The Tampa Bay Lightning rookie tournament that was originally scheduled to be held in Estero, Florida at the home of the Florida Everblades was cancelled due to concerns with Hurricane Irma. The arena was converted to a hurricane shelter. The Lightning scheduled a three-game mini-tournament with the Nashville Predators in Antioch, Tennessee at the Ford Ice Center.
Our Tampa Bay Lightning Writer Brayden Olofson was able to follow some of the games and provided this feedback.
Game #1 Final Score: Nashville – 4, Tampa Bay – 2
Christopher Paquette and Oleg Sosunov got burnt on Nashville’s opening goal. Sosunov got stuck flat-footed watching the play approach him, and Paquette failed to commit his full speed to defending the wiry 5-6 Tyler Kelleher.
Mikhail Sergachev netted Tampa’s first goal to even the score at 1-1, wiring a quick slap shot into an empty Nashville Predators cage. Mathieu Joseph started the play by rushing the net from the corner and pulling the Nashville netminder out of position, allowing Sergachev the opportunity for a clear shot on net.
Alexei Lipanov jumped on a puck in a scrappy net-front battle in the second period to net Tampa’s second goal, giving them a 2-1 lead. He had the help of fellow 2017 draftee, Alexander Volkov in creating the opportunity in the blue paint.
The Pred’s returned the favor when Alex Volkov lost a race to a moving puck on the outside hash marks. Nashville’s Alexandre Carrier regained the zone and shoveled the puck towards Connor Ingram from a sharp angle. After some poking at the corner the puck leaked through, tying the game at 2-2.
Sergachev seemed to struggle guarding the front of the Lightning net, but ultimately it was Eric Cernak who made the costly turnover in the Lightning defensive corner that lead to the Predator game winning goal by Emil Pettersson.
Game #2 Final Score: Tampa Bay – 6, Nashville – 1
As in game #1, Alex Volkov’s speed was on display, earning an early breakaway that he failed to bury past Predators netminder Matt O’Connor
Anthony Cirelli had a stand-out play that lead to the Lightning opening goal. His edgework and vision were on display as he faked-out the Predator defender along the boards and then found Erik Cernak in the slot. Cernak got a quick shot off, and Cirelli was there quickly to help Mathieu Joseph poke in the rebound.
Callan Foote failed to close the gap on a slow moving Christian Hilbrich who gained the Lightning zone effortlessly. HIlbrich left a drop pass for a teammate, and eventually positioning himself in front of the net to shovel the puck in from a scramble.
Boris Katchouk connected with invitee, Kevin Hancock of the Owen Sound Attack who was able to stretch out for another Lightning goal.
Connor Ingram looked better for the Lightning in his second start, but appears to be having trouble quickly tracking rebounds. Once he is able to locate the puck, he is efficient in freezing the puck and saving his team in a scramble situation.
Taylor Raddysh was quick to hop on a loose puck in the slot after what seemed like a set play by the line of Raddysh and Dennis Yan, centered by Brett Howden. Raddysh’s shot slipped through the five-hole putting the Lightning up by three.
Alexei Lipanov teed up a one-timer off of the feed from Mikhail Sergachev to put the Lightning up by four. Lipanov’s shot was on target, as he fed it about ten inches off the ice on the short side of O’Connor who was unable to make a strong enough push to cover the entire net.
The same skilled line of Raddysh, Yan, and Howden linked up for another goal, this time on the rush, with each of the three linemates getting equally valuable touches leading up to the goal. Yan gained the zone with speed, and left the puck for the trailing Raddysh. Raddysh slowed at the hash marks, and lifted his head to find Howden as he entered the zone, Howden made a slight hesitation, seemingly waiting for a screen before firing the puck past O’Connor.
Boris Katchouk made a last-ditch solo-effort to put the cap on things for the Lightning. Sprinting up the left-wing, Katchouk made clowns of the two Predator defenders as he circled his way to the crease and stuffed the puck into the wickets of O’Connor, who in the case of this goal, forfeits much of the blame to his defenders.
– Game #3 will be held on Tuesday
– Overall, the following points can be made through the first two games of the mini-tournament:
The best looking Lightning prospects though the first two games have been: Anthony Cirelli, whos shown a proven skating ability and effort in tight areas that have led to an improved offense for the Lightning; Alexei Lipanov who’s demonstrated an elite shot and edgy side, showing that he isn’t afraid to back off when challenged by much bigger defenders; and Taylor Raddysh (not to take away from the rest of his line) who above all things has shown that despite the knocks on his skating ability, the talented forward has the ability to process, and anticipate the play well enough that his weaknesses have been overcome.
Some of the not-so-good looking Lightning prospects have been Eric Cernak and Oleg Sosunov, both of whom have made costly turnovers, and ended up on the wrong side of their assignments. Neither had extremely high expectations coming into the prospect tournament; however Cernak will fully be expecting to play with the Crunch this season, and thus far has not had an outstanding audition. Both Sosunov and Cernak may have acknowledges their shortcomings, and attempted to make up for it by dropping the gloves with Christian Hilbrich and Mathieu Olivier, respectively.
The former Ottawa Senator prospect, Matt O’Connor had a miserable showing in his second opportunity. In some cases it was a poor defensive effort, however in many cases, O’Connor seemed to move slowly, and leave obvious holes for his opponents to target. His rebound control was extremely poor. The one scenario where he did excel was in shoot-out and breakaway situations. If there was ever the chance of the NHL moving to a shootout specialist goalie, that may be O’Connors calling.
The 2013 sixth-round-pick, Emil Pettersson, impressed for the Predators. He was creative in the offensive zone and made few mistakes doing so.
Tyler Kelleher also had a good showing, and despite his miniature frame showed that he is unafraid of backing down in a corner, and certainly has the speed and skill to maneuver the open ice.
Follow Brayden on Twitter: @olaf1393