North American Juniors
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.
Yesterday's deadline for signing 2009 major junior draftees came and went with no contract announcement for Owen Sound goaltender Michael Zador by Tampa Bay. The Tampa Tribune briefly had a report up stating the Lightning informed Zador they would not be signing him.
Zador was chosen in the fifth round of the 2009 draft, 148th overall. At the time he was coming off an impressive showing for Canada at the U-18 world championships and had the size (6-2) the team was looking for in a netminder. In fact, Lightning general manager Brian Lawton traded a 2010 fifth round pick to Nashville to move up to get Zador, a former first rounder in the OHL draft. Zador was property of OHL Oshawa at the time, having just been added from London in the John Tavares deal.