Not a great night statistically for Lightning prospects.
Ontario Hockey League
Owen Sound Attack 1 @ Barrie Colts 9
LW/C Alex Hutchings, BAR: 0-1-1,+1, 0 PIM
The Eastern Conference favorite Colts started their season off with a bang by crushing Owen Sound 9-1. The game was well out of hand by the time the third period started as the Colts were sitting back on an 8-1 lead. Hutchings, who has led the Colts in scoring the last two seasons, had a relatively quiet opener, notching just an assist. Luke Pither (undrafted) had 4 goals for Barrie.
Defending OHL and Memorial Cup champion Windsor also started their season Thursday, but a depleted Spits squad lost 6-5 to rival Plymouth in a shootout. Windsorâ€™s Richard Panik was in Tampa preparing for tonightâ€™s exhibition game for the Lightning. Both Barrie and Windsor are predicted to run away with their respective conference titles.
Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune is reporting that the Tampa Bay Lightning have returned five prospect invitees to the their respective junior squads.
Goaltender Michael Zador was returned to Oshawa (OHL), while forwards Matias Sointu, Alex Hutchings, and Kyle DeCoste were returned to their OHL clubs in Ottawa, Barrie, and Sault Ste. Marie, respectively. Technically, DeCoste never participated in the Lightning training camp, having been excused last weekend due to a death in the family. Hutchings, a 2009 4th round pick, drew praise from Tampa head coach Rick Tocchet who called out Hutchings as being a player he particularly liked. The Lightning also returned defenseman Mark Barberio to Moncton (QMJHL), where he is expected to vie for QMJHL defenseman-of-the-year honors.
Tampa must sign DeCoste and Barberio to NHL contract before June 1, 2010 or face losing their rights to these players.
It's almost impossible to beat the haul the Lightning got in 1998 (Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards, Dimitry Afanasenkov, and Martin Cibak), but I think the Lightning might've just completed their second best draft in team history. They already completed a first in history making a pair of first round picks on night one of the draft with Victor Hedman and Carter Ashton, so they were on their way already.
However, their second and fourth round selections really put this draft over the top. Richard Panik is a big time gamble, but he's going to a very good program in Windsor and will be playing for Bob Boughner. On pure talent, he could be even better than Ashton if you can get his head on straight, and he'll be in the environment in Windsor to facilitate that.
And, we love that Alex Hutchings pick. Absolutely love it. You got a hockey player who can play center or wing. Good skater. Good hockey sense. He can pass. He can shoot. He mucks well for a little guy. He just knows how to play the game. It's shocking he fell into the Lightning's lap in the fourth round, and in getting Hutchings the Lightning completed a very successful first four rounds where they got 4 of the top 48 rated prospects by THN and 4 of the top 60 by Red Line. That's in a deep draft, no less, so they got a lot of quality.
The goaltenders, Zador and Janus, seem like a reaction to Karri Ramo's defection. Zador's got to get playing time, but he was a first rounder in the OHL Priority Draft in 2007, so he's got raw ability. Janus made his name at the WJC's and had decent statistics for Erie this season. Because Janus was an overager, he'll probably only have one more year in junior. Zador probably gets two. You're just wishing and hoping one of them develops the way Ramo did when the Lightning took a sixth rounder on him out of Lahti.
I have a feeling the Lightning got some value out of that Gotovets pick. I'm guessing if his name was Johnson or Wilson, he might've gone a couple of rounds sooner, but teams are terrified of the KHL poaching their players. Yes, there's a danger if Gotovets develops he could be poached by Dynamo Minsk, but he's already taken the step of coming over to Shattuck and he already speaks pretty flawless English. I don't think you make that commitment and go to an Ivy League school like Cornell only to turn back around and go back to Belarus, and I have yet to hear about anything glaringly wrong with his game other than the fact he's pretty skinny. He'll be a darkhorse to watch over the next few years.
The only regret is that the Lightning didn't find a way to get an offensive defenseman or two into the system. That'll be something they'll need to look at next year, and they'll certainly continue to try to flesh out their forward depth. Getting Ashton, Panik, and Hutchings was a whale of a start, though. Very good draft. I suspect they get at least three NHL players out of this group.
Evidently, Janus would've gone to Russia to play in the KHL if he hadn't been drafted, and he wants to play pro this season and not go back to junior. That's an interesting problem for a Lightning organization that has Riku Helenius and Dustin Tokarski all but inked into the lineup in Norfolk next season.