Second-round pick Alex Volkov entered Lightning camp as an unknown.
But Volkov, 20, left having made a significant impression on coaches and teammates, showing why he might be able to impact the NHL club this year.
Volkov was reassigned to AHL Syracuse Monday, the Lightning getting close to its final 23-man roster. But coach Jon Cooper said the 6-foot-1 Russian wing "more than earned" the right to stay so long, even getting a shot on a line with Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat Tuesday. The coaches love how Volkov isn't afraid to drive to the net in his two-goal performance Sunday.
"He's got a good shot, smart, big size. I like him a lot," star wing Nikita Kucherov said. "I don't know where he's going to end up, but I think he's got a lot of chance to get (to the NHL), really soon. The first month, maybe.
"I like the players when they just work, do their job, don't talk much, but I really like him. I really wanted him on the team because I see potential in him. Really skilled and really responsible with the puck. Every time you see him, he's got the puck on his stick."
The Lightning is down to 25 healthy players (if you count Michael Bournival, who is being evaluated), with the final cuts coming after the preseason wraps up Saturday in Nashville. Still think Gabriel Dumont's faceoff forte will give him the edge over the likes of Cory Conacher, but we'll see.