March 15, 2012; Tampa FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Dustin Tokarski (40) stops the puck during the first period against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Pick Your Prospect

Sep 21, 2011; Orlando, FL, USA; St. Louis Blues goalie Ben Bishop (right) stretches for the puck as Tampa Bay Lightning center Cory Conacher (36) attempts to score on the rebound during the first period at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone has their favorite prospect in the organization that they continue to root for their entire career.  In the Tampa Bay Lightning organization  there finally is a large amount of quality young players that should be coming up in the near future.  It’s time for the fans to pick their favorite prospect taking in any factor that you like.  This prospect doesn’t have to be the best, most skilled, or highest draft pick, it just has to be your favorite one.

Throughout the last couple years I have watched the Bolts prospects on numerous occasions and I have come away impressed with so many of them that this is an extremely hard decision to make.  At every position it seems that there are so many players to choose from but I have been rooting for one prospect for about four years now and have seen him elevate his game every year.  Drafted in the second round of the 2009 NHL draft, Richard Panik has always been known as an inconsistent skill forward with elite skill.  He is one of those special players that on any given night can be far and away the best player on the ice.

When he is on is game, he can absolutely do it all, he can score, pass, hit, defend; literally everything you want out of a player, you will get out of the man from Slovakia.  Unfortunately, he does have off games where it is very hard to even notice him.  The great part for Lightning fans, is that those non-existent games have been few and far between this season for Panik while playing for the Syracuse Crunch in the American Hockey League.  Through 26 games so far, Panik has 12 goals, 10 assists, and is tied for 3rd on the team in points with 22.  He even registered at least a point in every game in the month of November.  This is the type of production that is needed for him to establish himself as the go-to guy on a team stacked with talent.  If the consistency level can continue to go up, I believe that Panik will get a chance to become a star in the NHL.

The main thing that excites me about the 21-year old is the fact that had there been no consistency issues with him, he would have been a sure fire top ten pick in his draft year.  On talent alone, he always has been close to the top as seen in his many appearances in the World Juniors Championships with Slovakia.  It appears that Coach Jon Cooper has been able to figure out Panik, getting him to become that game-changer every single game that he plays.  It will be very interesting to see what kind of season Panik can continue to have because right now with the lockout going on, auditions for the big league club are happening everyday.  There are too many good prospects on the minor league team right now to take a day off with the likes of Brett Connolly, J.T Brown, Cory Conacher, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, and more on the team.  They are stacked and management is watching.

Now it is your turn, tweet, comment, or message me who your favorite prospect on the Lightning is.  The list doesn’t just include the forwards with the solid defenseman like Mark Barberio, Radko Gudas and others on the team as well as the many goal-tending prospects  having great seasons.  I look forward to your responses as there really is no wrong answer here!

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