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Lightning sign Gabriel Szturc to three-year contract

Sep 27, 2023; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning forward Maxim Groshev (52) celebrates with forward Felix Robert (42) and forward Gabriel Szturc (96) after scoring during the second period against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

It’s always a good idea to make a good impression. Waaaaaay back in September, Gabriel Szturc was invited to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s prospect showcase. Now, five months later, he signed a NHL contract with the team. On Saturday, the Lightning announced that they had signed the forward to a three-year contract that kicks in next season.

Following his stint with the Bolts at the showcase, he returned to the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League and put up a solid season as their captain. In 53 games, the 20-year-old has 27 goals and 40 assists to bring his career totals to 67 goals and 120 assists in 176 games for the Rockets. It’s not just out in Western Canada that he’s been plying his skills. Szturc has played for the Czechia national team in two Under-20 World Junior Championships, potting six goals and adding three helpers in fourteen games.

Unlike the gargantuan signing yesterday, Szturc doesn’t rely on size (he’s 5’11”, 185 lbs.) but is a tenacious forechecker on defense. The Athletic had him as a potential over-ager that teams might have been interested in prior to the last draft, but he was passed over:

“He’s a very smart player who understands how to use spacing to his advantage to play a tactile game. He skates well, he’s got a nifty wrist-shot release which I think owed him more than 24 goals this season, he’s got good puck skills and passing intuition, and he works hard off the puck to keep himself involved in plays.”

It was obvious that the Lightning were interested in him as not only was he at their development camp following the draft and the rookie showcase, but also at the main training camp. He appeared in two preseason games with the Bolts, and a preseason Crunch game after he was assigned to the AHL camp.

Szturc is the type of player that doesn’t have a lot of standout skills, but makes himself a better player through hard work and tenaciousness. Unlike some other prospects, skating isn’t really an issue. Can he work his way into the pros? We’ll find out next season.

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