Tampa Bay Lightning carrying a small but promising group of collegiate prospects

By Chris Roberts
Photo: Brian Hart is enjoying a solid junior year with Harvard University. (Courtesy of Richard T. Gagnon/Getty Images)

Photo: Brian Hart is enjoying a solid junior year with Harvard University. (Courtesy of Richard T. Gagnon/Getty Images)

 

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s most prominent prospects are either playing junior hockey or have already established themselves as pros in the AHL; yet, the organization still has five prospects in their junior or senior NCAA seasons. Andrey Vasilevskiy is no longer the prospect to watch overseas in the Lightning organization, but a breakthrough year for Nikita Gusev has the skilled Russian winger amongst the Bolts Top 20 Prospects

NCAA

Adam Wilcox, G, University of Minnesota (Big Ten)
Drafted: 6th round, 178th overall, 2011

Overall, it has been a decent season for Minnesota native Adam Wilcox; but, in contrast to his first two NCAA seasons, it has been below standard. The 6’1, 185lb netminder posted sub-2.00 goals against averages in his first two seasons, losing just 14 regulation games combined; this season, however, Wilcox has a record of 20-11-3 to go along with a 2.46 goals against average and .909 save percentage.

He has had his moments, but has been much more inconsistent this season, allowing four goals or more in eight appearances. In the middle of February, Wilcox posted back-to-back wins against a Michigan team that was averaging 4.21 goals per game entering the weekend. He allowed just two goals in those two games and recorded the first shutout against the Wolverines all season. Since the start of March, he has allowed just seven goals in four games and recently picked up his fourth shutout of the season in a win against Penn State, helping his team capture the Big-10 championship.

Brian Hart, RW, Harvard University (ECAC)
Drafted: 2nd round, 53rd overall, 2012

A junior winger in the power forward mold, Brian Hart has equalled his offensive totals from last season; in 33 games with a strong Harvard team, Hart is eighth on the team in scoring, with 16 points in 33 games. He has been used on the team’s second power-play unit, scoring just one goal with the man advantage this season.

The Maine native is good at using his size to create space for others, but has gone through the odd slump offensively this year. In four games from late February to early March, Hart posted four points—but went pointless in the eight games prior. He also had a five-game pointless streak in January. He’s likely to finish his collegiate career before turning pro.

Matthew Peca, C, Quinnipiac University (ECAC)
Drafted: 7th round, 201st overall, 2011

An incredible collegiate career is coming to an end this season for Ontario native Matthew Peca. Undersized when drafted, the skilled pivot has bulked up to 175 lbs in his four years at Quinnipiac, but more importantly, he has been an offensive force. Through 154 career games at the school, Peca has 141 points—including 34 points in 36 games this season. He has 11 power-play goals, three shorthanded goals and 10 game-winners to go along with those career totals.

This season, Peca has just six goals, but a team-leading 28 assists highlights his playmaking ability. He has helped fellow undersized forward Sam Anas reach 23 goals in his sophomore season and has gone more than two games without recording a point just once this season.

James Mullin, LW/RW, University of Miami-Ohio (NCHC)
Drafted: 4th round, 118th overall, 2010

A promising prospect following his freshman season in 2011-12 during which he posted 26 points in 37 games, Jimmy Mullin has been sidelined for the past year with an undisclosed injury suffered midway through last season. Last year, his third in the NCAA, Mullin posted seven points in 19 games before going down with an injury. He was shut down at the start of this season as a medical redshirt with the Red Hawks and will return for his senior season in 2015-16.

Brendan O’Donnell, LW/RW, University of North Dakota (NCHC)
Drafted: 4th round, 118th overall, 2010

O’Donnell, unlike Mullin, has progressed offensively every season. The 6’0, 193lb defensively-responsible winger scored a career-high 13 goals in his senior season; he had scored just 14 combined in the previous three seasons. Playing on a talented UND team, O’Donnell’s 19 points put him ninth on the team in scoring.

The highlight of his season was a game on Jan. 10 against Minnesota-Duluth in which he scored a hat trick. The next game, O’Donnell scored a goal and added two assists. With his collegiate career coming to an end, the Winnipeg native has recorded 53 points in 116 games.

Europe 

Nikita Gusev, LW, Khanty-Mansiysk Yugra (KHL)
Drafted: 7th round, 202nd overall, 2012

Prior to this season, Nikita Gusev was regarded as a skilled winger still struggling to find his way in the top Russian pro league, but much has changed. It isn’t just the insanely impressive KHL All-Star shootout goal Gusev scored that has improved his stock, but rather an impressive, consistent season where he has emerged as a scoring threat, leading his team in both goals (21) and points (37) through 55 games.

Gusev is still under contract in the KHL, so it’s unlikely he will come to North America next season—but he’s certainly worth keeping an eye on.

Saku Salminen, C, HPK Hameenlinna (Liiga)
Drafted: 7th round, 184th overall, 2013

On loan from Jokerit, Saku Saliminen is learning the ropes in Liiga this season with HPK, where he has eight points in 36 regular season games. He was signed to an extension with Jokerit prior to the season, and will likely spend the next season or two honing his skills before a decision is made on whether or not to bring him to North America.

Prospect of the Month – Anthony DeAngelo

Anthony DeAngelo - Tampa Bay LightningSince being acquired by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, no defenseman—or perhaps even player—has been more valuable to his club than Anthony DeAngelo. The Greyhounds have regularly dominated the opposition with DeAngelo in the line-up, and the American rearguard has recorded 51 points in just 26 games with his new team. After failing to record a point in his first outing with Sault Ste. Marie, he found the scoresheet in the following 25 games. In March, DeAngelo scored seven goals and 10 assists in seven games, including a five point effort on Mar 1 against the London Knights. He was a plus-12 over the course of those seven games and finished the season with a plus-32 rating.