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BP Mailbag: 3-19-14

The BP Mailbag is back with more questions from Lightning Nation...

@RcaAmarante:
How good can Adam Wilcox be? He doesn't get talked about much but his numbers are amazing. @BoltProspects #BPMailbag

University of Minnesota goalie Adam Wilcox (23-4-6, 1.91 GAA, .934 sv%, 3 SO) was just named the Big 10 Conference Player of the Year and remains a candidate for the Hobey Baker as the NCAA’s top player and the Mike Richter award as top goaltender. He was a sixth round pick of the Lightning in 2011.

Wilcox has good size, great athleticism, and a superb mental approach to the game. His poise and focus are among his biggest strengths. How good can he be? Goaltenders are the hardest to judge – just look at the number of failed top picks and successful late picks. However, Wilcox appears to have the mental and physical attributes to make it to the NHL and be a solid player.

He’ll be a junior next year at Minnesota if he stays in school, and speculation is he will stay in school as both Syracuse goalie spots appear to be taken by Andrey Vasilevskiy and Kristers Gudlevskis, respectively. While there is an opening at Goaltender No. 5, I don’t know that Wilcox would leave his throne in the Gophers net for the ECHL. My guess is he comes out after his junior year and takes one of the Syracuse spots. Then it’s at least two years before he’s flirting with NHL time. It’s a long process, but he has the ability to be a solid NHL net minder.

Bolt Prospect of the Week: March 17, 2014

We continue our Bolt Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their recent contributions on and off the ice.

The Bolt Prospect of the Week for March 17, 2014 is … Jonathan Drouin, C, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL – Canada).

He did it again.

Jonathan Drouin had a six-point game a week ago, earning him our Bolt Prospect of the Week. We jokingly said it was because the previous week’s winner, Matt Peca, had a six-point game and Drouin had never hit six points in a regular season game.

Not only did Drouin do it again, but he topped it.

In the final regular season game of his junior career, Drouin had seven points on Saturday vs Cape Breton – the same team he scored six against a week earlier. With 13 points in his last two games against the Screaming Eagles, Drouin is probably banned from visiting Sydney, Nova Scotia, for life.

Gourde Finds Home in Lightning Organization


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Yanni Gourde took the ice Tuesday as determined as ever.

The 5-9 left-winger signed a new deal -- an American Hockey League contract with the Syracuse Crunch for the rest of this season and a two-way deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning over the next two years -- last weekend. But Gourde, who spent time with three teams over the past two years, isn’t completely satisfied with his new found stability.

"It's awesome to feel that type of security right now," Gourde said. "But hockey is day-by-day. Every practice is important, and every time I step on the ice I need to improve myself to get better."

Bolt Prospect of the Week: March 10, 2014

We continue our Bolt Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their recent contributions on and off the ice.

The Bolt Prospect of the Week for March 10, 2014 is … Jonathan Drouin, C/W, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL – Canada).

We’re sorry, Jonathan.

Last week in our Bolt Prospect of the Week write-up, we made special note of the fact that Matt Peca had done something that super-prospect Jonathan Drouin had never done – get six points in one game.

Scratch that.

Sergeev Thrives With Increased Ice Time


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Artem Sergeev saw his opportunity and responded.

With three significant injuries to the Crunch blueline, Sergeev has thrived with increased ice time. The 20-year-old rookie defenseman has averaged close to 20 minutes a night and played in all situations, as Syracuse has gone 4-2 to snap out of a recent slide.

For Syracuse Crunch coach Rob Zettler, Sergeev has elevated his play in the last few weeks.

"I've really liked his physical play," Zettler said. "He's been smart. He uses his body well. He's a big, thick guy and he's strong. He's starting to understand how he can best use it to his advantage, and he's done that lately."

Gudlevskis Returns to Syracuse With Renewed Focus


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Even after one of the biggest performances of his young career, Kristers Gudlevskis tempered any excitement with perspective.

The Syracuse Crunch goalie made 55 saves, as Latvia nearly stunned Canada in the quarterfinals of the winter Olympics in Sochi late last month. The Herculean effort earned Gudlevskis praise worldwide.

But in his first practice back with the Crunch Tuesday, Gudlevskis was back to focusing on the task at hand.

"It was only one game," Gudlevskis said. "So I need to show everybody I'm really consistent every game all season long. I think only then I'm going to prove myself."

BP Mailbag: 3-3-14

The BP Mailbag returns after its own Olympic break (the Games aren’t going to watch themselves and multi-tasking is a challenge when hockey is on).

The questions, please…

@Jayslightning79:
@BoltProspects Would you part with Namestnikov for a Dmen like Alex Edler #BPMailbag

The Canucks’ Alex Edler, a 27-year-old defenseman, is rumored to be on the trading block. With the trade deadline on Wednesday, speculation is picking up steam.

Edler fits a lot of criteria for what I think the Lightning should be looking for: 300-plus games played, puckmover, second-pair capable, and power play contributor.

He also has good size (6-3), which Yzerman likes in a defenseman. There are a lot of things to like.

However…

Bolt Prospect of the Week: February 25, 2014

We continue our Bolt Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their recent contributions on and off the ice.

The Prospect of the Week for February 25, 2014 is … Kristers Gudlevskis, G, Team Latvia (IIHF).

Kristers Gudlevskis cemented his place as our Bolt Prospect of the Week about halfway through the second period of Latvia’s Olympic quarterfinal game against the eventual Gold medalist, Canada.

When a goalie is “on,” he is said to be “standing on his head.” Gudlevskis was running a marathon on his head while juggling rusty chainsaws. His 55-save performance in a 2-1 loss was the talk of the latter half of the Olympics and the Lightning’s 2013 fifth round pick provided Canada its biggest scare of the medal round. Canadiens’ All-Star goalie Carey Price, who opposed Gudlevskis in net for Team Canada, called Gudlevskis’ performance the best he’d ever seen.

Compliments don’t come better than that.

Richard Learning Lessons in Rookie Season


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Tanner Richard remembers the view of the bench as much as the goal.

After accepting a pass from Cedric Paquette on a 2-on-1 and burying it for his first professional goal last month, the Syracuse Crunch center felt joy and relief. It took 46 games, but the drought was over.

“It definitely took a while - a lot longer than I hoped for,” Richard said. “It was pretty special for me, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team so excited for a guy like that. After the first 20 games, everyone was pulling for me and trying to get me that goal.”

Like many players, Richard’s rookie season has been full of firsts.

Namestnikov Adds NHL Experience to Development Path


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Vlad Namestnikov received the unexpected news earlier this month.

The Syracuse Crunch center went through a range of emotions when he learned he would be making his National Hockey League debut with the Tampa Bay Lightning Feb. 8.

“It was an unbelievable feeling,” Namestnikov recalled. “Nerves, excitement -- everything together.”

During the first 31 games of his sophomore season, Namestnikov accumulated 13 goals and 30 points to earn the look from the Lightning. Despite already eclipsing his rookie season output of 28 points in 62 games, the first step onto the NHL ice seemed imposing.

“The first period I just couldn’t believe I was there,” Namestnikov said. “Everything seemed so fast and everyone was so big.”

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