Syracuse Crunch defender Luke Witkowski has been known for his physical play. He is not one to shy away from a hit or fight. This past weekend, however, Witkowski showed his hands have a softer touch to them, as he notched his first goal of the season in a 4-1 loss against the Adirondack Flames.
This year, Witkowski has tallied one goal and three points through 18 games. He has 38 PIM so far, including two fighting majors. He is developing his all-around game to become a solid, stay-at-home defender who is not afraid to dish out punishing hits and stand-up for teammates.
The Lightning acquired the 6-foot-2 defenseman in the sixth round, 160th overall, at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. The native of Holland, Michigan, is in his third season of professional hockey with the Syracuse Crunch after completing a four year tour with the University of Western Michigan.
Witkowski skated in 152 games with the Western Michigan Broncos, recording seven goals and 38 points throughout that span. He also recorded 235 PIM during those four years. In his final year with the Broncos (2012-13), he served as the team’s captain.
Following the completion of his collegiate career, Witkowski joined the professional hockey ranks with the Syracuse Crunch. He finished 2012-13 by skating in three games with the Crunch, recording four PIM.
Last season, Witkowski played in 76 games with Syracuse, recording 2 goals and 12 points. He also led the team for PIM with 204. His 37 minor penalties led the league for AHL rookies. He recorded 11 fights throughout the campaign.
Witkowski’s physical play factors in to his upside as a professional hockey player. He is the type of defender who can help set the tone for the game or turn momentum around with a fight. He also makes opposing forwards think twice about going in to the corner with him. This presence will only aid in him making a transition from the AHL to the NHL.