Bolt Prospect of the Week: 2-19-13

Nikita Kucherov of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies is the Bolt Prospect of the Week for the fourth time this season, but this may have been his most impressive week of the year.

Kucherov, a 2011 second round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning, had 12 points in three games last week, including two five-point games. He has three five-point games this season.

On Wednesday, the Russian winger had a goal and four assists in a loss to Victoriaville. After a one goal, one assist game against Drummondville on Friday, he had another five-point night with two goals and three assists in a pivotal division match-up against fellow Lightning prospect Cedric Paquette and Blainville-Boisbriand.

His efforts landed him the QMJHL’s Most Outstanding Player/First Star of the week.

Kucherov has 44 points (16 goals) in 22 games this season for an astounding two points-per-game average. Jonathan Drouin of Halifax, who may go first overall in this summer’s draft, is the only other QMJHLer at a two points-per-game average.

Kucherov, ranked the Lightning’s No. 9 prospect by, is working on a 12-game point streak, which started two games after he had an eight game point streak to start the season – his first in North America. Those two games in between the streaks are the only two games this year when the forward failed to record a point. He has 30 points in his latest streak.

He projects as a top-6 scoring winger at the NHL level with all-star potential. Kucherov is already under contract with the Lightning, and could join the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch this year when Rouyn-Noranda’s season is over. At the least, he will be in Lightning camp next fall and likely with the Crunch to start the 2013-2014 season.

Kucherov, who is on the verge of being an elite prospect, must first get used to the professional game and add strength to his 5-11 frame. He has the skill, mind-set, and character to succeed, but he must round out his all-around game if he is to be trusted at the NHL level. Perhaps he can join Steven Stamkos and Brett Connolly in Gary Roberts’ gym next summer.

Honorable Mention: Riku Helenius, the AHL Goaltender of the Week, had a remarkable week with two shutouts and one goal against in three games for AHL Syracuse. Alas, two five-point games is more rare than two shutouts, so Kucherov gets the nod. Also, congratulations to Richard Panik, who made his NHL debut with Tampa Bay last week.