Lightning Prospect Workouts: Day One
The first thing that struck me this morning, looking at the Lightning prospects who took the ice in Brandon, was the shear size of the group. The ten skaters, who took the ice under the watchful eye of Lightning goalie coach Jeff Reese, had an average height of nearly six-foot-four, with an average weight of approximately 209 pounds. Clearly the doctrine “bigger is better” has carried the day for the Lightning’s scouts, and was prominently displayed as Nikita Alexeev led the (even) younger Lightning hands in warm-ups and stretches.
I walked away today very enamored with 2002 draft pick Gerard Dicaire, who was a former 2nd round pick of the Buffalo Sabres (2000), whom the Lightning were quick to pluck in the 5th round as a draft re-entry. Dicaire seemed the most professional of all the Lightning skaters, displaying a high degree of precision in both the shooting and passing aspects of today’s drills. On sight, it’s probably safe to say he should gain 10 to 15 pounds of bulk. However, because so much of Dicaire’s game looks so polished with little wasted motion, and because of the lack of left-handed offensive defensemen in the system, chances are he will push through the ranks more quickly than the average prospect.
I’ve been somewhat critical of Brian Eklund in the past, but I thought he was probably the most impressive of the three goalies today, including 30-year-old veteran Kevin Hodson. Eklund showed decent quickness for a man who is six-foot-five, and stayed square to the shooters at all times, leaving little twine to pick at.
The reports of Adam Henrich‘s “lumbering” skating problems are greatly exaggerated. I look forward to what could be a stellar season by the Toronto native with the Brampton Battalion later this year.
If Medicine Hat’s Darren Reid doesn’t stop staring at the puck whenever he handles or shoots it — it’s a sure bet his head will be cleaved from his shoulders in the rough and tumble, ultra physical WHL. Reid’s character is undeniable, and he does have more “wiggle” in his game than the average late 7th round selection, however, if he doesn’t correct this cardinal hitch in his game he could find himself in a hospital near you. To compound matters, he treated me to something new in my years of watching the game by breaking his stick while skating laps.
Evgeny Konstantinov looked very sloppy in the first half of the hour-long practice. This was especially evident in drills where Jeff Reese wanted “Georgie” to handle the puck, which is a trademark of Reese’s coaching. For a player who is about to be inserted into a starting role with the Springfield Falcons, I expected more crispness from Konstantinov this morning.
Heralded 2001 1st round pick Alex Svitov did little to distinguish himself in the first day of practice. Hopefully the Omsk native will begin to shake off some rust and have a better showing as the week goes on.
Unsigned invitee enforcer Jeff Ewasko will attend the week-long workouts. The six-foot-seven, 234 pound 25-year-old native of Sherwood Park, Alberta spent last season with the Long Beach Ice Dogs of the WCHL. The mammoth winger compiled eight goals, 32 points, and 259 penalty minutes last year for the Dogs and is a product of the University of Alberta.
Veteran goaltender Kevin Hodson, who is the favorite to win the Lightning’s backup spot behind Nikolai Khabibulin, set a good example for the rest of the team on day one. First to take the ice and last to leave it, Hodson held a 20 minute informal mentoring session in his crease with prospect wingers Aaron Lobb, Darren Reid, and Adam Henrich at the end of the practice. Hodson spent last season as an assistant with the Sault Greyhounds of the OHL and has 215 games of professional experience between the IHL, AHL, and NHL.
Arthur Femenella, J.F. Soucy and Paul Ranger also participated in the day’s activities.
Check back with Hockey’s Future throughout the week for daily updates from the workouts.