BRANDON — The Lightning ended their summer development camp Wednesday at TGH Ice Plex with some solid competition and, finally, some open ice.
After spending most of the camp’s four days working on fundamentals — skills drills with player development coaches and staff, and skating lessons under the direction of Barb Underhill — prospects competed in 14-minute, half-sheet, 3-on-3 tournament games before getting to play in an all-out 4-on-4 format on the full sheet.
“It’s a lot of fun to play against these guys,” said forward Dylan Duke, a fourth-round pick in 2021 who is entering his junior season at Michigan. “There’s so many great players here, and to be able to compete against them in an actual battle drill makes everyone better.
“So, that’s the biggest thing with development camps is making each other better. When they’re working hard, and you play in those 3-on-3, 4-on-4 (formats), I think everyone’s getting better. And that’s just what’s gonna help us all in the future.”
The camp featured a wide range of prospects, from the five players who just had their names called in last week’s draft and will return to the junior ranks next season, to college prospects who will take what they’ve learned to their respective programs, plus some new international signings and current minor-league prospects headed to AHL Syracuse looking to take that next big step toward the NHL.
“We’re definitely laying the foundation of what being (with the) Lightning, is about” said player development director J.P. Cote. “It’s all about development.
“There wasn’t a lot of compete out there. We’re going to see that when rookie camp (starts), but there’s advantage you can seek everywhere on the ice, and that’s what we’re trying to share with them.”
After watching the four days of drills and competition, here are five players at different levels to keep an eye on this fall.
Last year’s third-round pick might not be far from the NHL. There’s no rush to bring up the 22-year-old, but a strong start this season at Syracuse could put him on the short list of forwards who could get promoted if reinforcements are needed.
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Edmonds is coming off his first North American pro season, compiling 15 goals and 27 points at Syracuse. But he played two seasons of pro hockey in Sweden before his 113-point season in the Ontario Hockey League leading into his draft year.
This week, he might have been the best player on the ice. He wasted no time making an impact, scoring the 3-on-3 tournament’s first goal seven seconds into the opening game. He ended the tournament tied for the lead with seven goals.
Edmonds has shown he’s a bona fide playmaker, and after spending last year adjusting to the organization and the speed and physicality of the AHL, it will be interesting to see the progression he makes in his second season with the Crunch.
He definitely had a showing this week.
“Before coming here, I played a little bit of 3-on-3, 2-on-2 games just to kind of get the heart rate going and stuff like that,” he said. “So yeah, definitely fun to take part in that (Wednesday).”
One to watch in his North American pro debut
Though he came in as something of an unknown, people in the organization unquestionably were talking about Groshev by the end of the week after the strong impression he made.
The 21-year-old Russian was a third-round pick in 2020, and the Lightning signed him to a three-year, entry-level contract in May. He previously played four seasons of pro hockey at various levels in Russia.
Groshev blew the Lightning away with his testing scores in the weight room, and he showed he’s a strong skater who gets down the ice and into a play quickly, considering his size (6-feet-1, 192 pounds). There wasn’t much hitting this week, but you can tell Groshev has a physical game. He’s not afraid to drive into the high-traffic areas with or without the puck.
Continuing to refine his skating should help Groshev, who is an intriguing player to watch moving forward.
One to watch at AHL Syracuse
Usau was in the middle of everything during 3-on-3 play, his seven goals tying Edmonds for most in the tournament.
Undrafted after compiling 26 points in 40 games in the KHL in 2021-22, Usau was signed by the Lightning to a three-year, entry-level contract last year. Though he had only four goals and 16 points in 57 games at Syracuse, he slowly began to adapt to the more rugged style of play in his first season in the AHL.
“The style of the game was a lot different,” said the Belarus native, who played youth hockey in the U.S. and one year in the WHL before returning home to play in the KHL. “Just a lot more skating and a lot more physicality.
“After the new year, I felt way more comfortable and confident in myself. So, hopefully that carries over and right from the start I can just start playing my game instead of getting used to it.”
He still needs to develop his skating, but he has a knack for finding the front of the net and the skill to score from there. He has a strong shot with touch and plays bigger than his listed 6-fee-1, 183-pounds. His second season in Syracuse will tell a lot. He’s certainly motivated to show he’s a legitimate prospect.
One to watch in college hockey
Powell, a fourth-round pick in 2020, will enter his senior year of eligibility at Boston College this fall. The 21-year-old made a huge jump last season, with five goals, 22 points and a plus-6 plus/minus rating in 36 games.
This season will be a big one for him, as he was elected to be the Eagles’ captain. He began running the first-team power-play unit last season and looks to grow in that role as well as with his all-around game.
Though it still could be a several years before we start really talking about Powell, there’s no doubt his skill stands out even among older and more-seasoned players. He can make plays in the offensive zone and has fast hands, good vision and a strong shot.
If he continues to develop, he could follow the path of a player like Nick Perbix, who started with strong fundamentals, grew his game in college and made a short stay in the AHL before joining the Lightning. Powell doesn’t have the size (5-11, 172) and isn’t the skater Perbix was going into college, but if this week is any indication, he appears to possess the “compete” that the organization values.
One to watch in juniors
The Lightning’s fourth-round pick in this year’s draft is only 18, but he showed this week he’s more than simply a wunderkind high-school scorer. After becoming Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey this past season with 96 points in 31 games, Shaugabay seemed to improve each day during drills and competition.
He was at his best during the 4-on-4 tournament, showing his speed and making plays with some fancy footwork. He twice made spin moves from the left circle while trying to set up teammates for looks in front.
He’s still a kid, and the Lightning will take their time with Shaugabay, who will spend next season as a full-time player with USHL’s Green Bay. He had three goals and 16 points in 27 games in a part-time role with the Gamblers last season.
“Getting stronger, getting faster, that’s what I want to focus on,” Shaugabay said. “The speed is just way different (in the USHL), but now I think I’m ready for it.”
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