18 April 2019


Tampa Bay Lightning promote goaltending youth

Not solely because of last night's minor injury sustained by starter Mike Smith, an opportunity has arisen with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The situation lends to the fact that goaltending has not been a consistently strong area since Nikolai Khabibulin left town. With an impressive stable of youth in the system, the Lightning may opt to support a budding superstar from within, allowing tutelage to come from Smith or Finnish Olympian and current backup, Antero Niityimaki.
The farm has some impressive goaltending wares and the Lightning itself is honestly challenging for a playoff position, coming back to beat the Washington Capitals Tuesday night and post a 6-3-1 record over the past ten contests.
20-year-old netminder Jaroslav Janus of the Ontario Hockey League's Erie Otters was recently signed to a three-year entry-level deal by the Tampa Bay Lightning and subsequently brought in to the club's American Hockey League affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals. Tampa Bay boasts a professionally green but decorated netminding trio on the farm, with 20-year-old Canadian Dustin Tokarski and 21-year-old Finnish goalie Riku Helenius crowding the roster with Janus. 
The Lightning have made out exceedingly well from its scant selections in last summer's 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Tampa selected workhorse defenseman Victor Hedman second overall, which has paid immediate and outstanding dividends. Second-round selection Richard Panik turned heads once more at the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championships, pacing Slovakia in goals and points during the tournament. The next selection saw management select Barrie Colts' scoring ace Alex Hutchings in round four, 93rd overall. It did not seem like Tampa Bay dismissed their final two picks however, nabbing Janus and Shattuck St. Mary's defenseman, Kirill Gotovets.
The eldest of the Norfolk netminding bunch, Helenius has not fared well in his contests with Norfolk this season, posting a 5-7-0 record with a .896 save percentage and a 2.75 goals-against average. The once loftily-positioned Helenius should not be discounted; time is running out, as his contract expires soonest and he was drafted by previous management.
Tokarski's fanfare includes a World Junior Championship gold medal and a Memorial Cup with the Western Hockey League's Spokane Chiefs. Tokarski collected the Most Valuable Player in that 2007-2008 Memorial Cup, as well as numerous accolades in the WHL that year; he sits comfortably atop the Admirals' netminding chart right now with the lion's share of playing minutes and is credited with the bottom-feeding Admirals' only two shutouts of the campaign.
Hailing from Presov, Slovakia and a team-mate of Panik's during the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship in Ottawa last year, Janus will undoubtedly have to earn his shot. Much the same could have been said about the Hershey Bears' situational fortune recently, with Washington Capitals' picks Semyon Varlamov, Michal Neuvirth, and newcomer Braden Holtby all requiring playing time. Another such similar situation has allowed highly-touted duo Jonathan Bernier and Jeff Zatkoff to push one another to extraordinary heights with the Los Angeles Kings' affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs. Competition can allow fruition.
Janus could conceivably make waves. Named the oustanding goaltender at the same tournament team-mate Tokarski won gold, the 5'11", 190 lb. Janus has seen adversity. Erie has experienced tough seasons battling perennial heavy-weights, the London Knights and Kitchener Rangers in the OHL's Midwest Division. 
Witnessing him in action this season, goaltending coach Cap Raeder had this to say about Janus. "When I went to see him in Erie, all I expected was, 'How far has he reverted back?' That happens all the time. He's been away from us for two months. Did he revert back? He didn't revert back at all. It was, like, 'Whoa.' "
Janus2Lightning General Manager Brian Lawton certainly has options moving forward and is responsible for what seems to be a fundamental change. Since Karri Ramo 'bolted' for the Kontinental Hockey League (still under contract but overseas with Avangard Omsk) and Mike McKenna posting career numbers in the New Jersey Devils' system, it seems 'young is in' between the pipes for the Lightning in the years to come.
13 January 2010
Robin Keith Thompson
Tampa Bay salaries cap#1, cap#2, cap#3
Link to 2 January 2010 / Norfolk (AHL) game report
OHL standings current
Tampa newspaper article 4 Jan 2010 by Damian Cristodero
THN.com posting of Smith's injury status

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