With a plethora of Tampa Bay Lightning players already in the making, inviting prospects Tanner Richard and Nikita Kucherov to train in Montreal this summer was another step in fostering success in the Bolts system.
“We want our players training with us as much as possible, especially the younger guys,” said strength and conditioning coach Mark Lambert. “A lot of Northern teams have their players training with them all year round.”
After talks between Lambert and Lightning vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman, the two thought it would be a great time to implement a summer routine for players, and Richard and Kucherov took advantage.
Montreal became the perfect location for the duo’s offseason training, as the summer months are much more bearable and even give them the opportunity to practice outside at times.
“It’s not easy bringing everybody to Tampa because of the temperature; it’s very humid, very hot,” said Lambert, who’s also a native of Montreal. “It’s much cooler here in the summer time.”
Lambert then provided the two with a simple training schedule that includes two-a-days on Mondays and Thursdays, workouts once a day on Tuesdays and Fridays and on-ice sessions and power-skating lessons in between.
During each session, Lambert also gets the added bonus of working with Richard and Kucherov on an individual basis.
Fans had a chance to see prospect Nikita Kucherov in action at last month's Lightning prospect camp in Brandon, Florida.
“Every player’s different,” he said. “Some players need muscle mass. For example, Kucherov has a smaller frame, but he’s already at 180-pounds, so he just needs more strength. We try to tailor each program to each player depending on their needs.”
There’s yet another benefit too, spending time with NHL-experienced players and Lightning teammates.
“In Montreal we have Alex Killorn, Mark Barberio and we have a lot of players in the general area,” said Lambert. “To have our prospects come in and see what it’s like to train with Alex and Mark was a great opportunity for them.”
According to Lambert, Killorn and Barberio’s presence act as somewhat of a wake-up call for some players.
“Working alongside guys like Alex and Mark, who work very hard, gets these younger guys to work hard and it’s often the case that work ethic is the issue,” he said. “It sure gives them an edge in terms of knowing the work ethic that’s needed.”
While building a relationship with Richard and Kucherov might seem one-sided, their summer abroad tells the Lightning about the prospects’ commitment to the Tampa Bay organization and their careers.
Kucherov was one of just 11 Russian-born players to appear in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) last season, while Richard was the lone Swiss to play in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
Playing in Canada and now spending their offseason up north further solidifies their dedication to improving their North American-style of play and want to break into the professional ranks.
The Lightning’s approach has proved successful thus far and Lambert said the two adjusted well to life in Montreal. It also shows that building rapport between coaches and players is as important a factor as the workout routine itself.