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Lightning Round: The NCAA Championship tournament is under way

Michigan forward Dylan Duke (56) shoots against Michigan State goaltender Drew DeRidder (1) during second period action on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022, at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. Mich Msu

With all of the conference tournaments well behind us, 16 teams have begun competing for the ultimate prize – the NCAA Championship Trophy. The regionals kicked off yesterday in Maryland Heights, Missouri, Providence, Rhode Island, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Springfield, Massachusetts. By the end of this weekend the number of teams left will be at four and they will head to St. Paul, Minnesota for the Frozen Four from April 11th-13th. There are some names competing that Lightning fans might be familiar with over the next few weeks.

Boston University – Jack Harvey

Michigan State – Isaac Howard

Michigan University – Dylan Duke

Boston College – Eamon Powell

University of Minnesota – Connor Kurth

McKade Webster’s Denver Pioneers are in the tournament as well (and survived a double-overtime game against UMass) but Webster is currently injured and won’t be participating. [Not sure what I was thinking there, he’s playing…JG] Jack Harvey had a goal in BU’s opening win over RIT.

Boston College, Michigan, and Michigan State will be in action later today, so feel free to tune into ESPN+ to watch the prospects.

With the tournament starting, that means for all of the players on teams that didn’t make the tournament, they can start thinking about their future. The Lightning have a couple of players that they have to make a decision about as their draft rights expire this summer. The organization has until August 15th to sign three players to their entry-level contracts or the players become unrestricted free agents. We saw that happen with Sammy Walker and Cole Guttman in the recent past.

Powell and Webster are the two biggest names, but 2020 6th-round pick Nick Capone is already on the clock as his season with UConn is over. The 22-year-old forward finished his Huskies career with 42 points (18 goals, 24 assists) in 118 games. A physical forward, he amassed 116 penalty minutes during his NCAA career. If the Lightning feel he hasn’t developed to the point they expected him to, they may decline to sign him to his ELC.

Alex Gagne’s rights don’t expire until the summer of 2025, but the 21-year-old could choose to leave early and sign with the Bolts after he captained the University of New Hampshire Black Bears this past season. The defenseman had 1 goal and 13 assists in 36 games.

We could also see the Lightning sign some free agents over the next couple of weeks to help bolster the Syracuse Crunch’s ranks. Players like Lleyton Reed (Kraken), Ben Kraws (Stars), and Ben Steeves (Panthers). Quinnipiac forward Collin Graf is expected to sign once his team exits the tournament.

Stay tuned to see what happens with the Lightning’s prospect and if Julien BriseBois finds a way to their prospect pool.

Other Hockey News

Several Lightning players held out of practice for “maintenance” [Chris Krenn Twitter]

Following their win against the Bruins, the Lightning held practice on Thursday. Erik Cernak, Brayden Point, and Andrei Vasilevskiy were not to be found on the ice. The team reported that the trio of veterans were having a “maintenance day” and should be good to go for the game against the Islanders.

NHL Saves of the Week [NHL YouTube]

Andrei Vasilevskiy’s save on Luke Kunin made it to the four-spot in league’s top ten this week.

BC stacked with future NHL stars [Daily Faceoff]

Lightning prospect Eamon Powell gets a shoutout in this post about the NHL talent currently skating on the BC squad.

Humboldt crash survivor qualifies for 2024 Paralympics [Bleacher Report]

Jacob Wasserman was a goaltender for the Humboldt Broncos and was on the bus that crashed in 2018, killing 16 people and leaving 13 injured. Wasserman was paralyzed from the waist down, but didn’t let that stop his sporting career. After a dalliance with sledge hockey, he took up rowing and will now be representing Canada at the 2024 Paralympics.

Ivan Fedotov reportedly heading to the Flyers [Broad Street Hockey]

The strange saga of Flyer prospect Ivan Fedotov continues. Drafted in 2015, he had supposedly signed a one-year contract with the Flyers in 2022. However, he was conscripted into the Russian army and then CSKA announced they had signed him to a two-year deal in 2023. The IIHF ruled that the Flyers contract was valid, but CSKA ignored it. Earlier this week CSKA terminated his contract and it seems that the 27-year-old will finally head to Philadelphia.

Ranking the top 32 prospects for the draft [ESPN]

Jack Harvey’s linemate, Macklin Celebrini, will go first, but the question is who will follow him? As the year has progressed, it seems like this might be a solid year for defensive prospects like Artyom Levshunov, Zayne Parekh, and Anton Silayev.

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