The injuries to the Tampa Bay Lightning's blue line just won't quit, which, of course, means the call ups from AHL Syracuse won't stop either. As of last night, Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman was questionable for today's game at Toronto. With no morning skate, information about his status was unailable, although multiple sources reported that a call up wasn't out of the question.
News just broke this morning that a call up has indeed been made. Rookie defenseman Slater Koekkoek has been recalled from the Crunch:
AMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning have recalled defenseman Slater Koekkoek from the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
Koekkoek, 21, has skated in 66 games with the Crunch this season, posting five goals and 24 points to go along with 40 penalty minutes. He leads all Syracuse defensemen for assists (19) and points. The Mountain, Ontario native also ranks tied for fifth among AHL rookie defensemen for points. Koekkoek made his professional debut on October 12, 2014 against Hartford.
The 6-foot-2, 197-pound defenseman skated in 195 career Ontario Hockey League games over four seasons, recording 33 goals and 123 points. Koekkoek set career highs for goals (15), assists (38) and points (53) in his final OHL season in 2013-14 with the Windsor Spitfires.
Koekkoek was originally selected by Tampa Bay in the first round, 10th overall, at the 2012 NHL Draft.
This is Koekkoek's first NHL recall. He will be making his NHL debut if he plays tonight against the Maple Leafs.
Koekkoek has been a large part of the Crunch's power play, and has been on a tear lately. Two of his goals and three of his assists came during the month of March. His current +10 is second-best among Crunch defensemen.
At this point in his career, it's fair to say the only knock on Koekkoek's game isn't really a knock on his game at all: he just can't seem to stay on the ice for a full season before one of his shoulders breaks down. Barring a transcendent showing at training camp in September, he's headed for the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL this year to start his professional career. The next step towards eventually making the Lightning blue line full-time will be proving he can continue to play at a high level against better competition and with a more rigorous schedule -- all while keeping his surgically repaired shoulders intact.
Koekkoek has had a smooth and, more importantly, healthy transition to the AHL. He's played in almost every game for Syracuse this season, and his shoulders have not been a problem. This is certainly an exciting time for the defenseman, especially considering his previous seasons and how they've been cut short.