Helenius disappoints, Smolenak shines
Let us for a moment forget that the Lightning did not get any results it wants to talk about at the prospects camp in Traverse City Mich. At 0-3-1, the team finished last in the eight-team tournament and allowed five regulation goals in its final game to a Stars team that had scored two in its previous three games.
The tournament was much more about personnel. Thumbs up to Radek Smolenak. Thumbs down to Riku Helenius and, you know, whatever, to Andy Rogers.
"The surprise for me, personally, is just how much it's cost Helenius missing a year,'' GM Jay Feaster said. "It is clear this kid has not played. He doesn't have a lot of confidence right now.''
Helenius, 19, the No. 15 overall pick of the 2006 draft, had an .818 save percentage and a 5.16 goals-against average. It seems missing last season with a shoulder injury has really taken its toll. Let's hope he regains his form with WHL Seattle.
Feaster, though, couldn't say enough about Smolenak, tied for second in the tournament with seven points. The forward led the team with three goals, four assists and 20 shots on goal. He will now report to training camp at AHL Norfolk.
"If he continues to do what he did up there in Norfolk's camp, he has played himself into being a prospect for this organization,'' Feaster said. "I can't tell you how many scouts and GMs and assistant GMs mentioned him to me in Traverse City, that they liked his game and liked the way he was playing. he looked like a completely different guy.''
As for Rogers, it was obvious he, too, simply has not played enough after struggling with multiple injuries the past two seasons. Rogers had zero points in the tournament and was minus-5.
"It's a mixed bag,'' Feaster said. "He skates so well, and yet there are times his decision making with the puck needs to be so much better. He still has that tendency when he's under pressure to just fire it off the glass. I've talked about this before. When you've invested $20-million in three world-class forwards (Vinny Lecavalier, Brad Richards and Marty St. Louis), we need to get them the puck in transition. Having it come off the glass and hit the back of their head isn't transition. Andy still has a lot of work to do, and yet there are things that you see from him at times that you're real excited about.''
Defenseman Mike Lundin, 22, the Lightning's fourth-round pick in 2004 who will be at training camp, also got some good reviews after his two-goal, four-point effort.
"He's a college kid and he's a little bit older, so you might expect that against younger competition,'' Feaster said. "But I just felt he was consistently strong throughout the entire time period.''