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Lightning Announce Contract for Prospect Richard Panik

Last night reported Lightning prospect Richard Panik was signed by Tampa Bay to a standard three year entry contract. The Lightning made the signing official today.

Panik, 20, was surprisingly sent back to the Ontario Hockey League after training camp last fall despite being eligible to play for AHL Norfolk. It was later revealed he was sent back with instructions to play at a higher level, and Panik did just that.

The Slovakian native scored a career high 27 goals (many in highlight-reel fashion) and 56 points in 51 games for Belleville and Guelph. As captain of Slovakia's World Junior Championship entry, he led the team with seven goals and nine points in six games. He had five points (two goals) in seven games at the WJCs in 2009.

He again was eligible to join Norfolk after Guelph was eliminated in the OHL playoffs, but the 2009 second round pick of the Bolts chose to return home in an attempt to make the Slovakian World Championship roster for the second year in a row. Since Slovakia was the tournament host, the team loaded up with veterans and Panik was among the last cut from the team. He had two assists in six games played in the men's tournament a year ago as a teenager.

Panik, when driven, can be an offensive force in pro hockey and could flirt with a possible position on the Lightning next fall. He has NHL size (6'1" 218), skating, hockey sense, and shot. He has to put it all together and do it consistently. His mean streak/arrogance could be his most valuable asset, too. His biggest "weakness" is his inconsistent work ethic, which combined with some perceived character issues was why he fell to the second round in 2009.

With Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman's patient approach, one would expect Panik to begin next year in the AHL and work his way into an impact role with the Admirals before being considered for the Lightning.

Here's a few Panik highlights from his junior career:

North American Juniors Game Night: 5/11/11

QMJHL Finals

No.1 St. John Sea Dogs 4 @ No.5 Gatineau Olympiques 3 (2OT)
St. John leads best of seven series 3-1

D Adam Janosik, GAT: 0-0-0, E, 2 PIM (cross-checking), 2 SOG, 0 Hits
Season Totals: 60 GP, 7-25-32, +17, 37 PIM
Playoff Totals: 22 GP, 3-4-7, -3, 12 PIM

St. John peppered Gatineau goalie Maxime Clermont (Devils) with 63 shots before scoring on their 64th to win Game 4 and take a 3-1 series advantage. Rookie Ryan Tesink scored the game winner, his third goal of the playoffs. Clermont was First Star. Gatineau fans littered the ice with horns and debris after the game winner, scored in the last minute of the second overtime. Gatineau had a 2-man advantage in the first overtime, but failed to take advantage of the opportunity. Game 5 is Friday in New Brunswick.

North American Juniors Game Night: 5/10/11

OHL Finals

West No.1 Owen Sound Attack 3 @ East No.1 Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors 7
Mississauga leads best of seven series 3-2

D Geoffrey Schemitsch, OS: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM
Season Totals: 45 GP, 1-19-20, +17, 14 PIM
Playoff Totals: 18 GP, 0-9-9, +4, 2 PIM
G Michael Zador, OS: 4 saves on 6 shots, pulled at 9:01 of first period
Season Totals: 31 GP, 19-5-1-1, 3.23 GAA, .888 sv%, 0 SO
Playoff Totals: 7 GP, 4-0-0, 2.13 GAA, .929 sv%, 1 SO

Starting his third straight game for Owen Sound, Lightning prospect Michael Zador let in two goals on six shots in about half a period and was yanked in favor of Scott Stajcer, who let in five the rest of the way for the back door loss. Geoffrey Schemitsch did not register a point for the fifth consecutive game. He hasn't had a point since his three assist game in the series clincher vs. Windsor. Devante Smith-Pelly (Ducks) had a hat trick for the Majors. Game 6 is Thursday in Owen Sound.

North American Juniors Game Night: 5/9/11

QMJHL Finals

No.1 St. John Sea Dogs 5 @ No.5 Gatineau Olympiques 0
St. John leads best of seven series 2-1

D Adam Janosik, GAT: 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM, 1 SOG, 0 Hits
Season Totals: 60 GP, 7-25-32, +17, 37 PIM
Playoff Totals: 21 GP, 3-4-7, -3, 10 PIM

Former Seattle Thunderbird Jacob DeSerres stopped all 17 shots he faced and five different Sea Dogs scored as St. John won Game 3 of their QMJHL Finals series with Gatineau, 5-0. The game was 0-0 until the Sea Dogs scored as the first period buzzer sounded. The Olympiques could never recover. Likely 2011 top-5 pick Jonathan Huberdeau was First Star with a goal and six shots. DeSerres (Flyers) split time in the Seattle nets with Lightning prospect Riku Helenius in 2007-2008. The overager was signed this year by St. John and went 27-3 in the regular season. He’s 10-2 in the playoffs. Game 4 is Wednesday in Quebec.

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