BP Mailbag: 3-19-14

The BP Mailbag is back with more questions from Lightning Nation...

How good can Adam Wilcox be? He doesn't get talked about much but his numbers are amazing. @BoltProspects #BPMailbag

University of Minnesota goalie Adam Wilcox (23-4-6, 1.91 GAA, .934 sv%, 3 SO) was just named the Big 10 Conference Player of the Year and remains a candidate for the Hobey Baker as the NCAA’s top player and the Mike Richter award as top goaltender. He was a sixth round pick of the Lightning in 2011.

Wilcox has good size, great athleticism, and a superb mental approach to the game. His poise and focus are among his biggest strengths. How good can he be? Goaltenders are the hardest to judge – just look at the number of failed top picks and successful late picks. However, Wilcox appears to have the mental and physical attributes to make it to the NHL and be a solid player.

He’ll be a junior next year at Minnesota if he stays in school, and speculation is he will stay in school as both Syracuse goalie spots appear to be taken by Andrey Vasilevskiy and Kristers Gudlevskis, respectively. While there is an opening at Goaltender No. 5, I don’t know that Wilcox would leave his throne in the Gophers net for the ECHL. My guess is he comes out after his junior year and takes one of the Syracuse spots. Then it’s at least two years before he’s flirting with NHL time. It’s a long process, but he has the ability to be a solid NHL net minder.

WaiverWire (via BP Messageboard):
What are the chances Syracuse coach Rob Zettler is not retained?

I’ve been asked this a lot lately with Syracuse’s season in the tank. Truthfully, I don’t think a move is made. Zettler got a bit of a raw deal this year with so many graduations from Syracuse to Tampa Bay. The Crunch didn’t have enough experienced depth to overcome all the player losses and it cost them the playoffs. I think we’ve seen Syracuse GM Julien BriseBrois move to make some corrections already for next season, adding players that can impact the scoresheet and have a good chance of sticking on the team all year. Of course, I’m speaking of Marchessault and Gourde. Ikonen and Vermin are also on their way. I feel good about the forward ranks for next year in Syracuse, especially if Jon DiSalvatore and possibly Evan Rankin are retained. The defense needs veteran help, though JP Cote is probably back longterm next year for as long as he can stay healthy. Another Taormina is needed. If they can add a veteran defenseman or two that can make a difference, then I think Syracuse is a definite playoff team. Zettler didn’t get stupid overnight. I think he knows what he’s doing – but the leash isn’t going to be long.

Astro (via BPMB):
With defensive prospects on the thin side, which prospects would you target in this year's draft?

I haven’t gotten deep into draft research yet, but I will say that with Koekkoek’s latest injury, a marquee defense prospect is sorely needed as insurance (and really you can’t have all your eggs in one basket anyway). To beat a dead horse, TB needs a righty puckmover who is capable of playing Cooper’s speed system as a fourth forward and hold his own in the defensive third.

Specific options include Swift Current’s Julius Honka, who is undersized but a phenomenal skater and offensive talent, or Roland McKeown – Ikonen’s teammate in Kingston – an offense-first guy who projects as a top-4. Honka could go in the 10-20 range and McKeown 15-30.

Coldrice (via BPMB):
Beginning to wonder if Jimmy Mullin is perhaps an early-leave candidate. Does the org see anything to warrant a spot in SYR if he does?

I was finally able to confirm that Mullin has been out with a lower-body injury for the past few weeks and not a healthy scratch – although he was being scratched occasionally before his injury. He could be an early jump candidate in that his role with the RedHawks seems to be shrinking, but there has to be an option for him, and I don’t think that Tampa Bay is offering anything at this time. Gourde, Marchessault, Ikonen, and Vermin are scheduled to be on the Crunch forward lines next year (two already there obviously) and players like Tanner Richard and Cedric Paquette will see bigger roles. I don’t believe they want to sign anyone who doesn’t have legitimate NHL potential and I don’t believe Mullin has entered that category at this time. He has another year of NCAA eligibility and I’m almost certain he plays it out.

Derek28 (via BPMB):
Do you think the Bolts would be interested in Darcy Ashley as a undrafted free agent since he's on a line with Jonathan Drouin, averaging 1.7 points a game and plays a gritty style even if he is only 5'8?

Drouin and Ashley have played well together this year, as stated above, but I don’t think a signing is a possibility with undersized forwards Marchessault and Gourde just added. If another small, skill forward is added I think you have to look at senior Austin Czarnik of Miami-Ohio, who camped with the Lightning a couple years ago.

@BoltProspects do you think Tampa will keep the 2015 first from NYR or trade it for more immediate help? #BPMailbag

I think it’s 50-50. Yzerman has a quality asset in his pocket, but he’s not going to be quick to spend it if the deal isn’t right. He could easily hold it until the 2015 deadline and use it at that time to add a key piece. I would like to say he’s apt to use it this summer to acquire a top-4 300+ game defenseman, but I thought that was coming last year and there was more of a need last year than this year for that player.

A lot depends on Callahan re-signing and if Yzerman loses the second rounder as a result. Then he’s down a non-player asset.

@BoltProspects What are the odds of Adam Erne making the team next year? Might he replace Ryan Malone? #BPMailbag

While Yzerman’s philosophy is to let things play out before making a decision, he has to have an idea in the back of his mind of how things are realistically to come down. Erne has two options next year – NHL or Quebec. He’s too young for the AHL so we’re back to the Connolly/Drouin questions about what’s best for them. Drouin, who is in the same position as Erne in regards to age, is all but a lock for the Lightning. Keep in mind the Bolts don’t have an open spot among their top-6 forwards right now (assuming Callahan is re-signed). Someone like Purcell will have to be moved to get him in the lineup.

Malone moving (he’s under contract for another year) would create a spot on the fourth line, but Panik or a veteran is more likely to take that spot. Most likely Panik. There’s no use playing Erne nine minutes a night on the fourth line when he can play 20+ with the Remparts. The default decision for this group is playing time. That points to the Q. Hopefully Erne makes it interesting again, though.

What type of relationship does @BoltProspects have with TB, SYR, and other organizations? #BPMailbag

We are an independent, though we have a partnership with the Lightning to stock daily prospect updates here: tampabaylightning.com/prospects. We are credentialed media with both the Lightning and Crunch. Both clubs have been extremely accommodating and great to work with.

@BoltProspects Do u think they will add fwd that were previously at the TBL camp? Players like Brassart, Welychka, Kunyk, Czarnik #BPMailbag

At this point I don’t know if a small skill forward like Czarnik will be added, but I think if another one joins the organization it could easily be him. Czarnik, who led Miami-Ohio in scoring with 12-33-45 in 35 games, was at the prospects camp two years ago, but wasn’t back this past year, so that could be telling. Gourde was just signed as an undersized assist man, though he’s a winger and Czarnik a center.

Brady Brassart could have been an option because he has some size and grit and can score. He matched last year’s goal total of 35 for WHL Calgary this year as an overage player, but increased his point total from 78 to 85 (70 games). He also had 94 penalty minutes. He signed an entry-level contract with the Minnesota Wild.

Kunyk had a career year as a senior for Alaska-Fairbanks with 22-21-43 in 37 games. He’s a sub-6’ winger with 22 PIM.

Welychka improved his totals for OHL London, scoring a career-high 22 goals and adding 34 assists for the juggernaut junior team. He’s 5-10 and has bottom line potential as a grinder if TB is not worried about size. I think he’s an AHL contract candidate.

The positions to keep an eye on are defense and goaltender. The Lightning don’t have a No. 5 for next year yet and 6-2 goalie Clay Witt – a Tampa native – is graduating from Northeastern University. He is among the nation’s leaders in save percentage (.932). That’d be a good story.