In just a few short hours, the two year run of goaltender Torrie Jung and defenseman Michael Ward as Tampa Bay Lightning prospects could end. As 2007 draftees out of Canadian juniors, both players are facing a June 1 deadline to be signed to entry level contracts by the Lightning or be returned to the 2009 NHL entry draft later this month in Montreal. The Lighting have already signed fellow 2007 draftees Dana Tyrell and Mitch Fadden, along with 2008 draftee Dustin Tokarski to three-year rookie contracts. Jung, who had a spectacular comeback season for the Edmonton Oil Kings, has seemingly played well enough to earn a contract, but faces considerable depth in the Lightning system behind Mike Smith, Karri Ramo, Riku Helenius, and the highly touted Tokarski. Ward, while showing a more pedestrian development and is considered somewhat of a longshot to earn a contract, would seemingly benefit from a general lack of blueline depth in the Lightning system.
Defenseman John Wessbecker, a 2007 NCAA draftee out of the University of Massachusettes-Amherst, faces an August 15 deadline as a graduating senior to sign an entry level contract or be released as an unrestricted free agent.
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.
Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL) goalie and Lightning prospect Torrie Jung was the the main reason for the club's first playoff run this season, and his efforts were recognized with a trio of team awards over the weekend.
According to the Edmonton Sun, the 19-year-old was named team Most Valuable Player and earned the three-stars award as well as the humanitarian award.
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.
N.A. Juniors Playoff Game Night: 3/23
WHL Playoffs â€“ Round 1
Calgary Hitmen 4 @ Edmonton Oil Kings 1
Calgary leads Best of 7 series 3-0
G Torrie Jung, EDM: Loss, 41 saves on 45 shots, *Second Star*
Playoff totals: 3 GP, 0-2-1, 3.51 GAA, .920 sv%
Season totals: 48 GP, 20-20-3-5, 2.56 GAA, .912 sv%, 3 shutouts
The story of No.1 Calgary vs. No.8 Edmonton has become less about the Hitmenâ€™s dominance, and more about Torrie Jung. Jung stopped 41 shots Monday giving him 95 saves over the past two games, though as he would likely tell you, itâ€™s the 2 losses over that time that matter most. Getting more than two total goals of support in three games would help the cause, but Jung isnâ€™t one to complain. And letâ€™s be honest, no one expected Edmonton, who squeaked into the playoffs with a tiebreaker win over Prince Albert, to compete with the No.1 ranked team in all of Canadian Junior hockey â€“ a team that averaged a league-best 4.5 goals per game.