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Koekkoek says injury troubles are behind him

by Peter Pupello / Tampa Bay Lightning

After missing all but 26 games last season due to a torn labrum in his left shoulder, Slater Koekkoek believes his past injury history is, well, just that.

Koekkoek, selected with the Lightning's 10th overall pick during the 2012 NHL Entry Draft's first round on Friday night in Pittsburgh, stated his performance at this summer's NHL Combine served as a good indicator for both himself and the Lightning that there are nothing but bright days ahead for the 6-foot-2, 183-pound defenseman.

"It's 100 percent," Koekkoek said. "I really used the combine to show that my shoulder is good."

Heading into the 2011-12 season, Koekkoek was said to possess as much raw skill and ability as any other 2012 NHL Draft-eligible defenseman. He posted seven goals and 23 points in 65 games in his first full season at the Canadian major junior level in 2010-11, and still managed to register five goals and 18 points before the injury to his shoulder curtailed his most recent campaign in the Ontario Hockey League.

Furthermore, had he not joined the ranks of the injured this past season, it is perceived his final ranking from NHL Central Scouting would have been higher than where he landed at No. 23.

"We're pretty sure of that," Lightning director of amateur scouting Al Murray said.

Koekkoek underwent shoulder surgery in January and began rehabilitation shortly afterwards. Amidst what he believed to be a solid showing at the NHL Scouting Combine, he met with several NHL clubs, participated in fitness tests and placed high in several categories.

The results should bode well for the Lightning, which think Koekkoek has the potential, as Murray put it, to be "a very good puck mover and a terrific one-on-one player defensively."

The expectations are just as high for those Koekkoek has set for himself. In fact, he is anxious to put his past behind him as he looks forward to embarking on the path towards the NHL.

"It was all a learning experience that taught me how to deal with a substantial injury, to really work hard, and to get back to where I was," he said. "It was a big adversity thing, but I just want to put it in the back of my memory."

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