Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Kvapil signs contract with Lightning

The Saginaw Spirit were counting on forward Marek Kvapil returning for his overage season in the OHL, but after signing yesterday with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the odds of the Czech native coming back to mid-Michigan are maybe 50-50 at best.

"Marek Kvapil had an excellent year in the OHL last season and we were pleased to land him in this year's draft," Lightning general manager Jay Feaster said. "He is a goal scorer, and from a depth perspective, we simply don't have enough pure goal scorers in the system. We are very pleased that he has chosen to start his professional career and we look forward to seeing him in Traverse City (for rookie camp next month).”

Kvapil was selected by Tampa Bay in the sixth round, 163rd overall, in last month's draft. He led Saginaw in scoring last year with 25 goals and 62 points in 53 games. He was the third leading scorer among OHL rookies and was named OHL Rookie of the Month twice in 2004-05. He also tied the OHL record for the fastest goal scored to begin a period after scoring four seconds into the third period against the Mississauga IceDogs last December.

"We couldn't be happier for Marek," said Spirit general manager and head coach Bob Mancini. "He is very deserving of the opportunity to sign and go to Tampa Bay's training camp to start his pro career. We would welcome Marek back to the Spirit this season, but it is up to the Lightning to decide how to proceed on his development."

Prior to joining Saginaw, Kvapil played three seasons with the Slavia Praha organization in the Czech Republic, appearing in 11 games in the country’s top league in 2003-04. He also helped the Czech Republic capture a bronze medal at the 2005 World Junior Championships, recording two goals and five points in seven games. The 20-year-old native was the Spirit's 1st pick, 11th overall, in the 2004 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft.

In other Spirit news, defenseman Steven Whitely has earned an invitation to the Tampa Bay rookie camp.

"This is a great opportunity for Steven," Mancini said. "I have no doubt in my mind that if the NHL had had a full draft, as they did in previous years, that Steven would have been drafted."

Whitely, an 18-year-old native of Petrolia, Ontario, was acquired in a trade with the Toronto St. Michael's Majors in January.

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