Even with the credibility that Tampa Bay’s scouting staff built up through the years under the direction of Al Murray, the Lightning had their share of detractors when it came to the selection of Alexander Volkov.
Tampa Bay used a 2017 second-round pick on the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Russian right winger and immediately had pundits questioning the selection of a player who didn’t show up on many scouting services’ lists. That’s because Volkov was an overage pick who was passed over in his first year of draft eligibility and missed a good portion of the 2016-17 season due to injury.
Yet, nobody should be surprised that Volkov joined the Lightning organization and made an immediate impact, leading the Syracuse Crunch with 23 goals as a 20-year-old AHL rookie. And he did so while living in a completely new environment and knowing very little of the language. “My hat’s off to him because it wasn’t easy,” said Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx. “He was the youngest player on our team…new lifestyle, first time alone in an apartment in a different country and, playing pro, he had a lot of things to learn and acclimate to. It took him a good month to start producing offensively.
“He’s a player that wants to be a difference-maker. He wants to be out there. He understands more and more what he needs to do every day to become the player he wants to be.”
So exactly what kind of player is Volkov, who had three goals and six points in seven playoff games? “By the end of the year and in the playoffs it was so fun to watch him,” said Lightning director of player personnel Stacy Roest. “He’s so big and strong.”
Looks like another hidden gem of a draft pick uncovered by an organization that found the likes of Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat beyond Round 1 and turned them into top-flight NHLers. “He’s a real skilled player and a gritty guy, too,” said Syracuse teammate Mathieu Joseph. “He goes to the net, a very good shot and a good competitor, which is one of his strengths. He’s a big guy that can shoot the puck, but he competes night in and out. He’s fun to play with, not only because he’s a good player, but because he competes hard.”
This story appears in the Prospects Unlimited 2018 issue of The Hockey News magazine.