NORFOLK – Few players have more to prove in training camp this year than left wing Radek Smolenak. The Lightning’s third-round pick in 2005 scored only one point in 20 games with Springfield last season.
Some of his struggles can be blamed on youth. Smolenak, a native of Prague, won’t be 21 until December. It’s a steep learning curve going from the OHL to the ECHL to the AHL in one season - he split last year between Johnstown of the ECHL and Springfield - but Smolenak appears to be getting it. He had two three-point games and was the third-leading scorer in the Traverse City rookie tournament this month. He followed that up Sunday with two goals in the Admirals Blue-White scrimmage at Chilled Ponds in suburban Chesapeake.
“I wish I could be the guy to put the puck in the net, but I‘m ready to take any role to stay on the team,” Smolenak said.
So far so good. Smolenak survived Sunday’s first round of cuts. Forwards Mike Falk, Torry Gajda, Mark Hurtubise, Mark Rooneem and Lance Monych were assigned to Tampa Bay’s ECHL affiliate in Mississippi.
Centers Dana Tyrell and Daine Todd, wingers Colton Yellow Horn and Colby Pridham and defenseman Dane Crowley were sent back to juniors. Tyrell, this year’s top Lightning draft pick and the youngest player in camp at 18, finished camp with a flourish.
He demonstrated excellent open ice skating ability, twice swooping in on breakaways, and scored a pair of goals in Sunday’s scrimmage.
“With the [minimum] age limit here being 20, my goal was just to leave an impression,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll have a good year in juniors and we’ll see what happens. I think I could play here now.”
Admirals coach Steve Stirling said he was satisfied with the first week, which was heavy on conditioning drills.
“We found out who came in in shape and who didn’t,” he said.
Among the players he was less familiar with, Stirling cited center Justin Taylor, forward Shawn Collymore and goalie Ryan Munce.
The 6-foot-4 Taylor spent the past two seasons with Omaha.
“He was in the middle of everything at both ends,” Stirling said.
Collymore spent most of last year with Reading of the ECHL.
“He didn’t disappoint,” added Stirling.
Munce divided last year between Reading and Johnston of the ECHL.
“I hadn’t seen him before, but he had a good week” Stirling said.
Whether any of those players make the team remains to be seen. The Lightning sent six players to Norfolk on Sunday with more to come.
The Admirals play exhibition games Saturday at Hershey and Sunday at Philadelphia. The regular season begins Oct. 5 at Philadelphia.