Each week ESPN Florida highlights three prospects in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization making an impact for their team.
This week’s three stars go to:
Nikita Kucherov, Forward, Russian Junior Team and CSKA Jr. (MHL – Russia)
Kucherov, the Lightning’s second round pick in 2011, has been on fire for CSKA in the Russian junior leagues after being demoted from the Kontinental Hockey League last month. The skilled sniper had 13 goals and 20 points in 14 games for CSKA’s junior club before he was selected to join Russia’s squad for the 2011 Subway Superseries. This series matches Russian junior selects against all-star teams from the three Canadian major junior leagues.
This was a test for Kucherov as the CHL leagues are regarded as tougher and more development friendly than Russian juniors. Kucherov could light the lamp at will against wide-open competition in Russian juniors, but could he do the same against North America’s best?
Kucherov had seven points (four goals) in the six-game series against the Quebec, Ontario, and Western leagues, including a two-goal, three-point effort in the series’ final game against the WHL. Russia’s 7-5 win last Thursday enabled them to split the series, 3-3. Kucherov was also a ridiculous plus-5 in that final game. He had three goals in the series’ final three games.
For this performance, he’s our first star of the week. Kucherov is back in Russia now, set to resume his season with CSKA’s junior club. He’s expected to be a strong contributor for Russia’s U-20 representation in the World Junior Championships after Christmas.
Adam Wilcox, Goalie, Green Bay Gamblers (USHL – USA)
Wilcox, taken in the sixth round of the draft last summer, stopped 19 of 19 shots against Muskegon for his second shutout of the year Saturday night. He hasn’t given up a goal in three of his last four starts, with two of those being shutouts. In the other game he was pulled after 46 minutes with the Gamblers up big and the team wanting to give the club’s No.3 goalie some playing time. Wilcox has won his last four starts.
The big news for Wilcox is he’s now the No.1 goalie for Tri-City after Green Bay traded him Monday for a first round draft pick. Wilcox had been Green Bay’s No.2 goaltender behind USHL All-Star Ryan McKay. The elder McKay was expected to be playing for Miami (Ohio) this season but the Redhawks surprisingly had their starting goaltender decline to turn pro. The trickle-down effect meant McKay waits another year to enroll at Miamia and Wilcox gets regulated to water bottle duty.
He’ll get his chance as “the guy” for the Tri-City Storm before he joins the University of Minnesota next season.
Pat Nagle, Goalie, Florida Everblades (ECHL – USA)
Nagle, a free agent signing by the Lightning last spring out of Ferris State University, has had a sub-par year so far for ECHL Florida. He started in a tandem situation with Carolina prospect John Muse, but after some less-than-stellar play from Nagle and outstanding play from Muse, he hasn’t seen the ice much lately.
That all changed last weekend as a struggling Muse was pulled Friday night and Nagle stepped in to stop 23 of 24 shots against Wheeling. The next night Nagle got the start and stopped all 27 shots he faced for his first professional shutout.
He had three shutouts last year as a senior with the Bulldogs. Nagle stopped 50 of 51 shots last weekend, lowering his goals against average by a half-a-goal and getting our third star award.
Tyler Johnson, Center, Norfolk Admirals (AHL – USA)
Johnson, a free agent signing out of Spokane in the WHL last year, had two goals and an assist Friday in St. John’s, Newfoundland, to improve to 12 points on the year. He currently stands fifth on the point table (6-6-12) for the Admirals and is fourth in goals.
For more Lightning prospect information and daily updates, see ESPN Florida partner Bolt Prospects at www.boltprospects.com.