BRANDON — Because the Lightning have had a veteran-heavy roster the past several seasons, there haven’t been many opportunities for prospects to break through and earn playing time. But for some hopefuls, this week’s prospects showcase offers an early chance to show the organization’s brass that they can contribute on the Lightning roster.
On Wednesday at the TGH Ice Plex, 22 prospects began practicing for the showcase that will take place Friday-Monday in North Carolina and feature games against teams from the Hurricanes, Panthers and Predators.
Most of the players in the Lightning group are known commodities, and many have AHL experience. Others are headed for their pro debuts with AHL Syracuse. From this group are players such as forwards Cole Koepke and Gabriel Fortier and defenseman Nick Perbix from whom the Lightning will pluck their depth for this season.
“Practice is practice, and you’re competing and you’re working out against your teammates, but when you get into it, it’s going to be a very competitive tournament,” said Stacy Roest, the Lightning assistant general manager, director of player development. “Everybody’s prospects are playing for pride and playing for spots in different organizations, so it’s going to be competitive.”
When training camp opens next week, they will have only so many chances to make an impression on the coaching staff. This preview helps.
“I’m trying to get out there and try and play as confident as I can, show my game and do whatever I can to put my best foot forward and hopefully try and get a spot here,” said Koepke, who was with the Lightning as a reserve during the last postseason after his first pro season in Syracuse.
Prospect showcase schedule (All games streamed on TampaBayLightning.com)
Friday: Lightning vs. Predators, 1 p.m.
Sunday: Lightning vs. Panthers, 1 p.m.
Monday: Lightning vs. Hurricanes, 1 p.m.
30th season kickoff events
The Lightning will celebrate the beginning of their 30th season with a pair of fan events next month. They will host a kickoff event from 4-7 p.m. Oct. 1 at Amalie Arena featuring interviews with general manager Julien BriseBois, coach Jon Cooper, and current and former players. The event also will include a performance by rock band Smash Mouth. Tickets can be claimed at https://am.ticketmaster.com/bolts/30thseason.
The following day, the Lightning will host an open practice at 10:30 a.m. at Amalie Arena. Tickets can be claimed at https://am.ticketmaster.com/bolts/practice.
The Lightning are planning other events, including in-game theme nights, anniversary-related content and community events. They will also select 30 Tampa Bay area schools to receive three to four visits from the organization that will include pep rallies, teacher appreciation days and ball hockey clinics.
And there finally is a Lightning Hall of Fame. The inaugural class will be honored during an alumni weekend in the spring. Details, including the selection process and how the hall will be presented at Amalie Arena, will be announced later.
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New radio deal
This season’s games will be broadcast locally on WHPT-FM 102.5. The Lightning signed a multiyear radio broadcast deal with Cox Media Group after previously broadcasting on WFLA-AM 970. Dave Mishkin will continue play-by-play duties with Phil Esposito serving as color analyst.
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieintheYard.
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