Bolt Prospects 2006-2007 Preliminary Rankings

The Bolt Prospects staff has completed it's evaluation of the Lightning organization's prospects. The rankings take into account how the players performed last season, their Lightning prospect and Traverse City play, how well they did at Lightning training camp and in exhibition games, as well as their performance at Springfield Falcons camp and in AHL exhibition games. We also factor in a player's potential upside as well as their NHL readiness in reaching our decisions. One note: due to his age, [url=morgan-cey]Morgan Cey[/url] is now classified as an "Overage Prospect" by Bolt Prospects criteria and is not elligible for the Top-25 Rankings. Any player 24 years of age or older on opening night, October 5th, 2006, who has not already graduated as an NHLer is an "Overage Prospect". For skaters, graduation occurs when a player either A.) plays 41 NHL games in a single season or B.) reaches 82 NHL games in their career. With [url=johan-holmqvist]Johan Holmqvist[/url] as the Lightning's backup entering the season, Bolt Prospects is establishing graduation criteria for goaltenders for the first time. For goaltenders, graduation occurs when a player either A.) has 30 decisions in a single season or B.) reaches 41 decisions in their NHL career. [b]Bolt Prospects 2006-2007 Preliminary Rankings[/b] [b]1. D [url=matt-smaby]Matt Smaby[/url], Springfield (AHL)[/b] [i]Comments: The consensus choice to retain the top spot, Smaby received unanimous first place votes. TIM- "A very strong camp reinforces Smaby as the top prospect in the organization and positions him on the shortlist of possible recalls to Tampa." CHAD- "Smaby is not only positioning himself for a recall this year, but the former UND captain has joined Ryan Craig as a candidate to wear a letter sometime in the future." [/i] [b]2. G [url=karri-ramo]Karri Ramo[/url], Springfield (AHL)[/b] [i]Comments: Similar to Smaby, Ramo swept all second place votes to move to number two on the Bolt Prospects rankings. PETE- "A Finnish goaltending prodigy who combines excellent athleticism and technical proficiency with composure well beyond his 19 years of age. He is expected to be Springfield's #1 goaltender this season." TIM- "It's not a stretch to think he could be an NHL backup by the All-Star Break." [/i] [b]3. G [url=riku-helenius]Riku Helenius[/url], Ilves Jr. A (FIN)[/b] [i]Comments: Helenius enters the Bolt Prospects rankings in the three spot after being selected 15th overall in this summer's draft. PETE- "There's little doubt he's a blue chip goaltending prospect. The question is if the Ilves organization is the best place for his development." CHAD- "As my grandmother always says, 'Good things come to those who wait.' Tampa has positioned itself well in net for the future." [/i] [b]4. D [url=vladimir-mihalik]Vladimir Mihalik[/url], Prince George (WHL)[/b] [i]Comments: PETE- "Mihalik rebounded after a poor first season in North America and his subsequent trade for Red Deer to Prince George by playing well in Traverse City and at Lightning camp." CHAD- "This is a big year for Mihalik. He can establish himself to be among the top defensive prospects in the WHL if he plays with confidence." [/i] [b]5. C/LW [url=nick-tarnasky]Nick Tarnasky[/url], Tampa Bay (NHL)[/b] [i]Comments: It should be noted Tarnasky was touted by Bolt Prospects as a lock to make the Lightning this season in its 2005-2006 Final Rankings. Tarnasky hasn't disappointed. TIM- "Like Ryan Craig, this late rounder will stick on the Tampa roster for good and find himself a prospect alumnus by season's end." PETE- "Tarnasty" plays like his nickname." [/i] [b]6. RW [url=marek-kvapil]Marek Kvapil[/url], Springfield (AHL)[/b] [i]Comments: PETE- "If Kvapil answers questions about his ability to contribute physically along the wall on the forecheck, he's the heir apparent as a scoring liner in Tampa to either Ruslan Fedotenko or Dimitry Afanasenkov, both of whom are free agents at season's end." TIM- "(Kvapil) might grab a cup of coffee in Tampa this season." [/i] [b]7. C [url=blair-jones]Blair Jones[/url], Springfield (AHL)[/b] [i]Comments: PETE- "No one improved their stock more this summer and fall than Jones. After a brief contract squabble Jones was consistently solid throughout prospect camp, Traverse City, Lightning camp and in exhibition season. Jones will likely play on a scoring line in Springfield with Eric Perrin in Tampa and his 2-way game may make him just a season away from the NHL." CHAD- "With the shortage of top-end offensive centers in the system, Jones is a prized-possession." [/i] [b]8. D [url=andy-rogers]Andy Rogers[/url], Springfield (AHL)[/b] [i]Comments: TIM- "(Rogers') first pro season is an important one for Tampa's 2004 first round pick." PETE- "Can he stay healthy?" CHAD- "A great kid with solid tools... but he has to be on the ice." [/i] [b]9. LW [url=radek-smolenak]Radek Smolenak[/url], Johnstown (ECHL)[/b] [i]Comments: TIM- "(Smolenak) remains one of the organization's most exciting and promising prospects." PETE- "Don't let his assignment to the ECHL fool you, 'Smoke' is a blue chipper. Big men shouldn't be able to handle the puck at top speed as well as Radek can." [/i] [b]10. LW [url=justin-keller]Justin Keller[/url], Springfield (AHL)[/b] [i]Comments: TIM- "Retains Top-10 ranking by making the Springfield squad as a rookie ahead of classmates Smolenak and Stanislav Lascek." CHAD- "Keller is clutch and clutch is everything. Keller rises to the occassion in important games and has the drive to succeed this year in the AHL." [/i] [b]11. D [url=mike-egener]Mike Egener[/url], Springfield (AHL)[/b] [i]Comments: TIM- "Despite a strong camp, questions remains whether this former blueline darling can handle the speed of the NHL game; needs to perform at a high level in Springfield this season and exhibit his advertised leadership qualities." PETE- "Egener did a good job this summer and fall mending fences in the post-Dirk Graham era." [/i] [b]12. RW [url=stanislav-lascek]Stanislav Lascek[/url], Johnstown (ECHL)[/b] [i]Comments: PETE- "Lascek never got on track in Traverse City and Lightning camp due to an injury. He should be nipping at the heels of several Springfield players for a callup all season." CHAD- "Be patient. Once Lascek figures out what he can and cannot do in the pros, he'll adapt accordingly. Don't underestimate his character." [/i] [b]13. D [url=kevin-quick]Kevin Quick[/url], Salisbury (USHS)[/b] [i]Comments: PETE- "Dan Boyle's heir apparent was unofficial MVP of the Lightning's summer prospect camp, but will he continue to develop playing prep hockey in Connecticut and then at an Ivy League school?" CHAD- "Another case of Lightning fans being rewarded in the future for their patience with a very underrated prospect." [/i] [b]14. D [url=doug-obrien]Doug O'Brien[/url], Springfield (AHL)[/b] [i]Comments: TIM- "Steady and solid development continues but slips in the rankings because of newcomers Helenius and Quick; NHL window may be closing with the arrival of Smaby and Rogers in Springfield." CHAD- "O'Brien will succeed at the AHL level this year, but the key for him is to adapt quickly to the NHL game if he's called up. That was a big difference between O'Brien and Ranger last year." [/i] [b]15. G [url=vasily-koshechkin]Vasily Koshechkin[/url], Togliatti (RUS)[/b] [i]Comments: PETE- "Could be an NHL starter, if you can get him out of Russia." CHAD- "Russian prospect followers love this towering goaltender - and for good reason." [/i] [b]16. G [url=jonathan-boutin]Jonathan Boutin[/url], Springfield (AHL)[/b] [i]Comments: PETE- "Somehow he managed to beat out the competition for Springfield's backup job. Now, can he hold on to it?" [/i] [b]17. RW [url=darren-reid]Darren Reid[/url], Springfield (AHL)[/b] [i]Comments: TIM- "The departure of Chris Dingman and a pre-season injury to Rob DiMaio set the table for the gritty Reid to buy a ticket to Tampa; unfortunately for him, he must have left his money in the nightstand beside his bed." PETE- "One of the most entertaining pests in the AHL today." CHAD- "A darkhorse to break out offensively at the AHL level." [/i] [b]18. C/RW [url=chris-lawrence]Chris Lawrence[/url], Mississauga (OHL)[/b] [i]Comments: PETE- "Has finally started to live up to his potential since joining the Ice Dogs." CHAD- "Once viewed as a weakness, Lawrence's character is catching up to his quality skill-set." [/i] [b]19. G [url=gerald-coleman]Gerald Coleman[/url], Johnstown (ECHL)[/b] [i]Comments: TIM- "Unable to distinguish himself amid the cluttered goaltending scene within Tampa's system, Coleman finds himself exiled to Johnstown with overage prospect Morgan Cey." CHAD- "Still a prime candidate to succeed under Jeff Reese, but he has to seize the opportunity to show it." [/i] [b]20. LW [url=zbynek-hrdel]Zbynek Hrdel[/url], Springfield (AHL)[/b] [i]Comments: PETE- "Has some tools, needs the toolbox." [/i] [b]21. LW [url=marek-bartanus]Marek Bartanus[/url], Owen Sound (OHL)[/b] [i]Comments: TIM- "Promising camp performances and a good start to his second campaign in Owen Sound warrant a debut in the Top-25; improving his conditioning ethic might earn him a pro contract next summer." PETE- "No one has ever doubted the big Slovak's talent. Now he's starting to live up to his promise." [/i] [b]22. D [url=mike-lundin]Mike Lundin[/url], Maine (HEAST)[/b] [i]Comments: TIM- "With Smaby turning pro, Lundin becomes the only ranked Tampa prospect in the NCAA; he has all the raw materials, but will he have a pro contract come next summer?" CHAD- "Lundin can be one of the best two-way defensemen in Hockey East this year as a senior. He almost needs to be to land that contract." [/i] [b]23. D [url=jay-rosehill]Jay Rosehill[/url], Springfield (AHL)[/b] [i]Comments: PETE- "Stay at homer showing more poise and confidence in his sophomore campaign." [/i] [b]24. RW [url=andre-deveaux]Andre Deveaux[/url], Springfield (AHL)[/b] [i]Comments: PETE- "Back in Springfield, but for how long?" [/i] [b]25. D [url=dane-crowley]Dane Crowley[/url], Swift Current (WHL)[/b] [i]Comments: TIM- "Second year Swift Current defenseman made enough noise in camp to be noticed; will compete with Lundin for a pro contract next summer." CHAD- "I haven't been able to find anyone from Swift Current who can say a bad thing about Crowley." [/i] [b]Honorable Mention (Others Receiving Votes): LW/C [url=adam-henrich]Adam Henrich[/url], Springfield (AHL)[/b] [i]Comments: PETE- "Henrich is on his third, and last, chance." [/i] [b]Moved to Overage Status:[/b] [i]Cey[/i] [b]New Additions:[/b] [i]Helenius, Quick, Bartanus, Crowley[/i] [b]Subtractions:[/b] [i]Polushin, Beech, Henrich[/i]

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Pretty Good

I don't have much to disagree with here. Most were re-ranked pretty close to what ny preference would be. 1 - 5 No real qualms, Tarnasky is in on present performance. 6 -11 Kvapil has some issues to resolve to become an NHL scoring liner. Jones will get there as a 2 type center but his point production upside may not be there. Jones also could be a solid checking liner. Pretty close call. Rogers will play in the NHL. Could be a solid 2nd pair guy, not very likely a 1st, could easily be a 6/7. Smolenak is like watching an enigma right now. Which way will he go? Keller has size and strength issues to be resolved, otherwise he's a pretty sound player. Egener - will he escape being a 5/6 guy for a higher calling. Seems to want to. All in all this group could shake out in several ways. All are likely to see the NHL. 12 - 13 Lascek has thus far failed the show me test. He'll have to throw up some nice numbers to pique my interest again. Not sure what he's capable of. Quick, I'm sure will see NHL ice. I'm not sure he'll fill Boyle's shoes. Yet, he has the potential to exceed that. Personally, I'd swap those two. 14 - 21 All chance NHL prospects. Some will pan, some will not. 22 - 24 All unlikely to get much more than a cup of coffee barring expansion. 25 - Might put Crowley ahead of 22 - 24 because maybe he'll have a chance. Good job guys!

First Year Pros

First year pros like Lascek, Smolenak, Keller, etc. are tough to judge based on what they do after they sign that first contract. I don't have a statistical figure, but it's pretty much only the cream of the crop that excels in their first year of pro hockey. Ryan Craig, for example, managed only 4 or 6 goals his first year. There is a major adjustmet period - even more so than these guys experienced going from bantham or junior A or whatever to major junior. It would not surprise me in the least to see whatever first year pros are with SF that they would struggle all year (I don't think that will be the case for them in JT). Therefore, not that anybody is, but I caution against failing first year pros based on what they're going to do in camp or over the first half of the year. That's a HUGE adjustment. Most do well just to earn some significant playing time.

The ECHL Guys

Looking at Smolenak and Lascek, I expect them to dominate the ECHL statistically early on the same way Craig did his first week in Pensacola. That's when it will get really tough to judge because I doubt Jones and Keller will be ripping it up with the same proficiency right off the bat.

Tarnasky's Ranking...

Ken, Regarding your comment on Tarnasky... he has a long history, so to speak, with the BoltProspects staff. He's the kind of prospect that's hard to rank and predict, because of his skill set ceiling. However, there seems to be no ceiling on some of those hard to quantify intangibles. As a 9th round selection in the 2003 draft, he wasn't even considered for our Fall 2003 Top-20 rankings. By January 2004, he had received some votes among us, but failed to make the 2004 mid-season Top-20 (ref: http://hockeysfuture.com/article.php?sid=6587) still. By the summer of 2004, he still had not made our Top-20, though appeared to be on the cusp (ref: http://hockeysfuture.com/article.php?sid=7165). One month later, Feaster told the Tampa Tribune that Tarnasky was the team's MVP at the 2004 Traverse City prospects tournament. He told us (ref: http://hockeysfuture.com/article.php?sid=7221) that Nick had shot up the organization's depth chart. All this about a prospect we didn't have on our Top-20 rankings. None of the BP staff were with Hockey's Future beyond Fall 2004, and the boltprospects.com site was launched in secret sometime in January 2005. In June 2005, Tarnasky entered Pete's first shot a prospects ranking list at #13 (ref: http://www.boltprospects.com/node/132). From there, he has just ascended due to continued, steady developmental progress, hard work, ethic, superb conditioning, excellent coachability, and a slow accumulation of all the little things that make him impossible to cut from your team. I now think the guy will have decent career as an NHL third liner -- just two years ago, we would've been surprised for him to get a cup of coffee in spot 4th line duty. He not ranked #5 on our list just because of present performance, but it's been a steady rise to that spot over a long period of time. It's sometimes refreshing to actually "see" a prospect develop and improve over time. Some sites just like the sexy blue chip prospects, and throw the rest in the trash. Feaster and Goertzen don't draft that way. Makes our job harder, but I think as analysts (and fans), it makes it more rewarding down the road. Back to the 2004 Traverse City Review... it really was the tale of two prospects. Tarnasky and Henrich. The poor man and the rich man. Both performed well, and drew high praise from the Lightning brass. Two years later, they have exchanged places on the rank sheet. By all respects, Henrich *SHOULD* be the new fixture everyone is talking about on the line with Richards and St. Louis. Yet, Tarnasky will doubtful ever see AHL ice again, and we still hope that Steve Stirling can breathe life back into a once promising prospect. Thanks, Ken, for your critique and for being a participant in the boltsprospects.com experiment. It is much appreciated.

Context of the rankings

You guys explained the criteria for prospect status to qualify for the rankings, but not the criteria for the ranking itself. Is it star potential, bottom line potential to make the NHL for a reasonable length of time, evaluation of organizational fitness or overall impression as an individual player. I inferred that the staff rated them based upon the latter (overall impression) and made the Tarnasky comment as a reference to why that high. I personally would have him in the top 5 because of the "Bird in the hand ..." thing and because having a lenghty career ala Taylor and DiMaio has a lot of value. And it appears he will reach that level. I also gave some thought to what is a reasonable number of guys out of 25 that would actually see the NHL. I did some research on our draft history this evening. I used 10 years (92 - 01) as we have reasonably complete outcomes for these guys. 107 players drafted 39 have an NHL game on their resume (about 10 per 25) 26 would have met BP's graduation criteria ( " " 6 per 25) 17 surpassed 2 NHL season's (150 + games) ( " " 4 per 25) * No drafted goalie has met graduation criteria (Bierk had 34 decisions career) Coleman is the active leader, Norrena should soon surpass him. Allowing for a little variance, we can reasonably expect: 3 - 5 to register 2+ NHL seasons 2 - 4 more to graduate from prospect status 3 to get NHL cups of coffee 12 of 25 to see the NHL I feel pretty good about 12 of the 1st 13 (Lascek excepted). I think up to 1/2 of 12 - 21 will see the NHL. I think at least 5 perhaps 6 will be sure to go 2+ years and I did not include Rogers or Egener in that count (although they are certainly talented enough) I see good evidence that we have a much stronger system than ever before. However, the careers of Hamrlik, Gratton, Weimer, Langkow, Mara, Kubina, LeCavalier, Richards and to an extent Cross are lengthy and significant. You can almost throw in Salvador who we chose not to sign. I'm not sure we have that much in the overall pipeline currently. I do think we should have some optimism for this crop.

NHL Readiness

Tarnasky is our most NHL ready prospect, that's what got him in the top-5.

Criteria for Prospect Rankings

Ken (and others interested), The criteria for prospect rankings are based more or less around this discussion.

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