Two weeks ago Cole Koepke was playing in the longest tournament game in NCAA men’s hockey history. His University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs beat the University of North Dakota 3-2 in five overtimes (Koepke had a goal in the third period) to advance to their fourth consecutive Frozen Four. While they didn’t win the whole thing, Koepke still got to celebrate when he signed a two-year contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.
Koepke will report to Syracuse on a professional try-out contract so that his contract doesn’t kick in until next year. With the Crunch he’ll join a crowded field of young forwards vying for playing time. It’s a good move for both sides as Syracuse is committed to developing their young players and he will get a taste of what professional life is like. More importantly he’ll be able to start on an off-season training program set up by the organization.
Koepke is a 6’1”, 196 lbs. forward with a knack for scoring goals who was drafted in the sixth round in 2018. He played in 104 games with the Bulldogs and recorded 75 points (38 goals, 37 assists) and was part of their 2019 Championship team. In the two Top 25 under 25 Rankings since he was drafted he finished 24th in 2019 but fell off the list last year.
He could follow in the path of other wait and see college draft picks the Lightning have had over the years like Alex Killorn and Ross Colton. Koepke needs to work on his skating a bit (don’t all mid-to-late round picks?) but has a really good shot and strong defensive skills. He projects out to be a middle-to-bottom six forward.
Curtis McElhinney will get a lot of the blame but, the entire team tanked in Nashville. It’s the last time the two teams will meet this regular season. Hopefully things are different should these two see each other in the playoffs.
They were a little happier over on the Nashville side.
Some notable quotes from after the game:
Ryan McDonagh -
“There was only one team playing tonight.”
“Tonight it was an absolute embarrassment.”
“It’s up to this group to find it’s identity again.”
“It’s about executing and winning battles.”
Jon Cooper -
“It was a tough one to watch.”
“We’ve gotten away from some of the things that brought us success.”
“You bring back Dominik Hasek, Marty Brodour or Patrick Roy, nobody is stopping the the chances we gave up.”
“Ed, do you have a book in front of you?”
“We’re not the perfect team.” (said twice)
It was a rough first game for the new defenseman, but things should get better moving forward.
I mean JBB had a pretty good draft, but not sure he was one of the three stars of the day. Mr. Yzerman was definitely the number one star, though.
Get Savard acclimated, limit shorthanded chances, team defense. Let’s see....yup managed to bungle all three last night.
They made a crack about the salary cap in regards to the Lightning. Shocked, I’m shocked I tell you. They also have the Lightning ranked second in their power poll. That may change next week.
I’m not sure why the NHL insists on making Vancouver play every game this season, but that’s the league for you.