The Tampa Bay Lightning have yet another big showing at the World Juniors. This year, the Lightning are represented by five talented prospects. Four of them play for Canada (Cal Foote, Taylor Raddysh, Boris Katchouk, and Brett Howden), more than any NHL team. Meanwhile, defenseman Libor Hajek was selected to play for his home country the Czech Republic.
The Lightning are known for their quality drafting over the last several years. Most of their good picks have ended up playing at the World Juniors. The five players representing the top team in the NHL have performed extremely well and are worth talking about. With the Lightning’s success this season, it’s nice to know that the team has a bright future.
Cal Foote Uses His Hand to Rescue Canada
Those following the World Juniors have likely seen Foote’s spectacular glove save from opening day. The Lightning’s first-round pick from 2017 made himself noticeable in this tournament from the start – besides his colossal 6-foot-4, 214-pound frame. In Canada’s opening game against Finland, Foote made an incredible effort to sweep the puck off the Canadian goal line, allowing his team to hold on for the 4-2 victory.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) December 26, 2017
Foote described the save to THW’s Nathaniel Oliver in a recent interview: “It was so quick, that I think it was more instinctual.” It’s safe to say the son of longtime Colorado Avalanche Adam Foote has pretty good instincts. The Lightning prospect is playing well despite being part of a deep Canadian defense and in a bottom pairing role. Foote has three assists in five games at the World Juniors. The defenseman’s steady play throughout the tournament has given Lightning fans something to be excited about for the future.
Trio of Lightning Forwards Producing for Canada
The Lightning’s trio of Canadian forwards featuring Raddysh, Katchouk, and Howden have been some of Canada’s most productive players throughout the tournament. Each of the three forwards were drafted by the Lightning in 2016. Drafted 27th overall, Howden is tied for second Team Canada scoring with three goals and six points. Katchouk and Raddysh were both second-round picks. Both have two goals and five points in the tournament.
Currently the highest scoring team in the league, the Lightning are already filled with gifted offensive players led by Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Brayden Point. Seeing that the organization still has guys like Raddysh, Katchouk, and Howden coming up the pipeline is something that other teams should be worried about.
Raddysh and Katchouk have played on the same line for most of the tournament and they seem to have developed good chemistry. Lightning fans will hope that someday both players can replicate their success at the NHL level. While Howden isn’t in a top-six role for Canada, he’s been very reliable. The Manitoba native has been key in special teams and is capable of making smart plays at the right time. The Lightning will be in good hands once these players reach the NHL.
Libor Hajek a Leader for the Czech Republic
The Lightning dealt defenseman Anthony DeAngelo to the Arizona Coyotes at the 2016 draft in exchange for the Coyotes’ 37th overall pick, which was used to pick Hajek. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound defenseman is having an outstanding tournament. Hajek leads all defensemen in scoring with one goal and six assists. When the Lightning drafted him, there was much to be excited about. The Czech defenseman is a big body with great offensive skill and has put himself in the spotlight with his play at the World Juniors. Hajek is also very physical and racks up a lot of penalty minutes in the WHL.
Though there are high hopes for Hajek, his performance during the tournament is among the biggest surprises. Having been cut from the team two years in a row, the Saskatoon Blades defenseman has helped lead his country to a semi-final meeting with Canada. Hajek is also putting up great numbers for the Blades with 24 points in 32 games this season. It seems like the Czech defenseman is another exciting prospect in the Lightning’s system. Bolts fans will get to see all five of the team’s representatives in Thursday’s semi-final tilt between Canada and the Czech Republic.
Tampa Bay Lightning Contributor for The Hockey Writers and Writer for TheSportster.