With Soap Opera Over, Peca Heads to Connecticut

Despite Patrick Roy’s best wishes, a decision has been made and Lightning 2011 seventh round draft pick Matthew Peca will attend Quinnipiac University this fall. Peca, a gritty scorer from the Junior A Pembroke Lumber Kings in Ontario, has been through a soap opera of sorts this offseason.

Peca was originally drafted by Windsor of the OHL in 2009 but he chose to stay eligible for NCAA play by remaining with Pembroke last year. Peca also had to pay his own way to the Lightning’s prospect camp this summer to avoid any college eligibility questions.

According to a canoe.ca story, OHL Ottawa wanted Peca’s rights, but so did Quebec of the QMJHL. Since the Ontario-born Peca could only join another league if he cleared waivers, Patrick Roy and the Remparts struck a deal where Ottawa would ignore him if his rights were waived in exchange for Quebec playing a preseason game in both Windsor and Ottawa.

A verbal commit to Quinnipiac, Peca saw his rights acquired from Windsor by former NHL great Doug Gilmour and the Kingston Frontenacs, but Kingston couldn’t get him to join former NHLers Todd Gill (head coach) and Curtis Joseph (goaltender consultant) with the club. The Frontenacs then waived Peca, but he was claimed by Kitchener, again thwarting Quebec’s plans. Peca turned down Kitchener’s offer, too, so the Rangers put him back on waivers.

Canoe.ca reports the Niagara Ice Dogs were interested in claiming Peca at this time, but Quebec struck a deal with them to “forget” Peca five minutes before the claiming deadline. Ideally, this would clear a path for Peca to end up in Quebec City.

Coming from a family who places a high priority on education (his mom is a teacher), Peca was intrigued by the academic facilities offered in Quebec City, as well as its bilingual attraction, reported the Journal de Quebec.

However, a “mystery team” put a claim on Peca, reported canoe.ca, at the last minute. The name of the team was never announced and Roy has questioned OHL/CHL commissioner David Branch’s honesty in the proceedings, claiming Branch didn’t want a player of Peca’s caliber to escape the province to play in another CHL league. Additionally, Roy questions if a claim was even put on the young forward.

Branch told the Journal de Quebec he followed legal procedures in Peca’s case.

With his decision essentially made for him, Peca was to report to Quinnipiac today, August 19.

“Spoke with him last night and despite the speculation and rumors, Matthew Peca is reporting to Quinnipiac University today,” tweeted Pembroke Coach and General Manager Sheldon Keefe, a former Lightning prospect himself.

Peca, who had 72 points in 50 games while leading the Kings to a 51-9-0-2 record as captain, will join a Bobcats team in Hamden, Connecticut, that finished 16-15-8 last season. The Bobcats managed to win their opening round playoff series against Brown (2-0), but fell in the next round to Kirill Gotovets and Cornell, 2-1, with every game decided by one goal.

Considering Peca is slightly built at 5’9” 170, having four years of college eligibility to gain weight and experience will certainly help him. The Lightning maintain his rights through graduation.

Qunnipiac’s season begins October 7 at Ohio State.

In additional Lightning prospect "Where will he play?" news, Nikita Nesterov, a fifth round pick of the Bolts this past summer, was expected to make the jump from Russia to Tri-City of the Western Hockey League. Bolt Prospects has learned Nesterov is not on the Americans training camp roster, and is therefore seems unlikely to join the team. He is currently one of 11 defenseman listed on the roster of his KHL team, Traktor. Stay tuned.

(Tampa Bay Lightning photo)