St. Louis' Second Coming - Dmitry Afanasenkov

Martin St. Louis and Dmitry Afanasenkov have little in common when it comes to size. St. Louis is 5' 8" while Afanasenkov is 6' 2". St. Louis is playing on the top line while Afansenkov is playing on the forth line...

And that's where it's easy to find similarities.

Martin St. Louis was stuck playing 3rd and 4th line wing with the Calgary Flames early in his career before being released. He came to the Lightning in 2000-2001 with defensive ability acquired while grinding and fighting on those lower Calgary lines. Meanwhile his scoring touch -- well known by University of Maine alumnus -- was snake bit. "If only he could finish," was a common phrase that I can recall being muttered over and over again early in the 2000-01 season.

And by the end of the season, Martin had regained his scoring touch, and has since blossomed into one of the games most complete forwards.

And I can see this in Afansenkov.

Dmitry has been heralded as a scoring wing since he made his debut in North American hockey. He scored 56 goals and notched 43 assists in 1999-2000 with Sherbrooke of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), then followed it up with 15 goals and 22 assists for the Detroit Vipers of the IHL the following season -- with an abysmal -30 plus/minus rating. It's difficult for me to find his plus-minus over the last few years, spent with the Springfield Falcons, but with injuries and inconsistent play, it looked like Dmitry's future with the Bolts wasn't going to amount to anything.

Yet late this summer, when the Lightning reported to camp, Afansenkov clicked with Vincent Lecavalier on the top line during training camp. He has since been shuffled from top-line wing to 4th line grinder, and even with limited opportunities on the 4th line - you can see something in Afansenkov when he is on ice that makes you believe there is hope in the near future for Dmitry. He has had several oh-so-close break aways that leave you wondering, "If this kid could finish his break-aways, how many goals would he have?"

Sorta like Martin St. Louis during his first year with the Lightning.