Tampa Bay Lightning prospects took to the ice this afternoon as Wednesday marked the beginning of rookie camp for the Bolts hopefuls.
Rookies will partake in two quick practices today and Thursday, before hopping on a bus en route to Coral Springs, Florida for three games in three days versus the Boston Bruins, Nashville Predators and Florida Panthers rookies September 6-8 at Saveology.com Iceplex.
J.T. Brown, Vladislav Namestnikov and Andrej Sustr were some of the familiar names that were on the ice today, while 2013 draft picks Jonathan Drouin, Adam Erne, Henri Ikonen and Kristers Gudlevskis were also present at camp.
BROWN AND KOEKKOEK LOOK TO REBOUND
Fellow rookie camp invitees looked on as J.T. Brown was first on the docket for local media today.
The right-winger appeared in five games with the Lightning back in the 2011-12 season, but succumbed to a shoulder injury last season, slowing his learning curve process at the professional level.
While Brown says that injuries are just a part of the game, he believes it’s all about how you rebound from that impairment that’s important.
“You’d be really lucky if you went through your entire career without getting injured at one point,” Brown said. “It’s just how you work to get back to 100-percent. I think it’ll be something I need to do here, play well and show myself and hopefully I can get a spot at main camp.”
Fellow camp-goer, Slater Koekkoek, is also battling back from a shoulder injury after being shut down and forced into surgery last season with the Windsor Spitfires.
This summer Koekkoek got right back to work however, even earning a surprise invitation to attend Canada’s junior evaluation camp in August.
“I worked hard, I had Team Canada camp, which was good to be able to get into some action,” said Koekkoek. “It was good to get here and get ready.”
“Proving himself” also means trying to get an invite from the big club to the main Lightning training camp which begins on September 11.
“I’m going to work hard and obviously do what I can to try and make the team,” he said.
CRUNCH COACH CHATS ABOUT CAMP
With such little time to prepare, Syracuse Crunch head coach Rob Zettler explains what he hopes to accomplish, despite just two practice days.
“We try to implement a few things,” he said. “How we implement defensive-zone coverage, what we’re looking for on the forecheck. Just a few system things that we can hopefully instill in them so we’re somewhat organized.”
Zettler would also like to see a handful of players in particular take charge against good teams, players and competition from Boston, Florida and Nashville, but believes each player, regardless of background, has something to show for themselves.
“The Drouin’s and Kucherov’s, we’d like to see those guys, their skills shine through,” he said. “These guys are all out there, whether they were a high draft pick or a tryout. It’s a lot of these guys first time in camp, so they’ll all be looking to prove something.”
ODDS AND ENDS
Camp continues tomorrow morning at 11:00 a.m. at Tampa Bay Times Forum, with rookies heading to the tournament hosted by the Panthers immediately after.
There’ll be no practices during the weekend in Coral Springs.
The Bolts also continued informal practices prior to rookie camp this morning at the Times Forum, but were a slightly smaller bunch as a few of yesterday’s skaters were optioned to a later practice time due to rookie camp.
Val Filppula was one of the Lighting players who skated again today and said things have been going smoothly with his new team thus far and its been a fun and easy environment to come play for.
Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman was at the Times Forum taking in the rookies practice on Wednesday afternoon as well.