North American Juniors
Last week we looked at which defensemen and goaltenders could see time with the Lightning this year. Today, we take a look at the forwards.
Unlike the defensemen and goalies, figuring out which forward prospects could make the team out of camp and which ones could earn a call-up is far from simple. Therefore, weâ€™ll break down the candidates individually.
These 10 forwards, combined with the eight defensemen Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman expects to keep, as well as two goaltenders, leaves three roster spots open. Head Coach Guy Boucher will likely switch between dressing six and seven defensemen, meaning of the three forward spots open only one is guaranteed to play. It is also possible the team could carry only 12 forwards as they did last season in spurts.
While Yzerman, Boucher, and management say roster spots will be earned in a meritocracy system - and that is what the players need to hear - in todayâ€™s NHL, contract status (not necessarily salary in this case) plays a huge part in roster management. Also high on the list is the opportunity for development-rich playing time.
The Lightning currently have 44 players under contract on their 50-man organizational roster, including Brett Connolly, who only counts if he plays more than nine games at the NHL level.
Hereâ€™s a look at the candidates to fill the three open forward positions with the 2011-2012 Tampa Bay Lightning.
With the dog days of summer upon us thereâ€™s not much hockey talk these days unless it's shooting down a ridiculous trade rumor.
Sure, Brian Rolston, who was property of the Tampa Bay Lightning for what seemed like an hour a few years ago, was traded this week, but there hasnâ€™t been much going on except roster speculation.
So, we'll take our turn and speculate on next yearâ€™s Lightning roster and how the clubâ€™s prospects factor in.
Today is rather easy: goaltenders and defense.
With their first pick of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Lightning chose Russian center Vladislav Namestnikov of the London Knights.
Hereâ€™s what scouts and prospect followers have said about the newest Bolt prospect:
Name: Vladislav Namestnikov
Born: 11/22/1992, Voskresensk, Russia
Last Team: London (OHL)
Rankings: CSS 11 (NA Skaters), RLR 25 (Overall), THN 36 (Overall), TSN 31 (Overall)
Stats: 68 games played, 30-38-68, 49 PIM, +12
Playoffs: 6 games played, 1-4-5, 6 PIM
Angelidis had 20 goals and 38 points last season for AHL Norfolk, his first with the organization since signing as a free agent last August. The former 53-goal scorer for Owen Sound of the OHL also added 169 penalty minutes and a plus-18 rating for the Admirals.
Like last season, Angelidis, 25, is expected to provide a gritty, veteran presence in Norfolk, as well as organizational depth at forward if needed.
The Lightning announced the signing late Wednesday, making it official.
The Bolts signed Angelidis' Norfolk teammate, Mike Vernace, earlier this week. Both were scheduled to be unrestricted free agents July 1.
Gregg Drinnan of the Kamloops Daily News, one of the WHL and junior hockeyâ€™s most respected writers, reports Lightning 2010 first round draft pick Brett Connolly has been signed by the Bolts to a standard three-year entry level contract.
The Lightning have not announced the signing, and may not until July, according to Damian Cristodero (@LightningTimes) of the St. Pete Times.
Erik Erlendsson (@erlendssontrib) of the Tampa Tribune tweeted that Connolly confirmed he has agreed to a deal.
Connolly, a native of Prince George, B.C. and captain of the WHLâ€™s Prince George Cougars, is currently in Toronto involved in an intense training program in preparation for next season.
He was drafted sixth overall by the Lightning last summer, the first draft pick of the Jeff Vinik-Steve Yzerman era in Tampa Bay. The pick was scrutinized because Connolly had missed most of the previous season due to two hip injuries.
The winger played in 59 games this year for the Cougars, missing time only due to his participation for Canada at the World Junior championships, a minor knee injury, and a late shoulder separation sustained in the playoffs.
Al Murray, former head scout for Hockey Canada and current director of amateur scouting for the Lightning, told NHL.com last week the hip injuries were ancient history.
After Connollyâ€™s 2010-2011 season was finished Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman said the 46-goal scorer needed to get stronger to help prevent injuries.
Connolly is in Toronto to work on just that.
"He'll stay [in Toronto] for the summer; he's made a significant commitment to put himself in every position to try and make the [Lightning] and to try and do as well as he can, so with added strength and confidence, we're anxious to see what he looks like in the fall training camp, but there will be no urgency to push Brett into a roster spot," Murray told NHL.com.
Because Connolly won't be 20 until May 2012, his options are to play for the Lightning or return to the WHL in the fall. He cannot play in the American Hockey League.
Connolly, who had 73 points in his 59 games last season, retained his spot as the Lightningâ€™s top prospect in our recently released 2010-2011 Final Rankings.