Pete Choquette's blog
Over the next few weeks, as we come to finale of the prospect season with the Memorial Cup which will feature four of the organization's prospects, I will be blogging my own organizational rankings 5 prospects at a time beginning today with the overagers. By the time it is complete, I will be releasing my Top-5 Overage Lightning Prospects, my Top-25 Lightning prospects along with some Honorable Mentions who missed the cut. So lets begin...
First off, what is an "Overage Prospect"? For the sake of these rankings I am counting any prospect who will be 24 years of age or older by the start of next season who has played less than a half a season (41 games) at the NHL level. These are older players, mostly playing in Europe, who I feel could step in immediately and provide utility for the Lightning organization either at the NHL or AHL level. With many of them, because they play in Europe, money is an issue in signing these prospects as they are already handsomely compensated overseas for being some of the best in their respective nation's club leagues, so it's not feasible to sign all of them. Still, if you're looking for some immediate impact, these are the Lightning's Top-5 Overage Prospects:
Lightning Europe Playoff Extravaganza!!!:
Just a quick note on talented former 2001 second round pick Alexander Polushin:
It appears the Cold War between he and Coach Bykov may finally be thawing. After spending much of the season relegated to the First/Farm League, Polushin has suited up for the last three games for CSKA. The move might've been a last desperate effort my Bykov to make the playoffs as CSKA was all but eliminated from contention Saturday at the hands of Nikolai Khabibulin and Vincent Lecavalier's Ak Bars Kazan 5-2. CSKA sits in 10th place behind 8th place Nizhnekamsk with just three games left to go in the regular season. The Russian Superleague tabulates their standings by awarding 3 points for a win. Polushin now has 3 goals and 7 points in 15 games at the Superleague level. At last check, he also had 13 goals and 23 points in 21 games in the First League as well.
I just got a response back from Evgeny Belashenko of Russianprospects.com. If you can pull yourself away from that picture of the lovely Ms. Melikova, Evgeny speculates that Alex Polushin's lack of games at the Superleague level may be due to him not fitting with CSKA's new system under Slava Bykov who took over from the venerable Viktor Tikhonov. Whatever the reason, Polushin's mere 11 games at the Superleague level (3-3-6 with 4PIMs in those games) has led to some consternation amongst some Lightning fans. Others who are more vocal and less knowledgable on the web (AOL bottomfeeders I'm looking in your direction) have even gone so far to claim that Polushin doesn't deserve to be a highly rated prospect because he, to paraphrase their argument, hasn't played any hockey in two seasons.
And while it is true he missed most of last season with a knee injury, Polushin has NOT been merely serving popcorn in CSKA's pressbox this season. To the contrary, he has been playing for CSKA2 in the Farm/First League where he is at over a point a game pace at 10-13-23 in 21 games. To put that in some measure of perspective, a couple of seasons ago when Dimitry Kazionov was playing in the First League he had 14-13-27 in 34 games.
Ahhhhh, my first European Hockey Update away from the third world dictatorship that HF has become. Lets begin:
All in all, the beat goes on in Europe for the Lightning's prospects. They have some excellent overage properties like Somervuori, But and Norrena but have yet to see the explosion from youngsters like Polushin and Kazionov they might've hoped for. The exception to the rule is 2004 entry draft 6th rounder Karri Ramo, who is emerging as one of the two best young goalies in all of Finland after having a remarkable performance at Traverse City.