Bolts Bits – Tampa Bay Prospect Update

By Megan Sexton

Next up: Dieter Kochan

With the departure of netminder Dan Cloutier yesterday (sent to Vancouver for Adrian Aucoin and a 2nd round pick in 2001), Dieter Kochan may finally get his shot at the big time.

Kochan has spent his career bouncing around various leagues, but has never managed to get a big break. Now, at age 26, he may finally have the opportunity to solidify himself as an NHL goaltender.

There was an air of disbelief in late March last season when it was announced that the virtually unknown goaltender from the UHL would start in goal for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Just one day after being signed by the club, Kochan was left seeing stars, literally. He was pulled 15 minutes into the 1st period, after being shelled by the Stanley Cup Champion Dallas Stars and allowing 3 goals on 6 shots. Kochan was replaced by Cloutier 7 minutes into the 1st period, but re-entered the game at 2:00 of the second when Cloutier went down with a knee injury. He performed well in the second half of the game, only allowing one additional goal.

One week later, Kochan came back to redeem himself. He replaced Zac Bierk, and stopped 30 of 31 shots to help the Bolts to a 5-4 win over Boston.

So far this season, Kochan has appeared in 7 games with the Lightning, including two spectacular performances against the Colorado Avalanche. His 2.08 GAA and .933 save percentage is one of the best in the league.

Tampa Bay General Manager Rick Dudley told the Tampa Tribune after the Cloutier trade, “We’re going to give Dieter Kochan a shot behind Weekes and if he proves he can do the job, we’re way ahead of the game.”

The Showcase Begins…

So far this season 11 Lightning prospects have seen NHL ice, and expect more to come. Since the playoffs are obviously out of reach, Tampa Bay is ready to get a good look at the talent floating around in the system. Thomas Ziegler is the most recent to join the list, having been recalled earlier this week. He appeared in his first NHL game on February 6th, versus the Minnesota Wild. Rookies Martin Cibak and Dimitri Afanasenkov will most likely wear the black and blue before all is said and done. Both were recently named to the Hockey News’ IHL All-Rookie team.

Almost There…

First round draft pick Nikita Alexeev is just 2 points away from reaching the 150-career (CHL) point mark. Alexeev had a big weekend at the end of last month, registering a goal and 3 assists in Erie’s 7-3 win over Sarnia. He came back a night later and netted 2 goals, to help the Otters down Guelph 4-0. He was named 3rd star of the game in Erie’s win over Owen Sound on the 2nd and had another goal on the 4th. At present he is ranked 6rd on the team in scoring with 23 goals and 37 assists.

 Around the CHL

Fedor Fedorov’s production has slowed recently, but he is still ranked 2nd in scoring for the Wolves. He has 58 points in 48 games while with Sudbury this season. A huge improvement over the 17 total points while with Windsor last season.

Defenseman Aaron Gionet currently has 3 goals and 179 penalty minutes in 51 games with the Kamloops Blazers. He is 3rd on the team with 12 fighting majors.

Fellow tough-guy Brett Scheffelmeier (Medicine Hat) has been a little more productive, with 1 goal and 8 assists in 43 games. He is tied for second on the team in fighting majors (14), and leads the team in penalty minutes.

 Tampa Bay Lightning

In a desperate attempt to improve the struggling team, GM Rick Dudley has made a series of movement over the past week. Center Wayne Primeau was sent to Pittsburgh in exchange for Matthew Barnaby, veteran defenseman Grant Ledyard was signed and now Dan Cloutier has been sent to Vancouver in exchange for defenseman Adrian Aucoin and a 2nd round draft pick in 2001. Tampa is 2-1 in their last three games, posting back-to-back wins against Florida and Buffalo. They are now 15-31-5-3 this season, two points behind Florida in the standings.

Detroit Vipers

The Vipers are in the midst of a terrible losing streak. They have been shutout 4 times in their last 9 games, including 4-0 losses to Cleveland and Cincinnati, and 6-0 losses to Orlando and Utah. They have only scored 7 goals in their last 9 games, and have allowed 39. Nils Ekman, who has been in Tampa since the middle of January still leads the team in scoring, but rookie Martin Cibak is close behind with 8 goals and 22 assists.

Johnstown Chiefs

The Chiefs have had a solid stretch, winning 3 of their last 6, dropping one game in overtime and another in a shout-out. The are just under .500 with a 20-22-5 record.