Prospect of the Week: October 29, 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 October 29, 2013 is … Kristers Gudlevskis, G (Syracuse Crunch, AHL, USA).

Latvians sure know how to make an entrance.

Lightning goaltending prospect Kristers Gudlevskis announced his presence in the AHL Saturday with a 22-save shutout against Bridgeport. His impressive debut earned him our Prospect of the Week award.

The Lightning’s fifth round pick from last summer’s draft was recalled from ECHL Florida earlier in the week due to an injury to Syracuse’s Riku Helenius. Gudlevskis backed-up Cedrick Desjardins on Friday night in a 2-1 shootout win over Utica and is expected to get another start this week.

Gudlevskis spent last season in his home country of Latvia, playing for Dinamo Riga of the KHL and HK Riga of the MHL. He had a .927 save percentage and 2.09 goals against average in 56 MHL games in 2012-2013. He played two games in the KHL, posting .921 and 2.18. He caught Tampa Bay’s attention at the 2013 World Championships, where had a .925 save percentage and 2.22 GAA in four games for his country against many current and former NHLers.

The 21-year-old surprised prospect followers when he agreed to a contract with the Lightning before training camp and made the trek to North America despite not having a guaranteed spot in either the NHL or AHL. Many European players who have a taste of the KHL will choose to stay home for more money before taking advantage of a better opportunity later in their career at the NHL. Few choose the ECHL over the KHL, but Gudlevskis told Bolt Prospects in camp that there wasn’t much of a choice. His goal is the NHL and the contract and starting in the ECHL begins that journey.

He’s certainly hit the ground running.

Gudlevskis won an NHL exhibition game against St. Louis in a shootout in September and earned some extra time with the Lightning at the end of camp, training with the club. He started his season with the Everblades with two wins in two games, posting .914 and 2.60 numbers.

Gudlevskis has good size at 6-4 and has quick legs while utilizing the butterfly style. He said after his shootout win that he loved shootouts as the difference between winning and losing is up to him. General managers crave that mindset in a prospect, especially at goaltender.

A member of Latvia’s preliminary Olympic team roster, Gudlevskis has a chance to play in the NHL someday if the opportunity presents itself. So far Gudlevskis is making the most of every opportunity.

Also receiving consideration: Jake Dotchin (Barrie, OHL), Nikita Kucherov (Syracuse, AHL), Danick Gauthier (Florida, ECHL), Adam Wilcox (Minnesota, NCAA), Ondrej Palat (Tampa Bay, NHL).

2013-2014 Prospect of the Week winners:

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)