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Lightning Round: Klavs Veinbergs is heading to the United States (Hockey League)

Fresh off his World Juniors appearance the Lightning draft pick will be playing in North America

Sweden v Latvia: Quarterfinals - 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Andy Devlin/ Getty Images

After posting a goal and an assist in five games for Team Latvia in the IIHF Men’s Under-20 World Junior Championships forward Klavs Veinbergs is heading to Lincoln, Nebraska to continue his professional hockey career. According to Zemgale, the Latvian team he played for last season, Veinbergs is going to spend this season in the USHL playing for the Lincoln Stars (at least that’s what Google Translate says).

It’s an interesting change of pace for the 19-year-old who has played the last few seasons in the Latvian professional league as well as MHL (a junior league in Russia). Coming over to the States does allow him to acclimate to the North American style of play and the USHL is probably equal to the competition he sees in Latvia. He could have signed a contract and played for the Crunch or the Solar Bears, but the Lightning are getting a little close to their maximum number of contracts (CapFriendly has them at 48 out of 50) and they might need a little flexibility to sign folks as the season goes on as opposed to a recent late-round draft pick.

As a 2022 draft pick (7th round) the Lightning have plenty of time to watch him before they need to offer him a contract or lose his rights in the summer of 2026. It will be a little easier to keep an eye on him if he’s playing in North America. Why would he play in Nebraska of all places? Well, because the Stars drafted him in Phase II of the 2022 USHL Draft. He was drafted in the 9th round, 134th overall back in May.

Veinbergs is likely to play for Latvia again in the 2023 World Juniors after opening the season for the Stars. If he’s successful with either team, he could turn that into a professional contract with the Lightning/Crunch in 2023. He could also choose to play US College hockey, a path a lot of USHL players have gone through in the past. Latvians playing in the USHL isn’t unheard of, their World Juniors team had 7 players with USHL ties at the most recent tournament.

Best of luck to Klavs in Lincoln!

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