TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — In 2021, the Tampa Bay Lightning selected Dylan Duke in the fourth round of the NHL Draft. The following year, they selected Connor Kurth in the sixth ound of the 2022 NHL Draft. Now both of those players find themselves in Tampa, playing for their college ice hockey teams in the NCAA Final Four of Men’s Ice Hockey—the Frozen Four.
The hope is that they’ll be playing on this same ice at AMALIE Arena a few years from now in the NHL as members of the Bolts.
“It’s really cool to see,” Minnesota freshman forward Connor Kurth said about playing at AMALIE Arena. “Getting out there to practice today was awesome—first time on the ice. Just knowing that that could be a possibility one day is a really cool and exciting experience.”
Minnesota also happens to be using the Lightning’s locker room while they’re in town, giving Kurth the full Lightning experience this week. While this is his first time at AMALIE Arena, he was in town this past July at the TGH Ice Plex for the Bolts’ Development Camp. Since then, he has stayed in touch and kept-up with the team that drafted him.
“The development guys, the skating coach, Mr. BriseBois, they all text me every once in a while just checking,” Kurth said. “So definitely a super great organization they have here and staying up on their guys is really cool.”
Kurth has followed the Lightning’s success, knowing the crowds they draw and is looking forward to that Tampa hockey atmosphere for them.
“With the success they’ve had and I hear they just have an amazing fan base,” Kurth said. “So definitely excited to see a full crowd and see what Tampa’s got.”
While the Lightning—and their fans—may be paying particular attention to Kurth and Duke, there are many other players on these four rosters that are the future of the NHL.
“I think it serves as a fantastic preview for our fans to get an opportunity to see some of the incredible prospects that are the next generation of NHL hockey,” said Executive Director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission Rob Higgins. “You look at some of the kids that had an opportunity to play in 2012 that are now at the top of the league. And in 2023, I think it’s that same type of preview that’s going to be really cool for all of our Lightning fans.”