Thursday, May 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning's Koekkoek in healing pattern

BRANDON — As the action swirled on the ice below him, Slater Koekkoek sat mostly still while watching from an overhang at the corner of the rink.

It was all for the best, the prized prospect acknowledged Tuesday about being held out of the three-on-three tournament that is the centerpiece of the Lightning's five-day development camp at the Ice Sports Forum.

But that didn't make being a spectator — "a big downer," he called it — any easier.

You can't blame Tampa Bay for being careful with Koekkoek, 19, the No. 10 overall pick of the 2012 draft. The team projects him as perhaps a top-two defenseman. But in January, he had a second reconstructive procedure on his left shoulder to repair a torn labrum.

The first operation, done during his draft year, failed. So, this time, Koekkoek (pronounced KOO-KOO) underwent a Latarjet procedure in which the coracoid bone of the shoulder blade is twisted slightly into a position where, with the help of a titanium screw, it anchors the shoulder in its socket.

"It will limit range of motion a little bit but not significantly, nothing functional," said Tommy Mulligan, the Lightning's head athletic trainer.

General manager Steve Yzerman said the expectation is Koekkoek will be cleared for contact by training camp.

"It's been pretty hard," Koekkoek said of the medical issues and seemingly constant rehabbing that limited him to 68 games the past two seasons. "Every day I work hard to keep the dream of playing in the NHL. That's all I think about. That's all I want and, hopefully, it can come true here soon."

Koekkoek, 6 feet 2, 183 pounds, will play next season for Windsor of the junior Ontario league. A great place to learn, he said, because coach Bob Boughner was a 10-year NHL defenseman.

Despite missing 68 games the past two seasons — something Yzerman said, "certainly doesn't help" — the belief is Koekkoek's development has not been significantly affected.

"He played (42) games last year," Yzerman said. "There are kids in college who played a full season of fewer games than him."

Added Al Murray, the Lightning's director of amateur scouting: "When I think of Slater's game, his skating is effortless, so that's not going to change. His hockey sense is very good and that's not going to change.

"What does slow down is his physical development. If he had been able to work out for two solid years he might be 200 pounds now and he would still have the same skating and hockey sense."

Both came in handy for Koekkoek as a power play quarterback and for knowing when to join the rush. His heavy, accurate shot has produced 18 goals and 70 points in 133 junior games.

"He's able to play in all situations," Murray said. "You don't want to get overly excited, but we took a player we think has a terrific chance to be a big part of the core of our team, and we still believe that."

Nice to hear, of course, but Koekkoek will have to wait for training camp to show the Lightning brass all he can do.

"It's tough whenever you play hockey and that's all you love," he said of sitting out three-on-threes. "Big picture, it was the right thing to do."

TOURNAMENT NOTES: Defenseman Nikita Nesterov and center Cedric Paquette had four goals each in three games and Paquette added nine assists for Team Hedman. Right wing Nikita Kucherov had three goals, eight points for Team Stamkos and left wing Jonathan Drouin had a goal and three points for Team Brewer. … Left wing Maxime Langelier-Parent (hip rehab) did not play. … Today's quarterfinals, semifinals and final will be streamed live at tampabaylightning.com at about 11:15 a.m.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Fight off the frustration, Lightning, and don’t panic

Fight off the frustration, Lightning, and don’t panic

TAMPA — Don't change a thing.Don't blow it up. Don't fire anyone. Don't overreact.Thursday was not an easy day in Lightning Land. It was the day after the end of a season that ended much too soon. It was a day when bags were packed, questions w...
Updated: 1 hour ago
When will the Lightning run out of wait-til-next-years?

When will the Lightning run out of wait-til-next-years?

TAMPA — Disbelief will eventually give way to acceptance.The Lightning isn't there yet.It isn't there yet in a lot of ways.Will it ever be?Just wondering.Really, what guarantees are there?Late Wednesday night, Washington Capitals captain A...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Lightning journal: Ryan Callahan, among others, played hurt

Lightning journal: Ryan Callahan, among others, played hurt

TAMPA — Not surprisingly, several Lightning players went through the playoffs with what general manager Steve Yzerman called "significant injuries."He would not elaborate Thursday on who they were, though he said that information will be made p...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Lightning fans leaving Game 7 early: Understandable or bad form?

Lightning fans leaving Game 7 early: Understandable or bad form?

TAMPA — Lightning fans were heading for the exits with three minutes remaining in Tampa Bay's 4-0 loss to Washington Wednesday in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final. Understandable given the disappointment of not reaching the Stanley C...
Updated: 5 hours ago
The single biggest reason Tampa Bay isn’t headed to the Stanley Cup final

The single biggest reason Tampa Bay isn’t headed to the Stanley Cup final

TAMPA — Washington is on to Vegas. The Lightning is not. So we asked the Times' Lightning coverage team for the single biggest reason Tampa Bay isn't headed to the Stanley Cup final. Here's their answers:Roger Mooney, staff writer: Th...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Scoring drought brings Lightning season to a close

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Scoring drought brings Lightning season to a close

The Lightning will miss out on the Stanley Cup final after being shut out by the Capitals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final. The Bolts were the highest-scoring team during the regular season but failed to score in almost all of the final eigh...
Published: 05/24/18
Postgame reactions from Lightning’s Game 7 loss to the Capitals

Postgame reactions from Lightning’s Game 7 loss to the Capitals

The Lightning was shut out once in the first 97 games of the season, the playoffs included. Then it was shut out during the last two games of the Eastern Conference final, including 4-0 on Wednesday to the Capitals in Game 7.Here are some postgame re...
Published: 05/24/18
Lightning journal: A rare fight to this finish

Lightning journal: A rare fight to this finish

TAMPA — After Alex Ovechkin's goal 62 seconds into Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Wednesday, the next highlight was an extended fight between Lightning D Braydon Coburn and Capitals RW Tom Wilson, with a two-minute break for them to spe...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/24/18
Lightning’s season ends one win short of Stanley Cup final with 4-0 loss to Capitals

Lightning’s season ends one win short of Stanley Cup final with 4-0 loss to Capitals

TAMPA — The Lightning's dream season ended late Wednesday with the final horn, or, if you prefer, early in the second period of Game 5, when it scored its last goal of the Eastern Conference final.How about that? The team with the most regular-...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/24/18
Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay had its chances. Here are the best ones

Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay had its chances. Here are the best ones

TAMPA — Yanni Gourde said he will have to see a replay to know just how it got away, but even in a lopsided 4-0 loss like Wednesday night, he'll remember the puck in front of an empty net, and the missed opportunity that encapsulated a frustrat...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/24/18