The Tampa Bay Lightning signed left wing Ondrej Palat  to a three-year, entry-level contract today, Vice President and General Manager Steve Yzerman announced.
Palat, 6-foot, 174-pounds, was drafted by the Lightning in the seventh round, 208th overall, of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He is the first prospect from his Lightning draft class to sign a pro contract. He is also 20, which is 18 months-to-two-years older than the others in his class.
Palat attended his first Lightning training camp this season, and although he was considered for a preseason game, he did not make it into the lineup for any games.
A native of Frydek-Mistek, Czech Republic, he was eligible to return to Drummondville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League as an overage player or turn pro.
Last season Palat played in 61 games with the Voltigeurs, registering 39 goals and 96 points, ranking him tied for fourth in the league in scoring. Palat led the Voltigeurs in goals, power play goals (15) and was tied for the team lead in points.
Yzerman was weighing the junior vs. pro decision for Palat early in camp after Palat had made an impression on the hall of famer.
"Weâ€™re watching him every day," Yzerman told Bolt Prospects during training camp in Brandon, Florida. "Heâ€™s played pretty well. We like his skills, we like his hockey sense, so weâ€™re just going to keep watching him here... At some point we'll have to make that decision [junior vs. pro]. Is he better off back in junior, or should we turn him pro, and whether he plays in [AHL] Norfolk or in [ECHL] Florida."
Palat was assigned to Norfolk on September 25 and signed a tryout agreement with the Admirals. He was a healthy scratch for Norfolk in both games this past weekend. It is possible he could be sent to the Everblades in the coming days if he can't get into the Norfolk lineup.
The Lightning organization's belief is a prospect's ideal development level is the level in which he receives proper playing time.
Palat was clearly a target of the Lightning late in the draft. Tampa Bay said after they took him in the seventh round that Palat was on their list to bring into camp as an invitee if he slipped through the draft, but since the club acquired an extra seventh round pick (choosing Matthew Peca ), they used their final selection on Palat.
Yzerman sounded pleased with that decision based on what he saw of Palat early at camp.
"Heâ€™s made a good impression and we like him," Yzerman said. "Heâ€™s a good kid and heâ€™s really smart and really skilled."