A sigh of relief was heard today rom Tampa, Florida, to Peterborough, Ontario.
Slater Koekkoek, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s top pick (10th overall) in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft, left last night’s Peterborough-Oshawa Ontario Hockey League (juniors) preseason game in the second period with an upper body injury. Koekkoek, a star defenseman for Peterborough, sustained a hit from Columbus prospect Boone Jenner and smacked his left shoulder into the boards. It was the same shoulder Koekkoek had surgically repaired last fall and caused him to miss the remainder of the regular season and playoffs.
Thursday was Koekkoek’s first game action since sustaining the injury last November.
Steve Yzerman, Tampa Bay’s general manager, took a risk and drafted Koekkoek based on Koekkoek’s impressive upside and the player being cleared by doctors before the draft. Today Yzerman called the Petes, his former junior club, to check up on his prized prospect.
As Yzerman was told, and both the Peterborough Examiner  and Tampa Bay Times  reported this afternoon, although Koekkoek left the game and was hospitalized for further evaluation, he only sustained a deep bone bruise. He is expected to miss “a couple of weeks.”
Two weeks is certainly better than two seasons, which may have been the result had Koekkoek severely re-injured his left shoulder.
“It’s not a serious thing, so I’m happy about that,” Koekkoek told the Tampa Bay Times . “Obviously, it’s tough. I worked so hard to get it back. But this isn’t affecting (the surgical repair) at all.”
“Sometimes you’ve got to get used to getting banged around and get that strength back,” Yzerman told the Times. “He’ll be alright in the long run.”
Koekkoek was named captain of the Petes earlier this week – an honor the NHL Hall-of-Famer Yzerman was never presented in his time with Peterborough. Koekkoek is expected to lead the club on and off the ice as a two-way defenseman with top-pair NHL upside – as long as he stays healthy.
Koekkoek is ranked as the Lightning’s No. 2 prospect by BoltProspects.com .