Sunday, June 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Nothing puzzling about Lightning goalie prospect Adam Wilcox's development

University of Minnesota goalie Adam Wilcox claims he can solve a Rubik's Cube puzzle in "about a minute."

Yeah, right, said laughing Gophers goaltenders coach Justin Johnson. "Maybe if he was doing just one side."

No, really, Wilcox said, "It's just kind of learning patterns. You have to take it step by step."

And that is exactly how Wilcox has turned himself into one of the nation's top freshman goalies and one of the Lightning's most interesting and promising prospects.

Drafted 178th overall in 2011, the South St. Paul, Minn., native decided to play for Minnesota rather than stay in juniors, a stepping-stone approach to his career he believes is the best way to prepare for subsequent levels.

"I like to take each step of the process to make sure I'm ready to play," Wilcox said. "Get a good base, good experience, get the confidence at each level and keep building."

So far the plan is paying off.

Wilcox, 20, is 10-2-3 in 16 games for No. 3 Minnesota with 944 minutes, 23 seconds of ice time that is fifth in Division I. His 1.78 goals-against average is eighth — and third among freshmen — and he has two shutouts.

"Tremendous athletic ability," Johnson said. "Even when he misreads a play, he's able to react back to the puck."

"And he makes big saves, timely saves," Lightning goaltenders coach Frantz Jean said. "That's the X factor everybody is looking for."

At 6 feet, 186 pounds, Wilcox is not big, especially for the size-obsessed NHL. But Jean said he compensates with "really good" foot movement and positioning.

And a "tremendous glove," Johnson said.

Wilcox, though, was quick to note the contributions of his teammates.

"Our forwards are stacked, and we have the best (defense)," he said. "That gave me a lot of confidence coming in, knowing that even if I did give up one or two (goals), they have my back for the rest of the game."

But let's get back to this Rubik's Cube thing.

A friend showed Wilcox the puzzle in ninth grade, the goalie said, and after about three hours he had it licked.

Wilcox's mother, Christy, isn't surprised.

"He's a perfectionist and likes everything in order, so it fits him he'd take a Rubik's Cube and put it in order," she said. "I don't think I've ever cleaned his room or organized his room. I never had to worry about that.

"Even when he was younger, he always had his toys in one area and dinosaurs in one area. He was a really organized kid."

Wilcox said there is an argument that learning to solve Rubik's Cube helps him on the ice.

"With doing that, you see ahead to the next move you have to make," he said. "I can kind of see what's going to happen ahead. I can see a guy coming in, if it's going to be to the back door. I can make the move before it happens."

"The same with school and stuff," Wilcox added about majoring in sports management. "I like looking ahead and planning."

Step by step.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

It's rare to see an NHL draft pick with Tampa Bay ties, but the Jets used a third-round pick Saturday on center Nathan Smith, 19, who played for Mitchell High School in Trinity and most recently for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL.Smith was ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Despite limited salary-cap room, the Lightning is among at least five teams expected to talk with Islanders All-Star center John Tavares, who can be a free agent July 1, when the courting period begins Sunday, ESPN reported.Tavares also is expected t...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Another small, quick forward headlines Lightning’s draft picks

Another small, quick forward headlines Lightning’s draft picks

Even without a first-round pick, the Lightning wrapped up its draft with seven picks Saturday, starting with Gabriel Fortier, an undersized 18-year-old forward from Quebec in the second round."They were guys that we really wanted," Lightning director...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Lightning takes Quebec LW Gabriel Fortier with second-round pick

Lightning takes Quebec LW Gabriel Fortier with second-round pick

The Lightning is on the board in the 2018 NHL draft, using their first pick — 59th overall in the second round — on Gabriel Fortier, an undersize left wing from Quebec."I spoke with them a couple of times, so I knew there was an interest,...
Published: 06/23/18
Live blog: 2018 NHL entry draft

Live blog: 2018 NHL entry draft

The Lightning isn't scheduled to pick until the second round, but there's no telling how active they might be with trades, so you'll want to follow our live coverage throughout the NHL draft Friday (Round 1) and Saturday (Rounds 2-7) in Dallas.(funct...
Published: 06/23/18
Lightning re-signs backup goalie Louis Domingue to 2-year deal

Lightning re-signs backup goalie Louis Domingue to 2-year deal

The Lightning has re-signed one of its restricted free agents in backup goalie Louis Domingue, who will be back with Tampa Bay on a two-year deal worth $2.3 million.Domingue, 26, was acquired from Arizona in November after he had posted a 4.33 goals-...
Published: 06/22/18
Lightning names ex-player Jeff Halpern as new assistant coach

Lightning names ex-player Jeff Halpern as new assistant coach

The Lightning has filled one of the openings on Jon Cooper's coaching staff, announcing Friday  that former Tampa Bay forward Jeff Halpern has been hired as an assistant coach.Halpern, 42, has spent the past two seasons as an assistant with the ...
Published: 06/22/18
Steve Yzerman: Lightning won’t re-sign forward Chris Kunitz

Steve Yzerman: Lightning won’t re-sign forward Chris Kunitz

As expected, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he does not intend to re-sign veteran forward Chris Kunitz, who will seek his fifth Stanley Cup with a different team next season.Kunitz, 38, brought much-needed playoff experience in his lone...
Published: 06/22/18
2018-19 schedule unveiled: Lightning opens with five straight at home

2018-19 schedule unveiled: Lightning opens with five straight at home

NHL schedules all balance out at the end, but the Lightning will open 2018-19 with five straight home games and end the season with its last four on the road.The Lightning released its schedule Thursday evening for the upcoming season, with all sorts...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Without a first-rounder, Lightning still could have busy draft weekend

Without a first-rounder, Lightning still could have busy draft weekend

The Lightning doesn't have a first-round pick in this weekend's draft, but that's not to say the weekend couldn't be busy for general manager Steve Yzerman and his front office.The Lightning sent its top draft pick to the Rangers in February as part ...
Published: 06/21/18