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Slater Koekkoek fits in nicely at Tampa Bay Lightning camp

BRANDON — Lightning player development coordinator Steve Thomas liked everything he saw Friday from Slater Koekkoek.

Well, almost everything.

"He was toe-dragging the puck around a little bit," Thomas said after Tampa Bay's prospects played three-on-three games at the team's development camp at the Ice Sports Forum.

"If he's going to do that as a defenseman, he's going to get himself into trouble if he's playing at the next level."

It was a minor point and said with as smile as Koekkoek, the No. 10 overall pick in the June draft, distinguished himself over three eight-minute games with a goal, two assists and six shots.

"It's pretty good," said Koekkoek (pronounced cuckoo), 18. "We were battling hard, but it's not by any means a real game situation."

Thomas said he is "a big fan" of the 6-foot-2, 184-pounder.

"You can see how he competes," Thomas said. "He doesn't like losing. He really contributed well on the three-on-threes. He raised his level really well."

As for that toe drag?

"It's nice to know he has a good skill set and he's not afraid to be creative," Thomas said.

IN DEMAND: After leading AHL Norfolk to the Calder Cup title in a season that included a 28-game winning streak, the longest by a North American pro hockey team, coach Jon Cooper was a hot commodity.

It is believed he interviewed for head coaching positions with the Oilers and Capitals. Though not hired, he said, "I'm better off for the experience."

"For me, questions get asked, 'Are you crushed about (not getting those jobs)?' I won't lose a night of sleep over it," said Cooper, 44, who has two years left on his Lightning contract, is running the development camp and next season will coach Syracuse, Tampa Bay's new AHL affiliate.

"I have a great job with a great organization. It was a learning experience for me. I felt that winning the Calder Cup and going through what I went through made me more confident with who I am and what I'm doing."

Said Lightning GM Steve Yzerman: "It's just a matter of time before he's a head coach in the NHL."

A YEAR LATER: Other than translating for reporters speaking to Russian G Andrey Vasilevskiy, F Vladislav Namestnikov has kept a low profile. Not that the 2011 first-round draft pick hasn't been noticed.

"The biggest thing I see in him is confidence," Cooper said. "He came in last year, fresh drafted, No. 1 guy, all eyes on him. He looked like a little kid. Now he's brimming with confidence."

A successful 2011-12 with London of the Ontario junior league helped. Namestnikov, 19, had 22 goals, 71 points in 63 regular-season games, and four goals, 18 points in 19 playoff games.

"I'm bigger, a lot faster and started playing more physical," said the 5-foot-11, 171-pounder. "And my defense, I'm working hard on that. It's paying off."

GOOD HANDS: As the prospects sat down at Tropicana Field to watch Wednesday's game between the Rays and Yankees, F Tanner Richard made a bold prediction.

"I said, 'Guys, I'm going to catch a foul ball.' "

Sure enough, a foul ball flew toward the rightfield seats where the team was located. Richard said the ball bounced toward him off the hands of a fan three rows back and he made a one-handed catch.

"I just leaned back and it was there," said Richard, at just his second major-league game.

MINOR MOVE: D Matt Taormina, 25, signed a one-year, two-way deal. He had a goal, seven points and was plus-6 in 30 games last season with the Devils.

ODDS AND ENDS: Camp ends today with three-on-three games at 10:30 a.m. … Vasilevskiy is excused because of a prior commitment, the team said.

Slater Koekkoek fits in nicely at Tampa Bay Lightning camp 07/06/12 [Last modified: Friday, July 6, 2012 8:47pm]
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