The Lightning have six prospects playing in Europe this season — four forwards, one defenseman, and one goalie. With the exception of Johan Harju, none seem likely to come over soon.
Johan Harju, LW
Acquired: 6th round, 167th overall, 2007
6’3", 205 lbs.
Harju, 23, is a Swede who is playing his first season in the KHL. After five seasons with Lulea in the Swedish Elite League, he signed with Dynamo Moscow. There, Harju has been playing center instead of his normal position on the wing.
After being one of the highest goal scorers in the SEL last season with 27 goals, his production dropped in the KHL, but that’s to be expected in the low-scoring league. He only has 18 points in 55 games in his first complete season in the KHL. He is now in the playoffs, facing Spartak Moscow in the first round. He has a goal in two playoff games. The good news for Harju is that the Lightning have stated that have not been turned off by this season and they desire to bring him over to North America next season.
Martins Karsums, RW
Acquired: Trade with Bruins, March 4, 2009
5’10", 192 lbs.
Karsums had more downs than ups this season. In the positive category, he was named to Team Latvia for the Olympics. However, after being named to the team, he was shipped off to play for his national coach at Dynamo Riga in the KHL in the midst of a very disappointing AHL campaign.
The 23-year-old is one of many Lightning prospects who saw his production from past seasons drop off in Norfolk. He had two straight good seasons in Providence, but then hit a low with only 16 points in 36 games this season. In his trip to Vancouver 2010, Karsums tied for most points on the team with two and was only a -2. In the KHL, he totaled eight points in 12 games. Dynamo Riga has played seven playoff games, and Karsums has two points.
Lauri Tukonen, RW
Acquired: Trade with Dallas, November 30, 2008
6’2", 198 lbs.
The former first-round pick of the Los Angeles Kings has never made an appearance for the Lightning or any of their affiliates. Having spent time in North America previously, the Finn has spent the past two seasons in his native land. Tukonen may stay in Finland for a while longer as he was not even close to making the big club coming out of training camp.
The 23-year-old has played for Lukko for part of last season and this entire one. In 54 games, Tukonen has 10 goals and 29 points with the regular season coming to a close.
Riku Helenius, G
Acquired: 1st round, 15th overall, 2006
6’3", 203 lbs.
Helenius, 21, is starting to look more and more like a bust. He does not have the mechanics and possibly the motivation to become a prospect for the team. After bouncing him around the Lightning system, he has been banished to Sweden to play on a team that is close to being relegated in the SEL. Even though Helenius made an appearance on the bench for the Lightning this season, he could not hold onto the backup slot in Norfolk. The Lightning signed Jaroslav Janus from juniors instead.
With the Admirals in the AHL, Helenius was 5-7 with a 2.75 goals against average and a .896 save percentage. With Sodertalje in Sweden, in nine games he had a 2.42 GAA and a .923 save percentage, which is way better than the average. In the playoffs he has played two games, posting even better numbers. He is likely to remain in Europe.
Denis Kazionov, LW
Acquired: 7th round, 198th overall, 2006
6’3", 187 lbs.
Denis is not the Kazionov brother with the most talent. That honor goes to his brother, Dmitri, who is also property of the Lightning. Denis is a checking forward.
Denis, 22, returned back to Russia this year after a season in the Czech Republic. He posted five goals and eight points in 51 games in the KHL. He plays for Automobilist Ekaterinburg, a new team in the league, and the sixth in the RSL or KHL he’s seen time with. He will be one of the players tasked to shut down the top team in the KHL, Salavat Yulaev Ufa, in the first round of the playoffs. He has no points in four playoff games.
Michal Sersen, D
Acquired: Trade with Penguins, October 1, 2008
6’1", 200 lbs.
A former teammate of Sidney Crosby in juniors, Sersen has not been able to take the next step and play professionally in North America. A trade to the Lightning from the Penguins has not even helped the 24-year-old make a foothold over here. After putting up big numbers for Quebec of the QMJHL, Sersen has spent the past four seasons in Slovakia.
This season with HC Slovan Bratislava, Sersen had 11 points in 41 games with a +28. It was not one of his best seasons. In the playoffs he’s doing well, with three points in two games.