Koekkoek ready to put shoulder injuries behind him
Considering the hard-luck D Slater Koekkoek has had with injuries, it’d be easy for him to be down.
But after Koekkoek’s last three seasons have ended in shoulder surgeries – two on his left, the latest on his right – he and the Lightning have to look on the bright side.
“The good news is, he only has two shoulders,” general manager Steve Yzerman said. “He can’t hurt another one.”
But Koekkoek, 20, taken 10th overall in the 2012 draft, is feeling good entering what’ll be his first professional season, most likely with Syracuse in the American Hockey League. Koekkoek joked he got into trouble the first day at this week’s development camp for challenging his non-contact status in practice. And Koekkoek believes he’ll be 100-percent by training camp, his shoulders finally not an issue.
“It’s hard,” he said. “I’ve gotten the same questions for how long now? But maybe I got them fixed up now then I’ll be good for the next 20 years. It’s something I had to deal with, it’s not my fault or anything, just had a bad break. And I’m just going to move forward.”
Koekkoek was playing very well for the Windsor (Ontario Hockey League), racking up 15 goals and 38 assists in 62 games. Koekkoek felt he really improved his defensive zone coverage, not always jumping into every rush. “I thought he was the best defenseman in the OHL,” Lightning director of player development Stacy Roest said. “At the deadline, teams wanted him. He made some big strides. It was fun to watch his game evolved.”
But Koekkoek season-ended abruptly with a fight. Protecting his twice surgically-repaired left shoulder, Koekkoek hurt his right one following through on a punch. “Bad break,” he said. “You’ve got to live with it.”
Yzerman thinks that with the procedures Koekkoek had, his shoulder problems should be over, and he can resume his career. “He’s a great prospect,” Yzerman said.