On Yzerman’s Watch The Kids Are All Right
In only his fourth season with the Lightning, Steve Yzerman has proved that the previous four years spent studying under perhaps the most respected General Manager in Hockey, Detroit’s Ken Holland were not years wasted. Creating successful rosters year after year for various versions of Team Canada from the IIHF World Champions in 2007 to back to back Olympic gold medalists Yzerman’s ability to create successful teams is evident. (Photo/Susan Ferlita) After the Red Wings extended the contracts of both Ken Holland and assistant GM Jim Nill it became evident that the hockey hall of famer was going to have to take his key to the city and move on. He was sought after by both Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold and Tampa Bay owner Jeffrey Vinik. Yzerman decided to call Tampa home and started a legacy of draft success. The success at the draft for the Lightning has been a combination of fantastic early round picks and finding those overlooked gems deep in the late rounds. Drafted in the seventh round of the 2011 entry draft (208th) overall Ondrej Palat was able to accumulate 59 points for the Lightning last season (23 goals, 36 assists) and come in second in the voting for the Calder Trophy. The Calder Trophy nominations of the Lightning rookies Ondrej Palat and former free agent Tyler Johnson were an accomplishment not seen since Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane dazzled Chicago in their rookie season. It would appear that the heir apparent to the Calder Trophy this season is young phenom Jonathan Drouin, who was recently ranked by ESPN.com’s Corey Pronman as the top skater outside the NHL. Drouin, the first round (third overall) pick for the Bolts in the 2013 NHL entry draft has collected a lot of hardware thus far in his hockey career. It would appear that he may follow in his former Halifax Moosehead teammate Nathan MacKinnon’s footsteps and capture the Calder this year. Pronman wrote:
After the Lightning elected to not keep him on the NHL roster for 2013-14, Drouin had another elite season in the QMJHL, torching the league in terms of point production. He led the QMJHL playoffs in points (41 in 16 games) despite Halifax not advancing to the final round. His skill level and hockey sense are both off the charts, he’s a very elusive skater and he has the ability to create a scoring chance at will. When you combine all of his offensive elements (all of which are high-end), Drouin is the clear best forward prospect outside the NHL. He converted to center this season, showing pretty effective play in the defensive zone, which was previously a weakness. With a good summer from a physical development standpoint, he should be a player to watch for next year’s Calder Trophy.
Also recognized on ESPN.com’s list was Lightning goalie prospect Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasilevskiy was drafted nineteenth overall in 2012 and has already accomplished a lot, including winning the IIHF World Championship last year:
I’m not exaggerating when I say this: Vasilevskiy is one of the best goalie prospects of the past 20 years. He’s a special player who has excelled if not dominated at just about every level and major event he’s participated in during the past five years, including the KHL playoffs. Vasilevskiy has good size — 6-foot-3, 201 pounds — elite athleticism, and a high hockey IQ and technical refinement you don’t typically see in a goalie of his age (20).
The solid balance of veterans and talented youngsters that Yzerman has been able to assemble has set high expectations for the Lightning’s 2014-2015 campaign. The Bolts have filled key gaps in the lineup that were apparent during the playoff sweep at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens by adding free agent defensemen Jason Garrison and Anton Stralman along with grinders Brian Boyle and Brenden Morrow. These draft picks and free agent signings have made the Lightning a popular pick to go far in the playoffs. But coach Jon Cooper warns:
“All of a sudden you tweak your lineup a little bit and people are expecting the world out of your team. It’s funny how that works. Because it was just 12 months ago we were looked at as a bottom-feeder in the League. Now I want to see how much we’ve grown from our playoff experience and through this summer. I’m really excited to see if this team can take another stepThe solid balance of veteran experience and young talent that Yzerman has been able to assemble has set high expectations for the Lightning’s 2014-2015 campaign. Time will tell if this group of youngsters can make that push in June when it really counts.”
Red Wings fan or not you cannot argue the greatness of Steve Yzerman’s playing ability and leadership. His accomplishments are the things of legends. Now in the next step of his illustrious career, he is creating a bright future for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Follow me on Twitter @Garrettgirl61 and please “like” LightningShout on Facebook. You can email us at Info@LightningShout.com.