Scrimmage is a blast for almost 5,000 at St. Pete Times Forum
It has been a pleasure to write about some positive stuff concerning the Lightning the past few weeks. The team has made some fine additions through free agency and now has what should be a respectable blue line, and there should even be some competition for jobs.
Saturday night's scrimmage at the St. Pete Times Forum, the highlight of the week-long Young Guns camp, added to the list.
For starters, the turnstile count was 4,717, and the fans were enthusiastic. As owner Oren Koules said, "It was good to feel a buzz in the building again. We're glad to see the great fan support for our prospects and newest players."
Here are some snapshots:
The day actually began with a news conference to introduce defensemen Mattias Ohlund and Matt Walker, the team's top free agent signings. But it was Koules whohad the best line. Calling the signings "Plan A," he added, "It was kind of a risky proposition because we didn't have a Plan B."
With his usual No. 2 already worn by defenseman Lukas Krajicek, Ohlund will wear No. 5. Walker will wear No. 8.
Center Steven Stamkos said players appreciate that management is taking steps to improve the team. "It's great from a player's perspective. You're looking at them, and they're doing everything possible to help this team out and giving us, as players, as opportunity to make something happen, and that's all we can ask for. They're being proactive and going out and getting pieces of the puzzle for us. We want to go out there and put those pieces to the puzzle together."
Alexander Killorn had two goals and Luke Witkowski and Matt Marshall had a goal and an assist each as the Black beat the White 5-2 in a scrimmage oftwo 20-minute periods with a running clock. Killorn and Juraj Simek tied in the hardest shot competition at 91 mph.
Killorn, who is at Harvard; Witkowski, who played last season for USHL Fargo; and Marshall, who played at the University of Vermont, earned their notices with good aggressive play. Matt Read, from Bemidji State, had two assists and also was noticeable and had the best shootout move of the night a clearly practiced deke off his skate that resulted in a goal.
Rookie defenseman Victor Hedman did not do much to stand out, and at times seemed tentative with the puck, and on one ill-conceived play, moved in off the blue line, lost the puck to create a two-on-one the other way. But let's give the guy some slack. He had an assist and is adapting to a new style of play in North America and on a smaller rink. He'll get it.
Forward Dana Tyrell lookedgood in his first game situation since blowing out his knee in a warm-up game for Canada against Sweden before the junior world championship. He showed good speed and several times carried the puck to the net and forced the goalies to make good saves. "I was flying out there," he said. Lightning assistant coach Wes Walz, who is running the camp, agreed. "He looks as strong as ever. His skating doesn't look like it's missed a step for me. If anything, he looks a bit quicker because he's fitter than he was. If there is a silver lining to this situation, he's had a lot of time to train and get stronger. He's busted his butt real hard."
Can't the son of owner Oren Koules get some respect? Miles Koules is 15 years old and attends Shattuck-St. Mary's High, a hockey factory in Minnesota. Miles, though up to eight years younger than some of the players at the camp, held his own during the scrimmage. He even got an assist on Killorn's second goal into an empty net. Butwhen the assist was announced by the PA guy, Miles' last name came out as Cow-less instead of Koo-liss. Sheesh.
Bottom line, give the Lightning and the fans that showed up a thumbsup for a well-done evening.