Quick Strikes: Eichel says Kucherov is “probably my favourite player in the league”

Eichel studies Kucherov, Stamkos is feeling good, and the prospects are doing phenomenally well.

The Bolts

“The NHL’s top two scorers since Feb. 1 are Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov (36 points) and Buffalo’s Jack Eichel (34). Maybe that’s not a coincidence. ‘He is probably my favourite player in the league,’ Eichel said of Kucherov during a conversation last Friday. ‘The subtle plays he makes. One thing he does really well is shoot through a screen. He can pick a small corner through both the screener and the goalie and put it there. That’s something I’d like to do, too.’” [Sportsnet]

Preview of tonight's match-up. This may be the biggest game of the season so far. No pressure. "This is it, Lightning fans, the final march for a playoff spot. Including tonight’s game against Detroit, there are seven games remaining and 14 points available for Tampa Bay." [Raw Charge]

Steven Stamkos inches closer to return. “Today was probably the best day yet. I’m feeling better than the last time we talked and really feeling better each day now. It’s just a matter of time, of just feeling totally comfortable and confident out there.” [Raw Charge]

Tampa Bay Lightning alumnus Brian Bradley was inducted into Sports Club of Tampa Bay Hall of Fame yesterday. “He was the Bolts' first All-Star Game representative, earning selection to two-straight ASGs in 1993 and 1994. He scored the first-ever goal at the Ice Palace, now AMALIE Arena, when it opened for the 1996-97 season.” [Tampa Bay Lightning]

The Prospects

These highlights will focus on players who contributed goals or assists last night as well as goalie prospect Connor Ingram. Otto Somppi (Halifax Mooseheads) and Bokondji Imama (Saint John Sea Dogs) were held off the score sheet.

After going down 1-0 early in the game, the Syracuse Crunch scored six unanswered goals to defeat the Binghamton Senators 6-1. Just eight days after signing a contract with the Lightning, Libor Hajek scored his first professional goal.

The Erie Otters finished their sweep of the Sarnia Sting with a strong 9-3 victory. Anthony Cirelli (#22 in yellow jersey) scored a goal while Erik Cernak (#14) picked up an assist. Taylor Raddysh’s (#17) 5-point performance (1G, 4A) earned him first star of the game honors.

Boris Katchouk (#12 in white jersey) scored a goal to help his Sault St. Marie Greyhounds defeat the Flint Firebirds 5-2. The Greyhounds lead the series 3-1.

Brett Howden (#21 in white jersey) scored a goal for the Moosejaw Warriors who fell 5-2 to the Swift Current Broncos. The series is tied at 2-2.

Dennis Yan (#11 in white jersey) picked up an assist for the Shawinigan Cataracts who lost to the Val-d’Or Foreurs 3-2. The series is tied at 2-2.

Another sweep for a team featuring multiple Lightning prospects, the Saint John Sea Dogs. Mathieu Joseph (#21 in white jersey) picked up an assist en route to a 4-3 victory over the Rimouski Océanic.

Connor Ingram allowed just one goal on 49 shots (0.980 SV%) as his Kaloomps Blazers fell 1-0 to the Kelowna Rockets. Kelowna leads the series 3-1.  [Video highlights unavailable]

The Game

Hey! For once, the NHL listened to the fans! “The NHL has decided to change course and publicly release the list of protected and available players during the June expansion draft. The decision was made after ‘further consideration of views and feedback we received on the subject,’ NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Sportsnet. ‘Not from the Clubs, but from media and public.’” [Sportsnet]

Anders Lee shares a story about a young man who truly inspires him. “Hockey players are known for being tough. We play with broken ribs, lose teeth and don’t miss a shift, get stitches mid game, and come back as soon as possible from anything that keeps us off the ice. But, at the end of the day, we play a game for a living. All our broken bones and bruises heal. My friend Fenov Pierre-Louis doesn’t play hockey, but he’s the toughest guy I know. He’s on a whole different level. Fenov is 16 years old and has Stage IV neuroblastoma.” [The Players’ Tribune]

“The NHL is officially bringing games to China next season, as Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will faceoff in preseason games on Sept. 21 at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai and on Sept. 23 at Huaxi LIVE Wukesong’s Le Sports Center in Beijing, at a Wednesday press conference at the Beijing venue.” [Puck Daddy]