From Sept. 16-19, a group of Tampa Bay Lightning prospects will compete in the NHL Prospect Showcase against squads from the Carolina Hurricanes, Nashville Predators, and Florida Panthers. The games will occur at Invisalign Arena in Morrisville, North Carolina, and PNC Arena in Raleigh.
Any skater or goaltender on an entry-level contract or less, who is 24 or younger and has less than 20 games of NHL experience, can participate. The Lightning recently released their roster, and some players bear watching to see how they have improved or how close they may be to making the NHL roster.
Two players with an outside chance to make the Lightning roster will be among the forwards participating in the tournament. Cole Koepke, Gabriel Fortier, and Gage Concalves are two players who performed well with the Syracuse Crunch (AHL) and could see some time on the NHL roster. The trio combined for 211 games last season, scoring 51 goals and adding 55 assists for 106 points. Fortier did play in 10 games with the Lightning last season, scoring his first NHL goal against the Vegas Golden Knights on Dec. 21.
Donning the Lightning sweater for the first time in a game will be the recently acquired Grant Mishmash. The 23-year-old was acquired in the trade that sent Ryan McDonagh to the Nashville Predators. Last year, he played in 57 games for the AHL Milwaukee Admirals and picked up 12 points with six goals and six assists. The native of Minnesota skated in 117 career games at the University of North Dakota, recording 71 points with 32 goals and 39 assists. The former second-round pick of the Predators also played two years at USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. In his second year in the program, he tied for the team lead with 61 points (26G, 35A) in 65 games. He did make a good first impression when he participated in the Lightning’s 2022 Player Development Camp in July.
Fans will also get their first looks at 2022 draft pick Lucas Edmonds, who recently signed a three-year, two-way contract with the team. The third-round pick played in Sweden from 2016-21, as his dad Randy coached over 1000 games in that country and his own overseas playing days were over. He played with Kingston in the OHL in the 2021-22 season, where his 79 assists led the league. Despite the amount of time spent overseas, the native of North Bay, Canada, often vacations in Siesta Key, Fl. He is expected to start the season in Syracuse.
Jack Thompson, fresh off winning a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship, is scheduled to participate. In that tournament, he scored one goal and added three assists for four points with a plus-10 rating while also winning a player of the game honor. The 19-year-old skated in 115 career OHL games over two seasons with the Sudbury Wolves and Soo Greyhounds, recording19 goals and 48 points to go along with 38 penalty minutes. He also appeared in one game with the Syracuse Crunch last season, making his pro debut on May 15 and notching an assist. The Courtice, Ontario native was originally drafted by the Lightning in the third round, 93rd overall, at the 2020 NHL Draft.
Nick Perbix is another prospect who has a chance to see some minutes with the Lightning in 2022-23. During July’s development camp, he showed the team that he had improved his skating while demonstrating leadership skills during the camp’s 3-on-3 tournament. After finishing his college career at St. Cloud State, he was selected to play for Team USA in the Winter Olympics. After that finished, the former sixth-round draft pick played 12 regular-season games and five in the postseason for Syracuse, contributing two goals and seven assists. The 24-year-old is slated to start the season in Syracuse but should be on the shortlist to help with the team’s blue line depth if needed in the coming season.
In July, Jack Lafontaine signed an AHL contract with Syracuse and will be one of the goaltenders in the Prospect Showcase. The 24-year-old had an interesting 2021-22 season, starting with playing in net for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, posting a 2.69 GAA and .900 SV% until leaving in the middle of the season to sign with the Carolina Hurricanes; they needed goaltending help because backup Antti Raanta and two prospects were injured.
Just five days after signing his NHL contract, Lafontaine saw some mop-up duty in relief of Frederik Andersen, allowing two goals on three shots in that contest. In his only start, he made 38 saves in a loss to the New Jersey Devils. He spent the rest of the season with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL and the Norfolk Admirals of the ECHL.
Hugo Alnefelt was very busy last season, playing in Orlando for two games before getting called up to Syracuse. He appeared in 23 games with the Crunch, going 10-7-4 with a 3.14 GAA and an .882 save percentage. He even appeared in one game for the Lightning on Dec. 30, backing up Maxime Lagace while Andrei Vasilevskiy and Brian Elliott were in NHL COVID-19 protocol. He entered in the third period and made seven saves on 10 shots in a 9-3 loss at the Panthers. Many consider the 21-year-old to be the Lightning’s top prospect.
The Lightning prospects play on Sept. 16, 18, and 19, with all the games starting at 1 p.m. EST, which will be live streamed on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s website. With several of the organization’s top prospects playing, the NHL Prospect Showcase provides an intriguing glimpse of those who someday may call Tampa Bay home.
Jim Bay writes about the Tampa Bay Lightning for THW. A retired Special Education Teacher, Jim enjoys writing about hockey and all sports when he is not slashing his way around local golf courses. For interview requests or to provide content info, follow Jim on Twitter. (https://twitter.com/baysports007)