Neil Hodge, Moncton Times & Transcript
It's really a remarkable story when you look at the big picture.
Daniel Milan cracked the Moncton Wildcats' roster on a free agent tryout and was named to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League All-Rookie Team last season. That earned him a free agent invitation to a National Hockey League training camp this season.
The 19-year-old defenceman impressed the Tampa Bay Lightning so much that last week they signed him to a three-year contract. He's back in Moncton now, but if he continues to develop as expected look for him to begin his professional career next season.
(Week ending September 25)
This season Bolt Prospects will be introducing our Prospect of the Week award. The award is (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their on-ice contributions. There are no trophies or plaques or women jumping out of a cake involved (unfortunately), but weâ€™re fairly certain this will carry heavy weight among players in the global hockey community and with agents negotiating contracts (were this Twitter, weâ€™d use #sarcasm here).
Quite simply, we wanted to highlight prospects throughout the year to help fans get better acquainted with the next round of Lightning stars while recognizing the prospectâ€™s achievement on the ice.
The Tampa Bay Lightning cut 27 players from its training camp roster Sunday, including 12 of the clubâ€™s prospects. Only prospects Mattias Ritola, Brett Connolly, and Scott Jackson remained with the club after the weekend.
â€œIâ€™ve got to pay my dues to get up here and be a producing player,â€ Ritola said before cut-down day. â€œI've got to do the work first. I feel really excited to be here right now.â€
Ritola spent time in Grand Rapids of the AHL two years ago and passed through waivers to get to AHL Norfolk last season. Heâ€™s still paying his dues and putting in the work to get to and stay in the NHL.
Other prospects are beginning that process, which starts with training camp.
The Lightning make its NHL training camp as beneficial as possible for prospects and does its best to keep in contact with them after cut-down day.
Dustin Tokarski spent the first weekend of the Tampa Bay Lightning's 2011 training camp in a nice new Lightning cap and standard-issue Lightning shorts and t-shirt, standing at the glass watching his teammates make their impressions on Lightning management. An abdominal injury kept Tokarski out of the Coral Springs rookie tournament, and now the highly competitive start of training camp.
Things started looking up for the former Memorial Cup MVP Wednesday as the Tampa Tribune reported the two MRIs done on Tokarski revealed no damage. He was back on the ice Wednesday morning.
And just in time.
Last week we looked at which defensemen and goaltenders could see time with the Lightning this year. Today, we take a look at the forwards.
Unlike the defensemen and goalies, figuring out which forward prospects could make the team out of camp and which ones could earn a call-up is far from simple. Therefore, weâ€™ll break down the candidates individually.
These 10 forwards, combined with the eight defensemen Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman expects to keep, as well as two goaltenders, leaves three roster spots open. Head Coach Guy Boucher will likely switch between dressing six and seven defensemen, meaning of the three forward spots open only one is guaranteed to play. It is also possible the team could carry only 12 forwards as they did last season in spurts.
While Yzerman, Boucher, and management say roster spots will be earned in a meritocracy system - and that is what the players need to hear - in todayâ€™s NHL, contract status (not necessarily salary in this case) plays a huge part in roster management. Also high on the list is the opportunity for development-rich playing time.
The Lightning currently have 44 players under contract on their 50-man organizational roster, including Brett Connolly, who only counts if he plays more than nine games at the NHL level.
Hereâ€™s a look at the candidates to fill the three open forward positions with the 2011-2012 Tampa Bay Lightning.