Ford Ice Impressions – Tampa Bay Lightning

Rookie tournaments may not mean anything in terms of the regular season, but they’re a nice glimpse into the potential future of a team. This Sunday, I had the opportunity to attend the tournament hosted by the Nashville Predators at their new practice rink, and check out the participating prospects from the Predators, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Florida Panthers, and the Boston Bruins. Though it was a small sample size, it was a nice opportunity to make some observations about each team’s stock of developing players.

Up first, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

 Most NHL Ready: Jonathan Drouin

I’m sure it comes as zero surprise that the Bolts prospect that looked the most NHL-ready during Sunday’s game was Drouin. He’s been ranked as the top prospect to watch this season by so many outlets that I’ve lost track of them all, and I’ve already seen a few writers pencil him in for the Calder. And it’s true – Drouin is an incredible, high-skill player. The things I saw this kid do with his hands this weekend blew me away. One passing sequence between Drouin and Nesterov to set up Nesterov for Tampa’s first goal of the game had the scouts sitting around me swearing out loud, it was so pretty. But don’t go filling out that Calder ballot just yet.

Drouin was head-and-shoulders above the other Bolts prospects, it’s true. But he also made quite a few mistakes that he shouldn’t have made, and that indeed had him looking downright un-Drouin-ish at times. And this was against other rookies and prospects, which had me concerned about how he’ll perform against NHLers. He turned the heat up in the third period of Sunday’s game, setting up Kodie Curran for the overtime winner against Boston, but he’s still got a lot of things he could stand to work on.

And speaking of Kodie Curran…

Biggest Surprise: Kodie Curran

A rookie camp invitee from the University of Calgary, Kodie Curran impressed me and everyone sitting around me through the course of the game against Boston. Aside from making several impressive defensive plays earlier in the game, Curran netted the overtime goal off an assist from Drouin while playing 3-on-3. After that goal, the scout sitting next to me said, “Stevie’s gonna be waiting at the door when he gets to the room”. Obviously you don’t want to sign a kid to an entry-level contract off one game, but I have to agree that Curran would be a nice addition to the Bolts’ current pool of defensive prospects.

 Other Observations

  • Anthony DeAngelo, another defensive prospect selected at 19th overall this year, was speedy in Sunday’s game. Unfortunately, he also comes with a Bolt-load of character issues.
  • Brayden Point absolutely blew me away Sunday. The latter half of the game, he was getting into every single situation that he could – driving to the net, chirping at anyone nearby, and taking any shot he got.
  • A guy I saw getting nearly as fancy as Drouin with his stickwork a couple times? Michael Aviani. Got himself a goal, too.

Look out for thoughts on the Boston Bruins’ rookies tomorrow!