The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed 2006 first-round draft choice Riku Helenius and 2005 third-round pick Chris Lawrence to three-year rookie contracts, Executive Vice President and General Manager Jay Feaster announced.
Helenius, a 6-foot-3, 202-pound native of Palkane, Finland, missed the majority of the 2006-07 season for Ilves Tampere of the Finnish SM-Liiga after suffering a shoulder injury. Helenius recorded a 2.68 goal-against average and a .919 save percentage in 26 games with Ilves Tampere Junior during the 2005-06 season. He was the top-rated Finnish goaltender in the draft by NHL Central Scouting and was ranked as the top European goaltender in the draft by the Hockey News when the Lightning selected him in the first round, 15th overall, at the 2006 NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver.
“Riku really lost an entire season of development due to injury last year,” Feaster said. “We are anxious, nonetheless, to get him signed and have him continue with his career as we still believe he is incredibly talented and will one day be a top prospect for our organization.”
Lawrence, 6-foot-4 and 212-pounds, is coming off his best season as a junior in 2006-07 when he tied for fourth in the Ontario Hockey League in goals with 47 and was tied for 20th in the league in points with 88 while playing for the Mississauga IceDogs. He was first on the team in goals and second in points. The Toronto, Ontario native also led the IceDogs in power-play goals with 15 and was second with six game-winning goals. Lawrence also played in five post-season games and scored three goals while adding one assist.
“If Chris Lawrence ever figures it out and consistently, shift-to-shift, plays the way he is capable of playing, he will be a dominant power forward in the NHL one day,” Feaster said. “The only thing holding Chris back from achieving greatness in professional hockey will be Chris Lawrence and the issue of how badly he wants to be a special player. Talent, size, skill, skating ... Chris has it all. However, he needs to commit himself to bringing the complete package shift after shift, night after night, game after game, in order to really succeed in the NHL. We look forward to him taking the first step on that journey this year as he begins his professional career.”
A veteran of 261 OHL games, Lawrence finished his four-year junior career with Mississauga after spending his first two-and-a-half seasons with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. During his OHL career he amassed 88 goals and 205 points. He played in a total of 12 playoff games and scored six goals with 10 points. Lawrence skated for Team Canada at the 2005 World U-18 Championships and also was selected for the 2005 CHL Top Prospects Game.
Tampa Bay selected Lawrence, 20, in the third round, 89th overall, at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. The pick was acquired, along with the 102nd pick, from Philadelphia in exchange for a second round choice in 2006. Entering the draft Lawrence was the 38th-ranked North American prospect according to central scouting.
Helenius played in six games at the 2006 World U-18 Championships and posted 4-1-1 record with a 1.83 goals-against average, a .942 save percentage and one shutout. He was awarded the Directorate Award at the tournament as the top goaltender and had a 34-save shutout against Team Canada.
Helenius began his career with Ilves Jr. in the 2002-03 season. He made his debut in Finland’s top professional league in 2005-06, appearing in five games for Ilves Tampere.