Friday, January 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning rookie Cory Conacher a honey badger lover, too

The thing Cory Conacher enjoys most about that YouTube video that extols the virtues of the honey badger is the animal is portrayed as such a relentlessly fierce beast.

"A honey badger kind of does whatever it wants," Conacher said. "It's a gritty creature."

In other words, the Lightning's rookie left wing embraces the nickname given him last season at AHL Norfolk.

"Definitely a compliment," said Jon Cooper, Conacher's coach with the Admirals. "If you ever watch the video, the honey badger takes what it wants."

And that is Conacher, 23, whose goal was to play in the NHL and who (in fewer than two years) has gone from college star to minor-league sensation to a player some believe could compete for rookie of the year.

Conacher's five points, on two goals and three assists, entered Thursday tied for the league lead among first-year players and tied for second among all players.

He not only is getting power-play time, he is on a line with Vinny Lecavalier and getting spot duty with Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis.

"A dream start," the former undrafted free agent said.

"Playing with guys you idolized your whole hockey career is pretty amazing. I'll probably tear up in the summer when I actually realize I played in the NHL."

There is no reason to believe Conacher's start is a fluke.

The Burlington, Ontario, native — he is a distant relative of NHL Hall of Famers Charlie, Roy and Lionel Conacher — has a sense for being in the right place at the right time. During Tuesday's 4-1 victory over the Hurricanes, he followed Lecavalier to the net and scored on a rebound.

He is fast, too, and coach Guy Boucher said Conacher, averaging 14:41 of ice time, actually has led Stamkos and St. Louis on the rush.

"He pushes the pace for them," Boucher said. "That's hard to do."

Most important, though, is how quickly Conacher reads plays and reacts. During Monday's 4-3 loss to the Islanders, his perfect pass to Stamkos in front of the net was so quick and precise, it left no time for the defense or goalie to react before Stamkos scored.

"I even do a little visualization before the game," Conacher said. "I visualize certain circumstances on the ice so if they do happen, I'm ready for it. I've already gone through my head what is the right play to make."

"The kid has unbelievable instincts," said Cooper, now coaching AHL Syracuse, the Lightning's new affiliate. "It's crazy. I don't know how to describe it. He can make passes through opponents that are impossible. That's why we call him 'Honey Badger.' He can adapt to what's going on and play at a high rate of speed."

And he does it despite being a Type I diabetic and an undersized — by NHL standards — 5 feet 8, 179 pounds.

Conacher's lack of size certainly contributed to him being undrafted. His skills never were an issue.

As a Canisius College junior, Conacher, with 20 goals and 53 points, was the Atlantic Hockey Association's 2009-10 player of the year. In 2011-12, after finishing school and being signed by the Lightning the previous July, Conacher, with 39 goals and 80 points, was AHL rookie of the year and MVP.

"He's such a smart player," Lecavalier said. "He skates hard. He skates in the corners. He does the little things right, and it's paying off for him."

With a honey of a nickname.

Comments
Steven Stamkos: ‘I have to be a lot better’

Steven Stamkos: ‘I have to be a lot better’

There was plenty of blame to go around after the Lightning's 4-1 loss to the Golden Knights Thursday night.This loss wasn't on one person, no question.But captain Steven Stamkos showed some leadership by shouldering some responsibility for the team's...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Lightning falls to Golden Knights

Lightning falls to Golden Knights

TAMPA — The door to the Lightning dressing room remained closed a little longer than usual Thursday night, and that wasn’t surprising. After the kind of performance displayed in its 4-1 loss to the expansion Golden Knights, this had team...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Lightning journal: Cory Conacher ready to take advantage of J.T. Brown’s departure

Lightning journal: Cory Conacher ready to take advantage of J.T. Brown’s departure

TAMPA — The loss of wing J.T. Brown to Anaheim will be a gain for some Lightning forwards in terms of ice time. Whether those players are currently with the team or still at AHL Syracuse has yet to be determined.For now, C Cory Conacher will try to t...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Joe Smith’s takeaways from Thursday’s Lightning-Golden Knights game

Thought the bye week was a much-needed break for Andrei Vasilevskiy. And though you can’t pin Thursday’s loss on the goalie, he still gave up at least four goals for the fourth straight start (19 overall). Tampa Bay is used to Vasilevskiy’s brillianc...
Published: 01/18/18
Jonathan Marchessault on Lightning: ‘It started here’

Jonathan Marchessault on Lightning: ‘It started here’

Life is good for Jonathan Marchessault.The former Lightning forward is thriving for the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, which recently signed the undrafted forward to a six-year, $30 million deal. Marchessault's wife is expecting their third child, a...
Published: 01/18/18
Lightning’s Cory Conacher hopes ‘simple’ leads to more ice time

Lightning’s Cory Conacher hopes ‘simple’ leads to more ice time

The loss of wing J.T. Brown to Anaheim will be a gain for some Lightning forwards in terms of ice time. Whether that player is currently with the team or still at AHL Syracuse has yet to be determined.Center Cory Conacher, a healthy scratch in the Li...
Published: 01/18/18
‘Piratically speaking,’ NHL thrilled to don Gasparilla garb for All-Star Game

‘Piratically speaking,’ NHL thrilled to don Gasparilla garb for All-Star Game

TAMPA — Jose Gaspar, mythical pirate, meet Lord Stanley of Preston. Hang out, get to know one another, have as much fun as possible during the wrinkle in time that makes possible what will likely be a one-time-only encounter. Next weekend, th...
Published: 01/18/18
With Victor Hedman out, Lightning’s Slater Koekkoek finally gets chance to prove himself

With Victor Hedman out, Lightning’s Slater Koekkoek finally gets chance to prove himself

TAMPA — When it comes to replacing its top defenseman, the Lightning realizes that’s not possible."Let’s be honest," coach Jon Cooper said. "Nobody in that room is Victor Hedman."But with Hedman out three to six weeks with a lower-body injury, it mea...
Published: 01/17/18
Updated: 01/18/18
Vegas-Lightning, of all things, is the biggest show in town

Vegas-Lightning, of all things, is the biggest show in town

TAMPA — It's Vegas night.Who would have thought we would have been circling this one on the schedule before the NHL season began?Vegas Golden Knights and Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena.We've circled it just the same.It's Vegas night.Any wa...
Published: 01/17/18
Could Mikhail Sergachev replace Hedman on All-Star team?

Could Mikhail Sergachev replace Hedman on All-Star team?

With Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman out 3-6 weeks with a lower body injury, he has to get replaced on the Atlantic Division team. There are plenty of strong candidates to fill the void, including the Maple Leafs' Morgan Rielly and Boston rookie C...
Published: 01/17/18