With the end of the Lightning and Crunch seasons, we conclude 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 April 23, 2014 is … Luke Witkowski, D, Syracuse Crunch (AHL – USA).
Twenty-eight Bolt Prospect of the Week awards have been handed out this season, usually for offensive production or goaltending mastery. Not this week.
This week’s award goes to a rarely appreciated player type, a stay-at-home defenseman.
Luke Witkowski finished his rookie pro season last week, taking another step toward his dream of playing in the NHL. Not every prospect can step right into the NHL. Most have to be grown, groomed, and guided along the developmental path to the big show. Witkowski, who is now six seasons removed from his draft year, was named the Syracuse Crunch’s Most Improved Player for the year last week. To celebrate, he scored his second goal of the season on Sunday, though it didn’t make any highlight reels.
Tampa Bay Lightning 50-man Organizational Roster for 2014-2015 (contract status via @capgeek):
The Syracuse Crunch’s 2013-2014 season was defined by hills and valleys.
The proverbial wheels fell off after a fast start, and by the time the Crunch recovered it was too late for a playoff push, leaving lofty pre-season expectations unfulfilled.
The Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2012 American Hockey League affiliate, Norfolk, hoisted the Calder Cup, and the Crunch won the Eastern Conference championship in 2013 but fell in Game 6 of the Calder Cup Finals last June.
“You have to keep the bar that high,” said Syracuse coach Rob Zettler. “As soon as you lower the bar or lower the standard, everybody takes their foot off the gas. That standard has been set here the past couple years. But more than that is the process, the effort, and the commitment level that it took to get to those places – those are the standards you have to keep in place and the winning takes care of itself.”
This season’s crop of Syracuse Crunch rookies showed progress through adversity.
With injuries and call-ups thinning Syracuse’s depth, Crunch newcomers were asked to log important minutes, but coach Rob Zettler believes the experience they gained through the ups and downs will be good in the long run.
“There’s some good progress with our young guys,” Zettler said. “A lot of them ended up playing a lot more minutes than we anticipated because of call-ups and injuries, but at the end of the day, individually, it’s probably a good thing for them.”
Here’s a breakdown of the Crunch’s rookie class heading into the final week of the season:
Cedric Paquette: Although he wasn’t there to accept the plaques himself, on Saturday Paquette won the Crunch’s awards for Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player (shared with Vladdy Namestnikov).
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 April 15, 2014 is … Andrey Vasilevskiy, G, Salavat Yulaev (KHL - Russia).
If last week was Andrey Vasilevskiy’s final week playing in Russia, he left a lasting impression on his home country.
The teenage phenom was spectacular in net for Salavat Yulaev Ufa, nearly carrying the team through the Eastern Conference Finals to the Gagarin Cup series. While the official record books will show Mettalurg winning the series, 4-1, it was much, much closer than it appeared.
Last week Vasilevskiy allowed two goals in 10 periods of playoff hockey – and lost two games.