11 for 6: Jack Campbell

Tonight BoltProspects is starting a new series in anticipation of the Lightning selecting 6th overall at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft entitled 11 for 6. We will be previewing the eleven draft prospects we feel are most likely to be under consideration by the Lightning scouting staff at the sixth overall pick. Tonight we start with a goaltender, Jack Campbell of the US National Team Development Program.

Goaltending is, without question, the Lightning's deepest position in terms of youth and prospects despite the fact it's the club's most dire need at the NHL level. BoltProspects' top prospect, Dustin Tokarski, entered his rookie professional season with a reputation as one of the best big game netminders in all of junior hockey, and he did little to lose that reputation in backstopping Norfolk to its first winning record as a Tampa Bay affiliate. Despite playing behind an inexperienced defensive corps, Tokarski posted a solid .915 save percentage and 4 shutouts and he looks the part of a future number one starter in the NHL. Along with Tokarski, the Lightning have a pair of goaltenders in Europe who could also be NHL starters in the very near future in BoltProspects alumnus Karri Ramo and overage prospect Vasily Koshechkin, who has been one of the best goaltenders in Russia for the past half decade. Behind those three, the Lightning have yet another exciting prospect in Jaroslav Janus, who was the darling of the U20 World Junior Championships for Slovakia two years ago and played so well for Erie of the OHL last year that he earned a pro contract and a spot with Norfolk of the AHL at midseason. Rounding out the group of potential NHLers is former first round pick Riku Helenius, who rebounded after being pushed out of North America by an ascendant Janus to play well for Elitserien side Sodertalje in Sweden at the tail end of the year. Helenius will get plenty of starts for Sodertalje next season in a high quality league. Along with a new GM offering a fresh perspective and a clean slate, that might be the thing he needs to get back into the Lightning's plans.

So why would the Lightning draft a goaltender? Put simply, the team doesn't have much at the NHL level between the pipes. Inconsistent Antero Niittymaki is an unrestricted free agent and uncertain to return and Mike Smith has looked like a shadow of himself since concussion problems cost him half of the 2008-2009 season. That, in of itself, might not mandate taking a goaltender in the top ten picks but this offseason's dire goaltending situation is a familiar one to Lightning fans who have seen their team struggle between the pipes since the team's inception. Whether it's been Daren Puppa's back issues, the rapid disintegration of the careers of John Grahame and Marc Denis, or Smith's concussion problems, this is a movie Tampa Bay has seen plenty of times before, and would prefer not to have to sit through anymore. Taking a high end goaltending prospect would allow the Lightning to be even more confident that they will have a home grown number one in nets within the next couple of seasons, hopefully addressing what perpetually seems to be a need position for the team once and for all. Between that and the fact a goaltender may also happen to be the best player available at the 6th pick, the remote possibility the team may select a goaltender remains real enough that it can't be ignored. With that in mind, there is just one goaltender that the scouting community seems to score as a potential franchise netminder and a real possibility to go within the top-10 picks of the draft:

Name: Jack Campbell
Position: Goaltender
Catches: Left
Height: 6.03
Weight: 175
Born: 1/9/92, Port Huron, MI
Last Team: USNTDP (USA)
Rankings: CSS 2 (NA Goaltenders), ISS 1 (Goaltenders), RLR 10 (Overall), THN 13 (Overall)

2009-2010 Statistics:
USNTDP (USHL), 11 GP, 6-3-1, 1 SO, 2.21 GAA, .917 sv%
USA (U20 WJC), 3 GP, 2-1-0, 1 SO, 2.54 GAA, .923 sv%
USA (U18 WJC), 6 GP, 5-1-0, 3 SO, 0.83 GAA, .965 sv%

For much of the year Seattle’s Calvin Pickard looked like the pick of the litter among this draft class's goaltenders. But, it seems in recent years that there are always one or two goaltenders that dominate late in the season at the U18 World Junior Championships and vault their stock high into the first round. That was the case in 2006 when the Lightning took Riku Helenius with the 15th overall pick, and it’s likely to be the case again this year for the team that selects Jack Campbell out of the US National Team Development Program. Campbell was named the U18 tournament’s best goaltender after posting a 5-1-0 record with 3 shutouts, a 0.83 GAA, and a .965 save percentage in six games as the Americans secured Gold. That performance came after a very strong U20 World Junior Championships performance at midseason by Campbell that included an outstanding relief appearance in the Gold Medal winning game against the Canadians. Campbell’s got good size, great athleticism, and the calm swagger of a winner. He plays his angles and challenges shooters well and has a quick glove to complement his smooth mechanics. Don’t be surprised if someone trades into the top ten to try to get Campbell because he could be a franchise caliber goaltender. He decommitted from the University of Michigan and will be playing for powerhouse Windsor in the OHL next year. The Lightning have a lot of depth in goal and don’t necessarily need Campbell, but he could very well be the best player available at the sixth pick. It would not be the worst problem in the world for the Lightning to add Campbell to a stable that includes Dustin Tokarski so they could boast they have two of the best young big game goalie prospects in the game.