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Lightning Prospect Already Making an Impact at World Juniors

by Peter Pupello / Tampa Bay Lightning

While several Lightning players patiently wait for the final verdict on whether or not their names will appear on an Olympic roster this February in Vancouver, one Bolt to-be is already gaining attention north of the border.

Lightning prospect Richard Panik, who was drafted by the team with the 52nd overall pick in this past summer’s NHL Entry Draft, is among tournament leaders in the 2010 International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Junior U20 Championships which began on Dec. 26 in Saskatchewan.

Entering play on December 28, the 18-year-old winger was tied for first place with Canada’s Gabriel Bourque for the tournament lead in goals with three and also held a share of third place among total point leaders with five.

Coming off a stellar performance on Sunday in which the Slovakian native scored two goals as part of a five-goal period that gave the Slovaks an 8-3 win over Latvia, Panik has pushed the Slovakian national team to the top of Group A along with the United States and Canada and in a position to advance to the tournament’s next round.

Panik put the Slovaks (1-1) up 2-0 with a pair of goals just 3:44 into the game, sparking momentum that would carry his team throughout the remainder of the contest. He later added an assist on Marek Viedensky's goal at 5:31 of the period before Slovakia tallied an additional two to go into the intermission up 5-0.

Perhaps this doesn’t come as a surprise to many.

Entering the tournament, Yahoo! Sports’ Puck Daddy blog headlined Panik as one of the top-ten story lines going into play, noting that Panik, along with Viedensky and Tomas Tatar, make up Slovakia’s first line of snipers who are likely to net two goals apiece per contest.

“If they don’t score two goals a game between them, they probably won’t win,” the blog stated.

At least in Panik’s case, Slovakia is one-third of the way to winning a gold medal.

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