It was a draft pick that caught everyone off guard. With highly touted forwards like Filip Forsberg and Teuvo Teravainen still on the board, Steve Yzerman announced his team’s 10th overall selection this past June – defenseman Slater Koekkoek from Peterborough in the OHL. Koekkoek has undeniable talent, but was considered a very risky pick after a severe shoulder injury in November of 2011. Yzerman has shown the hockey world that he’s not afraid to gamble on young players with injury histories. In two of his first three drafts, Yzerman’s Lightning drafted a player in the top 10 with injury concerns: Brett Connolly, 6th overall in 2010 and Koekkoek.
Thus far, Connolly’s hip problems haven’t been an issue. However, it took all of one game back for Koekkoek’s injury history to rear its ugly head. During the Peterborough Petes’ first exhibition game, he took a huge hit from Oshawa’s Boone Jenner (Columbus) and, after serving a delay-of-game penalty later in the shift, left the ice and didn’t return. Had Yzerman bet the house and lost?
Fortunately for Lightning fans, it appears that Koekkoek dodged a bullet. According to the Peterborough Examiner (via Bolt Prospects), he suffered a deep bruise and will be out of commission for a couple of weeks.
I was certainly impressed with Koekkoek’s play at Lightning Prospect Camp in July. He plays a tenacious, two-way game and that kind of defenseman will be a welcome addition to Tampa’s blueline. That tenacity, though, means that this probably won’t be the last injury scare with Slater – let’s just hope he can stay healthy.