BRANDON — Hockey has returned. The Lightning prospects took the ice on the first day of rookie camp Thursday, a sign the season is near.
Players will skate again at 10:45 a.m. Friday before heading to Tennessee for a tournament.
Here are five things to know about rookie camp.
What’s the difference between rookie camp and development camp?
The roster of 23 players at rookie camp is similar to the roster of 29 players for June’s development camp. But the camps have different purposes.
“Development camp is more to give them tools and resources to get better,” assistant general manager and director of player development Stacy Roest said. “Now it’s evaluation.”
At rookie camp, the coaches and management get to see how players are using those tools and who has done what since development camp. They’ll come up with a rough ranking of players through the organization over the next couple of weeks.
What happened Thursday?
Rookie camp opened with physicals and fitness testing. The on-ice session was tertiary.
Among other things, players had their body-fat composition measured and new fitness baselines established.
“(Thursday) was a big day for them,” Roest said. “Fitness testing and getting settled in shows the progression you made over the summer. That’s why we like to skate the first day and get the nerves out.”
The question of how eating a pizza affects body fat from one day to the next came up afterward.
Who should you look for?
Alex Barre-Boulet is the Lightning’s latest undersized, speedy forward at 5 feet 10. He and AHL Syracuse teammate Carter Verhaeghe led the league in goals last season with 34 each, and Barre-Boulet led the league’s rookies with 68 points and was named AHL rookie of the year.
Cal Foote was the best defenseman in Syracuse by the end of last season. The 14th overall draft pick in 2017, he is bigger and more confident than he was entering his first pro season a year ago.
Nolan Foote, Cal’s brother, was the Lightning’s top draft pick this year at 27th overall. At 6-4, he’s a big-body forward with a good shot.
Mikhail Shalagin, a seventh-round draft pick this year, comes from the Russian junior league. The forward, 19, doesn’t have a contract with the Lightning or with a KHL team. Some Russians elect to play in the KHL until they have a good shot at making an NHL roster. Shalagin could do that or play in Syracuse this season.
Oleg Sosunov is hard to miss at 6-8. The Russian defenseman spent last season going between the AHL and ECHL, and is looking for a consistent spot in Syracuse.
Can players in rookie camp make the NHL right away?
Sure. The Lightning has had one player do so each of the past three years: Brayden Point in 2016, Mikhail Sergachev in 2017 and Mathieu Joseph last year. Those who don’t make the roster right out of camp can still make an impression. That’s what Erik Cernak demonstrated last season.
“When you come to camp and earn a spot that gives (the Lightning) the best chance to win, there you go,” Roest said.
How do I watch the tournament?
The Lightning rookies will play three games in Antioch, Tenn., near Nashville. They play a Predators team at 4 p.m. Saturday, the Hurricanes at 4 p.m. Sunday and the Capitals at 10 a.m. Tuesday. In the Tampa Bay area, games can be watched at tampabaylightning.com. The live stream will be restricted by location outside the area.