Not initially being asked to attend Canada’s National Junior Team’s summer development camp in August wasn’t the result Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Slater Koekkoek had envisioned this summer, but on the other hand it wasn’t all that unexpected.
After suffering season-ending shoulder surgery during the 2011-12 season with the Peterborough Petes, Koekkoek was handed the same fate just two games after being acquired by the Windsor Spitfires last January.
“A lack of playing in the past year or two probably had a big effect on the whole selection process,” Koekkoek said.
Koekkkoek’s disappointment was premature however, as the 10th overall pick in the 2010 draft received a pleasant surprise on Saturday, an invitation to play.
“I was disappointed with the first result of not getting invited, so getting asked to play felt good,” he said.
Koekkoek was a late substitution to the roster, replacing Erie Otters defenseman Adam Pelech, who was recently sidelined. The Mountain, Ontario native has also played twice for Canada’s Under-18 team and once for Ontario’s Under-17 team.
The Lightning selected Koekkoek in the first round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
For Koekkoek it’s a chance for redemption after being sidelined for better parts of half of the previous two seasons. While a lot may be on the line for the 19-year-old blueliner, who said he’d like to prove he was supposed to be there all along, for Koekkoek, it’s just about getting back on the ice and continuing to elevate his status.
“I just want to go out there and play my game,” said Koekkoek. “I want to show that I haven’t missed a beat and I’m the player that I always was.”
This offseason Koekkoek has focused on getting his shoulder back to 100 percent. The camp invite also provided a much-needed boost for the defenseman’s confidence, but Koekkoek doesn’t plan on going overboard leading up to the 2013-14 season.
“Do everything I can to be healthy is all I can really do,” said Koekkoek. “Control what’s in your power and go from there.”
Now the “from there” won’t be as foggy as he heads to Brossard, Quebec for a two-day camp on August 4 and 5, followed by a quick turnaround in Lake Placid, N.Y. where he’ll play three exhibition games verse Finland (August 8), Sweden (August 9) and the U.S. (August 10).
Fellow Spitfires teammate Kerby Rychel will also join Koekkoek for camp and was happy to hear about the late addition.
“Kerby texted me saying ‘see you soon buddy’,” said Koekkoek. “We have a pretty good relationship, so I’m excited to play with him.”
The weekend ahead will jumpstart the Bolts prospect’s focus on 2013-14. It will also give Koekkoek a clearer picture of what’s expected of him, as he attempts to eventually make the leap onto the Lightning roster.