There was a brief moment on Tuesday when goaltender Andrey Vasilevskiy made general manager Steve Yzerman look like a genius.
He made a quick save with his right pad to deny a fellow prospect from close range, one that would only turn out to be the first in a series of many, that eventually led the attending crowd at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon to complement the display with a round of applause.
The exhibit not only appeared to bode well for the 17-year-old Russian netminder himself, but just as much for members of the Lightning brass, who selected Vasilevskiy with the 19th overall pick at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft two weeks ago in Pittsburgh.
“He’s very big and he’s very athletic,” Yzerman said regarding Vasilevskiy. “The trend in the NHL the last few years is that goaltenders have both of those traits, and you see his ability to move in the net, and he has a good style and structure about him. That’s what we like about him.”
What Vasilevskiy showed Tuesday, and again on both Wednesday and Thursday in the still-early stages of camp, is what the Lightning hope to see more of.
He is coming off a terrific year in Russia, where in 27 games with Ufa of the Kontinental Hockey League, he registered a 2.23 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage, so why his English isn’t exactly fluent, it is his game that speaks loudly instead.
Andrei Vasilevskiy works directly with Lightning goaltending consultant Frantz Jean during camp.
But while his statistics are probably considered to be impressive enough, it was a lofty, yet flattering comparison from Yzerman that left no question about just how highly regarded Vasilevskiy is perceived to be by those within the organization.
“He makes great saves with his feet and hands,” Yzerman said. “So I look at a guy like Jonathan Quick in the playoffs this past year as a guy who makes great saves, and he’s kind of re-defining his position, and we think Vasilevskiy is that same type of mold.”
With all that said, it is not his skill or his dedication that is in question, but rather where he will end up playing.
Mississauga of the Ontario Hockey League recently selected the goaltender in the league’s annual import draft, but cannot have him play in North America, where Vasilevskiy himself admitted his game would best benefit, unless he or Mississauga buys out the final two years of his KHL contract.
Vasilevskiy offered no comment regarding his plans for his contract, but instead said he just wants to focus on this week at camp and become a better player with hopes of landing in the NHL someday soon.
“I’m looking to come in here every day and work hard,” he said through fellow Lightning prospect Vladislav Namestnikov, who is also acting as Vasilevskiy’s personal translator throughout the week. “I hope to make it to the NHL as soon as possible.”