokarski wasn’t guaranteed anything when he moved with Tampa Bay’s affiliation from Norfolk to Syracuse. Even with a Calder Cup, World Juniors gold medal, Memorial Cup, Ed Chynoweth Cup (WHL), and Telus Cup (Canadian Midget-level hockey) on his resume, the Saskatchewan native had to outplay former Lightning first rounder and Finnish import Riku Helenius for the right to start the Crunch’s season-opening game.

The battle isn’t over – and likely won’t be anytime soon – as Syracuse Head Coach Jon Cooper anticipates rotating the goaltenders until one separates himself from the other.

Tokarski - nicknamed "Tic" and sporting "The Tick" superhero on his helmet - may have taken a slight lead this past weekend on the road.

On Friday night, Tokarski stopped 25 of 27 shots as the Crunch came from behind to top the Devils in Albany, 3-2. One night later he was watching from the bench as Helenius got the start, but allowed five goals in just under 27 minutes of action. “Tic” was summoned from the bench to plug the dam but he decided to play superhero instead, stopping 14 of 14 shots in relief as Syracuse completed a monumental comeback with a 6-5 overtime win.

Tokarski maintained superhero-status on Sunday, saving all but a late third period shot to nearly record a shutout against the Wilkes-Barre Penguins in Pennsylvania. With Sunday’s win, the Crunch completed a weekend sweep and returned home to New York with six points added to their total in the league standings. At 4-0-0-1, the Crunch are looking down on everyone in the league from atop the conference. They also lead the league in goals with 21.

Impressive.

But not as impressive as this: Tokarski hasn’t lost in regulation in his last 17 regular season games (16-0-1). Add in last year’s playoff numbers and he’s 29-2-1 in his last 32 games.

Not bad for a player who lasted until the fifth round of the 2008 NHL draft because of size concerns.

For the season, Tokarski is 3-0-1 with a 2.19 goals against average and a .907 save percentage. Last year he finished with a 32-11 record to go with a 2.23 GAA and .913 sv%.

Ranked the Lightning’s No. 8 prospect in our top-25, Tokarski projects as an NHL starting goaltender in the future. He has the smarts, athletic ability, and desire to be a solid NHL goaltender capable of winning big games and leading his team deep in the playoffs. He may not top out as an All-Star, but we wouldn’t bet against him achieving superhero status if that’s what his team needs.

Previous 2012-2013 Prospect of the Week winners:

September 25, Andrei Vasilevski, G, Ufa Jr, MHL-Russia
October 2, Andrei Vasilevski, G, Ufa Jr, MHL-Russia
October 9, Cedric Paquette, C, Blainville-Boisbriand, QMJHL-Canada
October 15, Cory Conacher, W, Syracuse, AHL-Canada