Quick Strikes: Nikita Kucherov receiving all of the mid-season awards

Don’t worry, Andrei Vasilevskiy is getting his love too.

The Bolts

Nikita Kucherov had a big month of December 2017 for the Tampa Bay Lightning and it earned him Raw charge’s Player of the Month. Nikita, if you’re reading, please send an email to Achariya for your prize of Girl Scout cookies. [Raw Charge]

“The best calendar year by a Tampa Bay Lightning player in the history of the organization belongs to the man whose number is being retired in just a few weeks - Vincent Lecavalier. In 2007 Lecavalier strung together 57 goals and 58 assists for a grand total of 115 points, topping Sidney Crosby by one point for best in the league.”

Can you imagine what Kuch’s Hart Trophy award speech would sound like at the NHL Awards? Well, maybe we won’t have to imagine as our top Russian winger is the favorite halfway through the season. [NHL dot com]

“Kucherov leads the NHL with 59 points, and his 27 goals are tied with Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin for the League lead. He received 13 of the possible 18 first-place votes from the NHL.com panel and was named in the top five on all 18 ballots submitted.”

Speaking of players having strong arbitrary time frames, Yanni Gourde gets the Player of the Week for the Lightning.

Mid-term report cards are in. How’d the Bolts players do? [Tampa Bay Times]

“The real No. 1: The Lightning was confident Vasilevskiy would blossom into an elite No. 1. How many thought it’d come this quickly? Vasilevskiy leads the league in wins, goals against average, save percentage and shutouts, showing the poise of a 10-year vet. Vasilevskiy’s been Tampa Bay’s best player, its MVP.

“As Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty put it, ‘God, he’s good.’”

Good news, x-rays came back negative for Dan Girardi, meaning he is only out “day-to-day.” [Tampa Bay Times]

“Girardi was on the ice for several minutes, attended two by trainers for both teams, before skating off the ice. Teammates were encouraged when Girardi was cracking jokes at intermission, acting like himself.”

The Prospects

One of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s better prospects at the World Juniors got dealt yesterday. Libor Hajek is heading to the Regina Pats from the Saskatoon Blades. Regina is the host for the 100th Memorial Cup in May, meaning Hajek most likely won’t be heading to the Syracuse Crunch after his final regular season and playoffs end in junior hockey. [Raw Charge]

“Hajek was one of the top defenders at the World Juniors, scoring one goal and seven assists for eight points, and was a top offensive defender for the Blades, scoring eight goals and 17 assists for 25 points in 33 games. Hajek was also serving as an alternate captain for the Blades the past two seasons.”

A couple prospect reports heading your way. One from Raw Charge’s @ElSeldo, the other from NHL writer Kinsey Janke.

2016 7th round pick Ryan Lohin’s latest game for U. Mass-Lowell of the NCAA was a big one. Two goals and two assists in a big 8-3 win over rival U. Massachusetts. [Raw Charge]

“Ryan Lohin had a huge game for UMass-Loweel, putting up four points, Sammy Walker did his thing and went 2PPG, and Otto Somppi helped the Mooseheads entertain the fans and keep their games high scoring. Let’s dive right into things!”

The international students return to their hometowns to prepare for the playoffs. [NHL dot com]

“Raddysh finished the World Juniors with two goals and three assists. At the conclusion of the tournament, Raddysh was traded from Erie to Sault Ste. Marie, joining Katchouk and becoming the Greyhounds’ third-leading scorer with his 44 points. His 16 power-play assists lead the Soo roster.”

Another week has gone by for the Syracuse Crunch, this one included some brooms. [Raw Charge]

“While the Crunch swept the weekend competition, they had their backs against the wall in both games and found a way to get the job done. Resiliency and the ability to keep your composure is a task for any hockey team so it is even more impressive that the Crunch, who are the youngest team in the AHL, were able to do just that on back-to-back nights.”

The Game

The big news of the day was that the Chicago Blackhawks placed Duncan Keith’s offensively minded defense partner, Cody Franson, on waivers. Why? [Second City Hockey]

“There’s already been some surprise on social media reacting to Franson’s availability. He is, by all metrics, a very good player. He leads the Blackhawks in 5-on-5 Corsi and expected goals percentage, according to Corsica. He’s been very effective in the role asked of him.”

The Montreal Canadiens are on their bye week. So, who’s getting fired? [Habs Eyes on the Prize]

“The last time the Canadiens had a bye week, they fired Michel Therrien and hired Claude Julien. The team saved their season and made the playoffs, even if it was a difficult decision for Bergevin to fire his friend and the first coach he hired in the capacity of GM.”

Re-realignment? [ESPN]

“The NHL is uneven at 31 teams. That could change soon, as Gary Bettman has invited Seattle to apply for expansion... Symmetry would push a significant imbalance in the two Western divisions, calling for realignment. We’ve thought long and hard about this scenario, and below present what we believe to be the most perfect NHL divisions.”

Highlight of the Night: There was only one game in the NHL last night so your choices for HotN is either William Nylander’s sexy shot on Sergei Bobrovsky or William Nylander’s sexy shot on Sergei Bobrovsky.