The Tampa Bay Lightning take the ice Wednesday night in Dallas, TX for their first pre-season game against the Dallas Stars. Five of BoltProspects' Top 7 ranked prospects, including the top three ranked prospects, will help kick off the Lightning's 2009-10 hockey season. Highlighting the Tampa roster will be 2009 #2 overall pick, Swedish blueline phenom Victor Hedman. Hedman will be joined by fellow 2009 draftees Richard Panik and Jaroslav Janus. Forwards Steve Downie and Dana Tyrell along with defenseman Matt Lashoff round out the remaining top prospects that will be showcased in tonight's opener. Forwards Blair Jones, Martins Karsums, and Paul Szczechura represent three more Top 20 prospects that are fighting for roster spots on the Lightning's bottom lines with overagers Drew Miller and Zenon Konopka.
The expected forward lines for Wednesday's game are:
Joining Lashoff and Hedman on the blueline are newcomers David Hale and Kurtis Foster along with former prospects Matt Smaby and Mike Lundin. Joining Janus in net is 2009 free agent acquisition Antero Niittymaki.
After watching Rimouski's opening game of the Memorial Cup Tournament tonight, I felt compelled to write a little about Luca Cunti.
Cunti didn't score tonight and Rimouski was clearly overmatched by the better team in Kelowna, but there's definitely something there with Cunti: speed. He has raw, pure, and undeniable speed. It's world class skating ability; a gift that simply can't be taught. There were times tonight where Rimouski's best and only chance of getting the puck out of their own end was to have Cunti carry it out himself, and his speed generated several scoring chances. Bear in mind, Kelowna's defense is very good (Tyler Myers is going to be an awesome NHL player), and there were times Cunti made them look like they were standing still. It was a 2000% improvement over the way Cunti looked at the start of the season at Traverse City. Sure, some of the same old criticisms of Cunti are still valid. He tended to float in the defensive zone, although he wasn't overtly cherry picking. He looked uncomfortable digging in the corners. He hogged the puck a bit (although that's partly due to the lacking quality of his linemates and the fact they simply couldn't keep up with his speed). There's definitely holes in his game and he's definitely a project. But, my word, he will back opposing defenses off the blueline with his speed. If you put him and Steven Stamkos on the same line 2-3 years down the line, I promise you there will be opposing defensemen going prematurely grey. Speed kills, and I'm closing my eyes and imagining what a line of Cunti, Stamkos, and maybe Dana Tyrell could do together. Have mercy.
There's some ambiguity, on our end at BoltProspects, as to whether Cunti's rights will be retained after June 1st or whether he's considered to have defected status as a player who was drafted out of Switzerland. It's one of the joys of the breakdown of the IIHF transfer agreement coupled with the new rules that were supposed to be enacted in the new CBA. We believe his rights will be retained past June 1st if he isn't signed. However, if the Lightning do indeed need to sign him before the end of the month in order to keep him, count me among the people who think that they should. The same is true for Edmonton goaltender Torrie Jung, whose rights definitely will be lost after June 1st. Both players could be returned to junior if there isn't room for them in Norfolk, and both players, in my mind, have the kind of athleticism the Lightning just shouldn't let get away.
Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick ahead of schedule in recovery from December knee injury
It wasnâ€™t the way he envisioned spending his winter months, but Dana Tyrell is making the best of a bad situation and is hoping to hit the ice this summer stronger than ever.
After completely tearing the anterior cruciate ligament and partially tearing the medial collateral ligament in his right knee during a Dec. 18 World Junior exhibition game against Sweden, Tyrell has taken to the arduous task of rehabbing the knee with his trademark hard working approach.
The soon-to-be 20-year-old has been working on the knee with a Hockey Canada physiotherapist at Canada Olympic Park, along with his trainer of over two years, Doug Crashley.
â€œMy (physiotherapist) says itâ€™s ahead of schedule so things are moving along quickly,â€ Tyrell said after a recent morning workout session at COP. â€œItâ€™s a six month recovery, but Iâ€™ve seen guys Iâ€™ve been training with in here that are at a five month point and Iâ€™m ahead of them already.â€
To read the rest of the story, click here: Airdrie Echo
Craig Kowalski allowed 1 goal on 30 shots for the victory.
NOR Keller, (17) , 5:51
NOR Segal, (24) (Jones), 7:47 (PP)
NOR Segal, (25) , 12:25
NOR Segal, (26) , 3:22 (SH)
NOR Graddock, (1) (Zingoni), 5:23
NOR Keller, (18) (Lundin), 9:50
BNG Smith, (7) (Hennessy, Bois), 11:07 (SH)
On paper, the Admirals had no business even being competitive in this game. Norfolk had nothing to play for other than pride and the possibility to climb out of the division basement. At the other end of the rink, Binghamton came into this game tied with Philadelphia for the final playoff spot in the division and desperate for points. Norfolk's bottom lines and bottom pairings were riddled with ATO's due to call-ups and injuries. This should have been a cake walk for Binghamton, but just like their last game out against the Penguins, the core of this Admirals team absolutely refuses to lay down.
In my mind, over the past two years Darren Rumble has developed into a hell of a coach. He got several of these young players like Radek Smolenak to start believing in themselves down the stretch of last season, and this season he's instilled a sense of pride in a minor league system that hasn't had any since they were the Atlanta Knights of the IHL.
I think the team tonight also took the guess work out of who you keep and who you let go. All of the top-six forwards and top-four d-men from this game need to be retained, which means Geoff Kinrade needs a contract. With the further development of this clubs young players and the introduction of some new talent like Dana Tyrell, next season is one where the Admirals should legitimately be a playoff team.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
(CHL Release) Toronto, ON â€“ The Canadian Hockey League today announced that forward Mitch Fadden of the Tri-City Americans is the Boston Pizza CHL Player of the Week for the week ending March 29. Fadden scored two goals and six assists for eight points in three games with a plus-minus rating of plus-5.
The CHL is comprised of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League, and the Western Hockey League.
(CHL Release) The BOSTON PIZZA WHL Player of the Week is forward Mitch Fadden of the Tri-City Americans.
Fadden picked up eight points, scoring two goals and six assists to go with a +5 rating in three games over the last week, helping the Tri-City Americans win their Kal-Tire 2009 WHL Western Conference Quarter-Finals best-of-seven series over the Everett Silvertips 4-1.
On Wednesday, March 25th, the Tri-City Americansâ€™ opening round series shifted back to the Comcast Arena in Everett for games three and four versus the Silvertips, with the series tied 1-1. In game three Fadden picked up a goal and an assist as the Americans downed the â€˜Tips 4-2 to jump out to a 2-1 series lead and was named the games 1st Star. In game four on Friday, March 27th, Fadden netted one goal and added two assists as the Americans took a strangle hold on the best of seven series 3-1 with their 4-1 victory. He was also named the games 2nd Star.
N.A. Juniors Playoff Game Night: 3/25
Three Lightning prospects helped their clubs to opening round sweeps, while goaltender Torrie Jung and his Oil Kings finished their season. Also, Fadden returns to First Star status and Tokarski wins another close one.
Witkowski a plus/minus machine ... Rimouski's streak ends at 17 ... Barberio hits 40 points ... Jung beats a former team to put Edmonton up for 8 spot ... Wright scores his 20th ... Stan Drulia reference ... New OHL record set by future member of the Lightning?
Keller is also getting in line for a recall.
Riku Helenius stopped 24 of 26 shots for the win to even his record at 4-4-0 this season. He is now sitting on 1 shutout, a 2.18 GAA, and a .938 save percentage. What's the definition of a "good problem" to have? Karri Ramo and Mike McKenna acquitting themselves fairly well in the NHL while your young #1 starter is out injured, Helenius playing well in the AHL, and young Dustin Tokarski standing on his head in junior. That is a "good problem" to have.
BNG Mauldin, (12) (Regin, Hamel), 11:54
BNG Mauldin, (13) (Fata, Regin), 17:56
NOR Potulny, (8) (Brookbank, Jones), 1:27
NOR Jones, (11) (Lundin, Konopka), 14:44 (PP)
NOR Bochenski, (21) (Keller, Konopka), 3:43
NOR Keller, (11) (Bochenski), 11:08
I find it fascinating that, despite spotting him a significant head start, Keller has caught Blair Jones in the goal department. Jones still has a mammoth lead on Keller in assists and a better points per game number, but that may be a little inflated with power play assists with Blair playing the point position so much. This may be another really good problem for the Lightning organization to have if Keller and Jones continue to hit the scoresheet and, along with Brandon Segal, continue to push for late season recalls.
For those who have been wondering, Vladimir Mihalik has been out with a nasty concussion.
Norfolk climbs back to 3 games under .500. I think the season would be considered a success, given the rocky beginnings, if the team could climb to a winning record. It could be the foundation of a return to the playoffs next season with the Admirals getting an injection of a little more speed and skill with guys like Dana Tyrell coming on board.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 4 @ Sudbury Wolves 6
W Kyle DeCoste, SSM: 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM
Season totals: 53 GP, 10-11-21, -23, 67 PIM
With SSM: 16 GP, 2-5-7, -10, 16 PIM
Sudbury was the only team the Soo had beaten since January 10 (1-13-0-1), a 6-4 home win on February 11.
Prince George Cougars 0 @ Tri-City Americans 4
C Mitch Fadden, TC: 1-1-2, +1, 6 PIM (hooking x 2, elbowing)
Season totals: 50 GP, 27-35-62, +19, 45 PIM
With TC: 41 GP, 25-32-57, +17, 37 PIM
Fadden has 10 goals in his last 10 games (10-9-19). Chet Pickard earned First Star while notching his sixth shutout of the year, which ties Dustin Tokarski for the team lead.
The 21st Best of the West poll of players, coaches and management in the Western Hockey League's Western Conference was recently calculated and Lightning prospects and prospects of interest include (possible draft targets in italics):