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Broadcast Blog: Recapping Lightning Development Camp

Jesse Liebman is the director of communications and broadcasting for the Orlando Solar Bears and enters his fifth season behind the microphone as the team’s play-by-play voice for the 2019-20 season. Shoot him an email at jliebman@orlandosolarbearshockey.com with questions, comments or blog ideas.

There are a number of perks to having your NHL affiliate located within a two-hour drive – in particular, it provides for the opportunity for some organizational synergy. Last week, I had a chance to get down to Brandon for the first time this summer to the Ice Sports Forum, the practice facility of the Tampa Bay Lightning, as the NHL affiliate of the Solar Bears was hosting its annual development camp one week after taking several players in the 2019 Entry Draft. A big shout-out to Lightning senior director of communications Brian Breseman and his staff for allowing me to come down.

Last season, I had the pleasure of engaging in a few exchanges with Stacy Roest – who had been the director of player development for Tampa Bay before adding assistant general manager to his title earlier this summer – whenever he would visit to check in on the status of players assigned to the Solar Bears such as Mitch Hults, Otto Somppi, Oleg Sosunov or Matthew Spencer. I was fortunate enough to catch up with Stacy once again, and was able to record a bit of our exchange to allow you to get a better sense of how the Lightning operate:

As Roest explains, these development camps allow the hockey operations personnel the opportunity to observe all of their prospects in the system, particularly those who are playing college hockey in the NCAA. Due to a number of restrictions that are placed on NCAA players in order to maintain their amateur status, this is the ***ONLY*** time that the Lightning would have a chance to see a player such as Cole Koepke – a sixth-round pick from 2018 who just completed his freshman season at the University of Minnesota-Duluth -  compete under the same roof against other prospects in the system such as Sosunov or Somppi.

While most of the camp's on-ice sessions involved skating and skills development where players worked with skills instructors and coaches, Lightning brass and fans in attendance were able to witness the competitive aspects in the form of the camp's annual 3-on-3 tournament on Friday and Saturday.

Friday featured a round-robin format, in which Sosunov and Somppi, as members of Team St. Louis, cruised to a 3-0 sweep, which was capped by a 4-3 shootout win in the third game. That shootout victory didn't come easy, as Clint Windsor notably stopped 16 consecutive shooters before Radim Salda finally beat the goaltender to give Team St. Louis the victory, and a berth in the tournament final on Saturday.

On Saturday, Somppi and the rest of Team St. Louis emerged as champions, with Somppi netting the game-winner in a 9-8 win over Team Esposito to earn his squad the tournament win. In fact, Somppi tied for the tournament scoring lead with eight points (4g-4a) in four games.

Sosunov Impresses

The one thing that several media members present noted was the progression that Sosunov has taken in the past year. Certainly his size helps draw eyes to him, but he made strides in combining that with his skillset to improve as a player in the past year. That bodes well for him taking the next step in his development, and who knows? At times – pardon the pun – it feels like the sky’s the limit for Sosunov…I’ll see myself out.

Windsor’s Back

The first official signing of the summer was announced on Friday, as goalie Clint Windsor placed the ol’ John Hancock on his contract for the upcoming season. And fortunately, since he happened to be in attendance as an invitee to development camp, we were able to capture the moment.

Windsor played fairly well in limited action with the Solar Bears, as he was frequently the third goalie on the depth chart on a goaltending roster that rotated through Martin Ouellette, Corbin Boes and Connor Ingram down the stretch. Windsor will also technically still be considered a rookie for the upcoming season – and below is why I’m optimistic for a full season from him.

The NHL has come a long way in the statistical analysis revolution; the data available for the AHL and ECHL is still relatively sparse. However, there is some interesting information that can still be revealed. In baseball, Wins Above Replacement is a metric used to calculate a player’s contributions to a team; in recent years, a comparable statistic to measure a goaltender’s value is Goals Saved Above Average.

Despite the small sample size of games that Windsor played, he was among some of the top goaltenders in the league when it came to this particular statistic. In fact, among every goaltender who played in the ECHL last year, Windsor’s GSAA per 60 minutes was third in the league behind Worcester’s Evan Buitenhuis and Idaho’s Tomas Sholl, who took home ECHL Goaltender of the Year honors.

While the rest of Orlando’s goaltending situation remains to be determined, the opportunity is there for Windsor to have an impactful year with the Solar Bears.

Oh Yeah, Vote for Somppi!

In case you missed it, Otto Somppi’s lacrosse-style goal against the Florida Everblades has reached the final round of the ECHL’s tournament to determine the best goal of 2018-19 season. If you need a refresher:

So make sure you cast your vote if you haven’t already done so!


Elsewhere Around the ECHL & Hockey World:

  • NHL free agency opened up yesterday, and HOLY MOLY was there ever movement. Sergei Bobrovsky to the Panthers. Artemi Panarin to the Rangers. Matt Duchene to the Predators. Joe Pavelski to Dallas. Montreal signing Sebastian Aho to an offer sheet. Crazy stuff.

 

  • Oviedo native Ryan Carpenter is now going to call the Windy City his home, after signing with the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday. I had a chance to speak with Ryan about his youth hockey career in Orlando when he was a part of the Vegas Golden Knights’ roster during their miracle run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018. Congrats to him and his family.

 

 

  • While the affiliation for the Florida Everblades has changed, there will be at least a few familiar faces on the roster of Orlando’s fiercest rival next season, as defenseman Ben Masella and John McCarron have re-signed with Florida.


That’s all for now, folks. Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Solar Bears. All opinions expressed by Jesse Liebman are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Solar Bears or their Hockey Operations staff, partners or sponsors.