Tuesday marked the first day of on-ice practice for the Tampa Bay Lightning prospects. It was celebrated with various cell phone videos shot from distance of players wearing strange numbers zooming around the ice. Kind of like this:
It’s not much, but we’ll take it, right?
There isn’t a lot that can be garnered from these early practice sessions. For the most part the coaches are looking at the fitness of the players and how they respond to coaching. Throughout the week though, players can make a name for themselves and draw attention to their game. Ross Colton and Alex Barré-Boulet are two players who boosted their stock in the organization with strong prospect camps over the last couple of seasons.
There will also be a lot of focus on the two netminders, Hugo Alnefelt and Amir Miftakhov. Both have a chance to show the coaching staff up close that they’ve improved on their slightly topsy-turvey last season. As the only two goalies in camp, they will naturally have a lot of eyes on them.
For the most part you want to make sure that all the players get through camp healthy, no one takes out a teammate (looking at you Max Cajkovic), and there are some flashes of NHL talent among the players.
Among the story lines in the camp you can’t beat is Avery Winslow’s. He grew up in Clearwater rooting for the Lightning and now he’s skating on their home ice. It was a “dream come true” for the young defenseman that will be playing with the North Bay Battalion in the OHL this year. It will be his second season in the OHL after he split time with North Bay and London in 2019-20, putting up 2 goals and 11 assists in 40 games with the two teams.
Xavier Cormier could be another intriguing invitee to camp. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Lightning have interest in a QMJHL players that put up more than a point a game in his most recent season. While he isn’t quite as prolific as Barré-Boulet was with Blainville-Boisbriand (116 points in 65 games), Cormier did post a respectable 32 in 32 games between Shawinigan and Rimouski last year. He’ll be heading back to Rimouski as a 20-year-old this season, but a strong prospects camp could lead to a professional contract.
Lightning / NHL News
Some other video from Day One
Gage Goncalves had a taste of the pro life last season as he spent some time with Syracuse before heading back to the WHL. He was also part of the Lightning’s regular training camp for a little while last season and enjoyed being around the veterans and picking up pointers from the Stanley Cup Champs.
Assistant GM (and future GM of some franchise) Stacey Roest spoke about Goncalves, Alnefelt, and the challenges of evaluating players during the pandemic. It sounds like Goncalves will be given a shot at making the Lightning in training camp which would be interesting.
We’re down to number 17 in our Top 25 Under 25 rankings. Yesterday’s player was Eamon Powell, a defenseman with exceptional passing skills and a need to develop his skating. [Raw Charge]
Goncalves and Alnefelt are two players Bryan Burns is keeping an eye on in the prospect camp. [NHL.com]
Our old friend Lauren Kelly posts about the Lightning prospects over at EP Rinkside. Subscription is required (and recommended) but it falls in line with what we know about the organization’s depth - not a lot of high-end talent, but some solid depth players. [EP Rinkside]
It is a long, long road from the ECHL to the NHL, but that may be changing as more and more NHL teams are incorporating their ECHL affiliates in the development process of their prospects. The Lightning are an example with four players who suited up for the Orlando Solar Bears last season attending the prospect showcase: Jimmy Huntington, Alexey Lipanov, Alex Green, and Dmitry Semykin. [Orlando Solar Bears]