Why we like the Tampa Bay Lightning's development camp, and other tidbits
The prospects at the Tampa Bay Lightning's development camp finally got a chance to play some hockey on Tuesday. As coach Guy Boucher has said, no official evaluations were being made, but as you watched the players you could see some who were more advanced than others.
Just for the record, the White team beat the Black 7-4 with forwards Jonathan Lessard, Matt Marshall and Alex Killorn getting two goals each for the White and first-round draft choice Brett Connolly getting a goal and an assist for the Black. But more interesting was seeing some of the little plays the players made which showed, in no particular order, hockey IQ, grit and determination.
My personal favorite for the day was defenseman Radko Gudas, a 2010 third-round pick. At 5 feet 11, 192 pounds, he looks like a block of iron. But he also played with energy and enthusiasm, and he loved jumping into the offensive zone. "I love it," he said with a huge grin. "It's why I play hockey." In fact, he did so to score a goal on a great wrist shot one shift after he was faked out by fellow defenseman Ty Wishart.
AHL Norfolk coach Jim Johnson, who is running the camp, noticed it too, and said that Gudas' two-shift performance showed a level of maturity.
"Wishart put the puck between his legs and he misplayed him. He looked at the puck," Johnson said of Gudas. "What I liked about that is that it didn't bother the kid. What did he do? He jumped up the next play. He forgot about it. To me, that says something. It's always good to see a kid like that who doesn't get flustered. He knew he made the mistakes. When he came back to the bench, I put my hand on his shoulder and he said, 'I'm so mad at myself.' I said, 'Don't worry. You knew what you did wrong. You looked at the puck. That's correctable."
Gudas, who played last season for Everett of the junior Western league, also threw the check of the day, an open-ice hit on 5-10, 162-pound forward Jim Mullin, who bounced right up.
"No one liked playing against him," said center James Wright, who faced Gudas last season while playing for WHL Vancouver. "He's just a real solid, physical player who's in the right position defensively. He finishes his checks too. He's a tough guy to play against. You never want to play against those guys, but he's a good guy to have on your team."
Right wing Carter Ashton, a 2009 first-round pick, stole the puck in the neutral zone, carried it into the offensive zone and then turned his back to protect the puck along the side boards against four defenders while he waited for his teammates to catch up. There also was Wright's subtle backhand pass to left wing Tim Marks who, by the side of the net, fed a slot-charging Marshall for a bang-bang goal.
Left wing Dana Tyrell played with constant energy and was in constant motion. During one shift, someone remarked that Tyrell was playing like a rover and had touched the puck at least five times. Defenseman Teigan Zahn had to leave the scrimmage after he fell awkwardly on an ankle on which he had minor work done and is expected to skate in Wednesday's Young Guns game.
And then there was Connolly, who played well all-around and, of course, scored his goal, probably a good confidence-builder for someone who played just 16 games last season due to injuries to both hips.
"I thought he played well," Johnson said. "He has some conditioning he needs to catch up on because of the amount of games that he missed last year, so for him this has been a great camp for him because we did work on a lot of fundamentals he needed to work on and to get his feet back underneath him. Now he sets up for the training for the rest of the summer to prepare himself for main camp."
The other tidbits:
It sure sounds as if Johnson will be back as Norfolk's coach. "We're on the same page," GM Steve Yzerman said. ... Yzerman added that he hopes to have Tampa Bay's assistant coaches signed up within the next two weeks. He said he has made his choices, which he declined to reveal, and is negotiating. ... He also said he is looking into an ECHL affiliation. ... Final details need to be worked out, Yzerman said, but the Lightning is scheduled to participate in the Red Wings' prospect camp, Sept. 11-15 in Traverse City. ... C Nate Thompson has an arbitration date July 22. The sides can negotiation until then. ... The Canucks will retire Markus Naslund's No. 19 before a Dec. 11 game with the Lightning. ... Yzerman said he has reached out to the agents for Steven Stamkos and Steve Downie to try to get contract negotiations started.