5 Tampa Bay Lightning Prospects That Should Make Fans Excited About the Future
The Tampa Bay Lightning are loaded with prospects that should make fans excited about the future. Hockeysfuture.com rated the Lightning system No. 9 in the league thanks to a group of skilled forwards and surprising goaltending.
With a successful American League Hockey team, Tampa Bay’s prospects know what it takes to win. Here are five Lightning prospects to keep an eye on going forward, as well as a few honorable mentions that may surprise in the NHL.
Slater Koekkoek is a puck-moving defenseman with a solid shot from the point. He's also a playmaker that isn’t afraid to jump into the rush. His style of play could be compared to current Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman.
Hockeysfuture rated Koekkoek the 10th-best defenseman drafted out of the Ontario Hockey League. Unfortunately for the Lightning, he has had issues staying healthy. He was forced to undergo surgery on his shoulder last season, which failed and led to another surgery this season.
He played in 42 games in the OHL this year―40 for Peterborough, two for Windsor―and put up 29 points. He also compiled a cringe-worthy minus-24 rating.
Vladislav Namestnikov dominated the Ontario Hockey League with the London Knights for two seasons. He picked up a combined 140 points in 131 games before moving to the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL. With Syracuse, he has picked up 21 points in 44 regular-season games.
At 6’0" tall, Namestnikov has good size and has performed well at every level so far. The 27th-overall selection in the 2011 NHL draft might be eyeing a spot during next year’s training camp.
Matthew Peca is another forward that projects well over the next few seasons. As an NCAA product, Peca is no stranger to success either. He just finished his sophomore season at Quinnipiac University by helping the Bobcats to the National Championship Game.
Peca’s 30 points was second on the team. He finished with a plus-13 rating and tied for the team lead with five game-winning goals. He is an energy man, much like Cory Conacher was and Tyler Johnson is for the Lightning.
Praise is high for the young Bobcat.
According to Hockeysfuture, Mark Barberio is one of the highest-projected prospects for the Tampa Bay Lightning. He was effective with the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and has continued that success with Syracuse.
This season, Barberio has 42 points in 73 games. He ranks fourth on the Crunch in points behind Ondrej Palat, Brett Connolly and Tyler Johnson. He's another offensive-minded defenseman, but is also very smart in moving the puck out of his own zone.
Barberio got a taste of the NHL this year in two games for Tampa Bay. He went minus-two and had no points.
Acquired in a prospect-for-prospect trade with the Chicago Blackhawks, Philippe Paradis is an intriguing hockey player.
Paradis has grit, size and scoring ability. A natural winger, he was selected 27th overall in the 2009 draft by the Carolina Hurricanes. That year, he was in the CHL’s Top Prospects Game and recorded the league’s hardest shot at 95.7 MPH.
He has all of the pieces to be a solid NHL player, but he hasn’t developed into it yet. Hopes of a top-six forward out of Paradis are slim, but he could be a solid lower-line guy that could provide much-needed secondary scoring.
Paradis is currently playing for Syracuse in the Calder Cup playoffs.
Andrey Vasilevskiy and Jaroslav Janus―both goaltenders that project well. Vasilevskiy was selected 19th in the 2012 draft. Janus was picked 162nd back in 2009. With Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback competing for the top spot, what do the Lightning do with these two? Could one sneak in and win the job in the near future?
Nikita Gusev―winger, picked in the sixth round of 2012. Gusev is playing in the Kontinental Hockey League of Russia. He has put up some impressive numbers with the Russian junior teams and was a top-20 European skater in the 2012 draft rankings.
Luke Witkowski―defenseman, picked in sixth round of 2008 draft. Witkowski just finished his four-year career at Western Michigan University. He is a big defenseman at 6’2” and 212 pounds. He doesn’t skate as well as some, but he is physical, good on the power play and smart in the defensive zone. He compiled 235 penalty minutes, 97 points and a plus-five rating in his collegiate career.