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Lightning signs college forward Cody Kunyk

OTTAWA — In describing Cody Kunyk, the Lightning's newest acquisition, both GM Steve Yzerman and Tom Kurvers, Tampa Bay's top college scout, started their critiques with "strong skater."

"A good two-way player," Yzerman added, "strong on the puck."

"He's got speed," Kurvers said. "He's got hockey sense. He can shoot."

Tampa Bay on Thursday signed Kunyk, 23, a forward out of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, where the 5-foot-11, 197-pound senior had 22 goals and 43 points in 37 games, was plus-13 and named the WCHA's player of the year. He will be assigned to the Lightning.

Kunyk, who is from Sherwood Park, Alberta, and last summer attended Tampa Bay's development camp, has a one-year, two-way deal that will expire at the end of this season, when he will be a restricted free agent.

Because he will turn 24 this year (on May 20), Kunyk, under the collective bargaining agreement, could sign only a one-year deal. The contract could have been structured to begin in July, but Lightning assistant GM Julien BriseBois said the Kunyk camp wanted the contract to kick in immediately, a move that gives him a quick year of pro service and NHL money.

"We think he's a good prospect," Yzerman said. "He's the type of guy we feel can come in and be a solid NHLer."

Yzerman said he did not expect other college signings, though the team had interest in Umass-Lowell D Christian Folin.

PROSPECT SURGERY: D Slater Koekkoek, the No. 10 overall pick of the 2012 draft, had surgery on his right shoulder, an injury that prematurely ended his season with Windsor of the junior Ontario league. "The doctor was very encouraged by the procedure and very optimistic it will be successful," said Yzerman, who expects Koekkoek to be ready for camp in September.

It is the third straight season Koekkoek, 20, has required shoulder surgery. The previous two procedures were on his left shoulder. Asked if the chronic nature of Koekkoek's injuries is a red flag, Yzerman said, "Well, he's only got two shoulders, so I hope the issue is resolved."

Koekkoek, who was injured in a fight, had 15 goals and 53 points and was plus-44 in 62 games for Windsor. "In listening to the doctors, there's no reason Slater can't go on to have a good, long, healthy career," Yzerman said. "We think he's a good, young prospect still with a lot of developing to do, but we think he will do that."

WILCOX HONOR: Prospect and University of Minnesota G Adam Wilcox is one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, given to the nation's top college player. Wilcox, 21, a sophomore drafted 178th overall in 2011, had 23 wins, a 1.91 save percentage and a .934 save percentage to lead the Gophers to the Big Ten regular-season title.

ODDS AND ENDS: By signing Kunyk, the Lightning has 49 players under contract, one under the limit. … G Ben Bishop played his 100th NHL game against the Senators on Thursday. … Defensemen Keith Aulie and Mark Barberio and forwards Nikita Kucherov and Tom Pyatt were scratched.

Lightning signs college forward Cody Kunyk 03/20/14 [Last modified: Thursday, March 20, 2014 10:51pm]

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