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Lightning Round: Tampa Bay signs Amir Miftakhov to entry level contract

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Bring forth ALL of the goaltenders.

2020 World Junior Ice Hockey Championship, final: Canada vs Russia Photo by Peter Kovalev\TASS via Getty Images

A day after the Tampa Bay Lightning signed Swedish goaltending prospect Hugo Alnefelt to an entry-level contract, they inked Russian netminder Amir Miftakhov to one as well. The young puck-stopper was drafted by the Lightning in the 6th round of the 2020 draft and just turned 21 last month. It appears that the Lightning and, by default, the Syracuse Crunch will be going young next season.

Miftakhov debuted at the 21st spot in our latest Top 25 Under 25 rankings. His play at the 2020 Under-20 World Championships, where he started in front of uber-prospect Yaroslav Askarov and backed Team Russia to a silver medal had a lot to with the ranking. So did the fact that he was playing in the KHL as a 20-year-old, which is quite impressive.

With both young prospects in the fold now, there is a good chance they will be debuting in Syracuse next season. The deadline deal that sent Magnus Chrona to San Jose cleared up the prospect pipeline a little. Before the Lightning signed their two prospects this week, Andrei Vasilevskiy was the only netminder under contract for next season. Chances are they will let Curtis McElhinney walk at the end of the season and sign one of either Spencer Martin or Christopher Gibson to back-up in the NHL. That should save them a little bit on the cap.

At the point Miftakhov and Alnefelt could split starts in Syracuse next season. If either of them struggle adjusting to the North American game, they could be assigned to Orlando and a veteran brought in to stabilize things in Syracuse (kind of like they did a few seasons ago with Eddie Pasquale). The fact that neither prospect burned the first season of their contracts by coming over this year indicates that the organization isn’t in a hurray to rush them through the system. They are both young enough that spending two-to-three seasons in Syracuse isn’t going to hinder their development that much. Besides, there is plenty of time left on Vasilevskiy’s contract so the Bolts shouldn’t need to look for a number one starter for quite some time (fingers crossed, knocking on wood).

This season, Miftakhov posted respectable numbers with Ak Bars Kazan in the KHL, as he appeared in 7 games with 2.25 GAA and .917 save percentage. He also played in 17 games with Bars Kazan in the VHL with a 2.73 GAA and .907 SV%. He also appeared in 3 playoff games with a 1.50 GAA and .934 SV%. Those are pretty good numbers for a 20-year-old in the league.

The biggest knock against him, and likely the reason he was passed over in a couple of drafts, is his size. He’s listed between 6’0” and 6’ 1” and around 165-170 lbs. That’s fairly small for a modern goaltender, but he compensates with an athletic style that lets him cover the net like a big man.

With proper mechanics and ability, size shouldn’t member. Heck, Dominik Hasek was only 6’1” and he did pretty well in the league. It’ll be a fun season in Syracuse next year as the next crop of prospects develop.

Lightning Links

Lightning beat Red Wings, 2-1

Despite dominating the game early according to the stats, the Lightning had to rely on some solid goaltending from the back-up to the back-up, Christopher Gibson in order to pull out the win. While the score may have been closer than some fans hoped for, there were a lot of positives to the way the Lightning played. They leave Motor City with three out of four points and tied for second in the division with the Florida Panthers.

Detroit lost to Tampa Bay, 2-1

The Detroit side of the ice seemed okay with the loss. The Red Wings, despite putting out a line-up without their best players, hung in all weekend with the Bolts and made them work for the three points. While it’s not likely the Red Wings will be contenders next season, they are putting together a frisky little club.

Rest, health, key for the Lightning

The crew from NBC spotlights the Lightning in their “Push for the Playoffs” series. They’re not wrong, getting healthy and ready for the postseason is probably more important than where they finish in the standings, but still, it would be nice if they won the Central Division.

Notes from our friends at the Lightning:

  • The current six-game point streak is their third longest of the season.
  • The Lightning are now 5-2-1 in the second half of their back-to-backs. They have one more left (this Friday and Saturday).
  • Despite being tied for second in their own division, the Lighting are second in the NHL overall with 35 wins. Vegas is first with 36. Gotta love the Bettman Point.
  • Blake Coleman’s goal was just 16 seconds into the first period. That is a franchise record for earliest goal in a road game. It had previously been 17 seconds, accomplished twice, most recently by Vinny Prospal in Carolina on February 21st, 2003.

Your #MikhailMilestone moment of the day:

NHL News

The Lightning/Red Wings game was the only one in town so there wasn’t much going on around the league. It’s the quiet before the postseason storm.

Stars of the Month

Sebastian Aho, Brad Marchand, Auston Matthews, and Nathan MacKinnon are your NHL Stars for the month of April. Good for them, I guess.

Rookie of the Month

Jason Robertson, who the Lightning will see twice this week, was the NHL Rookie of the Month. The Stars forward is making a late season push for the Calder Trophy.

Cole Caulfied scores first NHL goal

Speaking of rookies, Cole Caufield is officially a NHL Small Goals Boi as the diminutive forward scored his first NHL goal.

It’s almost playoff time, just five games to go!