For Nikita Nesterov, this season is his first away from home.
The Syracuse Crunch defensemen, who spent the last four seasons in his hometown of Chelyabinsk with the junior MHL team or with Traktor of the Kontinental Hockey League, is still getting acclimated to his new surroundings. While his homeland is halfway around the world, the ultimate goal -- to play in the National Hockey League -- is one step away.
"It was pretty tough, I won two medals with my KHL team, third and second place in the past two years, but I wanted to learn something new," Nesterov said through a translator.
We continue our 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 November 18-24, 2013 is … Tyler Johnson, C, Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL – USA).
Tyler Johnson is getting good at the NHL hockey.
The Lightning’s recent trip out west was rather forgettable, but there were a few positives among the negatives. One of those positives was the ascending play of rookie Tyler Johnson.
Regarded as one of the best players not playing in the NHL, Kucherov will lose that label tonight as the club’s 2011 second round pick will make his NHL debut against the Rangers.
Pure and simple, Kucherov is a point machine. He first got on the elite-scorers map when he shattered records at the 2011 U18 championships when he had 11 goals and 21 points in seven games. He followed that up with 24 goals and 43 points in just 23 MHL games in Russia, then had 29 goals and 63 points in 33 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League games last season. As a rookie in AHL Syracuse this year, Kucherov has 13 goals and 24 points in 16 games. He also had 15 points (7 goals) in 14 World Junior Championship games spread out over two tournaments.
Originally known primarily for his shot, Kucherov’s vision is the best to come from a Lightning draft since Brad Richards. He sees the ice exceptionally well and has the ability to make every pass needed. Add to that quick decision-making and he’s a power play weapon.
Kucherov has as good a one-time pass as we’ve seen in quite some time out of a Lightning prospect. This is because he can think the game faster than most players; his hockey sense is off the charts.
Despite spending more than a decade as defensemen, the pair was signed and turned into forwards. A dozen games into their rookie seasons, Olson and Nielsen are getting acclimated with the position change with the Syracuse Crunch.
“At first it was a little different, I wasn’t really sure what to expect or what to think about it,” Nielsen said. “But the more I play it, the more comfortable I feel and actually enjoy playing on the front end -- getting in front of the net and going into the corners as opposed to playing defensively.”
In his first taste of professional hockey last season, Tanner Richard learned the importance of being versatile.
The Syracuse Crunch forward started his first game on the fourth line, but was promoted to the top line after a mid-game injury. The lines shuffled a few more times, and after reinforcements were sent for the team’s Calder Cup run, the 20-year-old fresh out of junior was back to a grinding line to finish out his eight-game stint.
Although he was a playmaking first-line center with the Ontario Hockey League’s Guelph Storm, Richard has become acclimated with his role changing on a game-to-game or shift-to-shift basis.