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Prospect of the Week: February 10, 2014

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 February 10, 2014 is … Matt Peca, C, Quinnipiac Bobcats (NCAA – USA).

Matt Peca was one of the best-kept secrets in the NCAA until his natural hat trick last year in the East Regional Finals.

As the 2013-2014 collegiate hockey season got underway, much was expected from the junior forward. He was coming off an excellent post-season and regular season in which he had 15 goals and 15 assists. Many thought Peca would challenge for the Hobey Baker as the NCAA’s top player, but Peca found himself in a little different role.

What to Expect from Vladislav Namestnikov

The Lightning recalled center Vladislav Namestnikov and goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis from the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced Friday. Gudlevskis was recalled on an emergency basis due to an injury to Ben Bishop.

According to the Lightning’s press release, Namestnikov, 21, has skated in 31 games this season with Syracuse, posting 13 goals and 30 points to go along with 19 penalty minutes. He ranks tied for first on the team for points and assists. The Zhukovskiy, Russia native also ranks tied for first on the Crunch for power-play goals with six. The 6-foot, 183-pound forward has skated in 75 career AHL games over the past two seasons, all with the Crunch, recording 20 goals and 51 points.

He was originally drafted by the Lightning in the first round, 27th overall, at the 2011 NHL Draft.

Crunch Rookie Paquette Climbing the Charts

By Jeremy Houghtaling

At the beginning of the season, Cedric Paquette classified himself as a third line center.

A defensively responsible forward that plays with an edge, Paquette knew where he was likely to find ice time. But with injuries and call-ups constantly shuffling the Syracuse Crunch lineup, the rookie has found a home where he didn’t expect — on a scoring line.

Paquette has seen spot duty on the top line, but has spent most of the season on the Crunch’s second unit. Forty-five games into Syracuse’s season, the 20-year-old leads the team with 14 goals and is tied for first with 30 points.

“He’s quickly found his way up the charts,” said Crunch coach Rob Zettler. “He just does a lot of really good things. Above all the things he does well, he’s a competitor. He plays hard every night, and that’s why he’s been successful.”

BP Mailbag: 2-5-14

Thanks for the questions this week as we move closer to the Olympic break and the trade deadline.

The tea leaves reveal...

@BoltProspects Do you see Yzerman making a spot for Brett Connolly? ..or do you see him traded? #BPMailbag

I think the only way to do that is to trade Teddy Purcell (top-9 forward who’s moderately expendable and doesn’t have a no-trade clause), but that wouldn’t be the wisest move mid-season as experience is a big deal in a playoff push. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Connolly move as I think Drouin and Kucherov are ahead of him on the projected 2014 roster for roughly the same spots (skill, possession forward). I think, big picture-wise, better balance could be attained by trading Connolly for a defenseman close in age/development (I’ve always thought Ryan Ellis would be a logical target. Not so much anymore, but there’s a name).

I’d like to say Yzerman likes his young forward prospects too much to deal one, unless it’s a Bishop-type deal, but after last week’s Mailbag projecting the roster for the next two years, there’s just not room for them all.

Witkowski Learning from Increased Ice Time

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Luke Witkowski has learned many lessons in the first half of his rookie season.

The defenseman is surrounded by quality teachers, whether its a coaching staff with decades of experience in professional hockey or the many veterans that dot the Syracuse Crunch lineup.

But sometimes, the best lessons are taught through personal experience.

“These guys help him and we try to help him as much as possible, but I think sometimes you have to live through some of those mistakes,” said Crunch coach Rob Zettler. “You can tell a guy to move the puck quickly as much as you want, but sometimes he has to learn the hard way and get caught doing it.”

Prospect of the Week: February 3, 2014

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 February 3, 2014 is … Adam Wilcox, G, Minnesota Golden Gophers (NCAA – USA).

They call Adam Wilcox “the Iron Man.” The Gophers goalie and Tampa Bay Lightning sixth round draft pick (2011) has the Marvel Comics character on his mask and has played in nearly every game since starting his collegiate career with the University of Minnesota.

Sustr Focuses on Big Picture After Reassignment to Syracuse

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Despite being sent to Syracuse for more ice time, Andrej Sustr hasn't seen much game action.

The 6-8 defenseman, hurt on his second shift since being reassigned by the Tampa Bay Lightning earlier this month, practiced with the Crunch Tuesday. After missing five games, he is nearing a return to the lineup.

“It’s been pretty good,” Sustr said of working his way back into game shape Tuesday. “I’m aiming for this weekend.”

With Syracuse on a five-game losing streak, the addition of Sustr is a major shot in the arm to a struggling Crunch defense that has surrendered 23 goals in the past five games.

BP Mailbag: 1-30-14

Lots of questions this week, most of which involve speculating on future Lightning lineups. I'm the Miss Cleo of Lightningland, apparently.

Here we go...

What's the deal with the Reto Suri situation and where would he be on the depth chart? (@awoundedzebra1)

Damian Cristodero of the Tampa Bay Times reported earlier this week that Suri is indeed on the Lightning’s radar, but the club can’t talk to him until Suri, his agent, and the club work out an agreement enabling the 2014 Olympian to get out of his current contract. Suri told RTS.ch that he expects to sign with Tampa Bay.

Swisshockeynews.ch reported Suri got an out clause, but he hasn’t signed it and will take the Olympic break to consider it. The conditions are that if Suri returns to Switzerland from the fall until 2017, he has to return to his club team, Zug, and if he comes back mid-season, Zug only has to pay him half his due amount.

The site points out that Suri can wait until his Zug contract is over in 2015 and be free to do what he wants.

Panik Plans to Work His Way Back to Tampa Bay

By Jeremy Houghtaling

After skating in a red practice jersey Tuesday, Richard Panik reiterated his intentions -- he came to play.

In his first game of the season with the Syracuse Crunch Saturday, the 6-3 Slovakian winger posted an assist before absorbing a thundering check by the Hershey Bears’ Tyson Strachan. Panik quickly got up from the hit, and instead of taking the game off Sunday to rest and recuperate an apparent upper body injury, he was back on the ice against the Sound Tigers Sunday.

“He gamed it out against Bridgeport,” said Crunch coach Rob Zettler.

Bolt Prospects' 2013-2014 Midterm Rankings

By Pete Choquette


Is the party starting to wind down? With the Lightning transitioning to a more youthful team and injuries forcing more call-ups than originally anticipated, our Bolt Prospects Midterm Rankings will take on a decidedly different feel. With the likes of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Radko Gudas becoming full-time NHLers, the list seems a little thinner this time around. Still, this year's Midterm list is still top-heavy with some of the finest NHL prospects you'll find anywhere in the land. With several other prospects very close to graduating from prospect status on the site, though, and the next wave of prospects struggling a bit in Syracuse, now is an excellent time for readers to reflect on what an amazing past couple of years the Lightning pipeline has had. From Norfolk's record-breaking winning streak and Calder Cup championship to the Syracuse Crunch's Eastern Conference crown and Tyler Johnson's emergence as a Calder Trophy candidate in the NHL, these were good days the likes of which don't come around often. Appreciate them.

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