TAMPA, Fla. – Being a goalie in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization may not be the best way to see playing time in the NHL soon. Andrei Vasilevskiy has established himself as without a doubt the best goalkeeper in the world. But there was a time when the man they call “The Big Cat” was a young player who learned behind veteran Ben Bishop.
This week, the Bolts get their first look close to their top opportunities during a week-long training camp. Two of these players are goalkeepers, and despite the Stanley Cup champions already having a number one, they think Tampa Bay is the perfect fit.
“It’s super cool,” said goalkeeper Hugh Alnefelt. “They have the winning mentality here. It’s something I really love and I want to be a part of it.”
Sweden-native Alnefelt, 20, joins 21-year-old Russian goalkeeper Amir Miftakhov as the two goalkeepers at the camp.
“I’m happy to be here,” Miftakhov said after Wednesday’s training session. “I’m trying my dream. I want to play in the NHL and win the Stanley Cup.”
It seems that Vasilevskiy is the perfect goalkeeper to model your game after.
“He’s a legend,” Miftakhov said of his countryman.
There is a lot to like about Vasilevskiy’s play, but Alnefelt is just as impressed with how consistently he has played at a high level.
“He’s been so good for a long time. To be able to play so many games in two years and win two trophies … I mean that’s the biggest part.”
The pandemic put the brakes on last year’s expectation camp, so players are just happy to be able to work together and have some ice time in Tampa.
“It’s just super fun to be back here, almost as usual,” Hugo said. “Just look at everyone, start competing again.”
The practices run through Friday, after which the prospect will play exhibits against Nashville, Carolina and Florida on Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday.
Details are still being finalized regarding the start of the Lightning training camp. Their first preseason game is set for Sept. 28 in Carolina.
The two-time defending Stanley Cup champions open the regular season on Oct. 12 when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins.