Pete's Prospects: 5-1

The final five have arrived feature two Russians, a former Stan Butler protige and two former Hitmen. A project a month in the making comes to its conclusion. Check it out: [b]5.) RW Evgeni Artukhin, Springfield Falcons (AHL)[/b] [b][i]Ht/Wt: 6'4" 254 lbs. Drafted: 3rd Round 2001[/i][/b] 62GP 9-19-28 142 PIMs (+1) After struggling for some two and a half seasons to make his mark in North American hockey, Evgeni Artukhin finally began to realize some of his potential during the second half of the 2004-2005 campaign. The son of a former Greco-Roman wrestling star back in his homeland of Russia, it's seemed at times over much of the past three years that Artukhin spent more time either in the box or on suspension than he did developing in game action. Standing it at an absolutely mammoth 6'4" and 254 pounds of mostly muscle, Artukhin loves the physical game which has drawn the ire not only of opposing players but of referees as well from the junior ranks in the QMJHL all the way to the professional level in the AHL. However, Evgeni finally began to show discipline in the second half of this past season with Springfield and ended with a flurry of points, 11 in his last 9 games to be exact, to end up ranked second amongst the Lightning's young prospects in scoring. Weighing in at over an eighth of a ton, one might assume Artukhin lacks the speed to cope with the pro game, but Artukhin skates amazingly well for a big man and formed a dynamic duo with veteran speedster Jason Jaspers. Entering his third season of professional hockey it will be imperative that Artukhin continue to show discipline and smarts in choosing when and when not to engage in extracurricular physicality. If he does, and can remain on the ice, he will continue to develop the offensive side of his game which includes a heavy repertoire of shots and an ever evolving set of puck skills. The Lightning project Artukhin as a future third liner, but with his size he might also be a strong option on the power play where he can become the proverbial immovable object in front of the opposition's netminder, setting screens, tipping pucks and being a general pain in the rear for any defenseman unlucky enough to draw the assignment of clearing him out. [b]4.) LW Adam Henrich, Springfield Falcons (AHL)[/b] [b][i]Ht/Wt: 6'4" 234 lbs. Drafted: 2nd Round 2002[/i][/b] 63GP 10-16-26 97 PIMs (-12) (AHL) 6GP 2-1-3 15PIMs (+1) (ECHL) Adam Henrich, at 6'4" 234 lbs. is a big man with the skills of a smaller forward. The problem is, Adam Henrich is also a big man who plays like a smaller forward. Coming out of Brampton in the OHL where he tallied an impressive 93 goals over his last three years of junior, the Lightning were counting on Adam Henrich to provide scoring punch to their Springfield Falcons affiliate. Unfortunately, and much to the chagrin of Head Coach Dirk Graham, Henrich spent most of the year either nicked with nagging injuries or defying his billing as a power forward prospect by clinging to the perimeter in the offensive zone and trying to rely on stickhandling moves that, frankly, weren't all that terribly effective when he was a junior. When Adam Henrich decides to get his nose dirty, something that happened far too little last season, he can dominate his opposition down low in the offensive zone. In a manner reminiscent of current Lightning star Fredrik Modin, Henrich is capable of putting opposing blueliners on his back and carrying them through high traffic areas on the way to creating mayhem and scoring chances. The brother of former Oilers first rounder Michael Henrich, Adam posseses a heavy shot and surprisingly slick passing skills for a man his size. When he comes to play, he's just as able to physically control the play in the trenches along the wall as he is to dish a pinpoint saucer pass circle to circle for an onrushing teammate. But those skills will only carry Henrich to the next level if he is willing to train hard to get himself in proper condition to take the beating of a full AHL season and if he shows the heart and physical courage to play with an edge like the power forward he is. If he does, the Falcons' rookie leader in goals and points is a potential NHL second liner who could chip in 20-25 goals a season. If not, he's of little use to the team. It's up to Henrich to decide which path he will take. [b]3.) D Andy Rogers, Prince George Cougars (WHL)[/b] [b][i]Ht/Wt: 6'5" 210 lbs. Drafted: 1st Round 2004[/i][/b] 48GP 2-9-11 85PIMs (-12) After not having a first round selection since Alex Svitov in 2001, the Lightning finally selected defenseman Andy Rogers with the 30th overall pick in the June, 2004 Entry Draft. Standing in at an imposing 6'5" 210 lbs., Rogers' size masks the fact that he is one of the better skaters in the organization. Blessed with excellent burst, Rogers can keep up with forwards half his size and like a spider to a fly, eventually uses his long reach and hulking frame to catch onrushing forwards and physically separate them from the puck. Rogers also plays with a distinct edge and has earned a reputation for establishing turf rights in front of his own crease and protecting them by any means necessary. Although he lacks the puck skills or, for that matter, the willingness to assert himself much offensively, Rogers has a low, heavy shot that clocks in the mid-nineties that is capable of generating rebound opportunities for his teammates when he gets it off. 2004-2005 was a tough season for Andy as injuries kept him out a quarter of the year and a WHL trade deadline deal sent him from the Calgary Hitmen to the lowly Prince George Cougars who finished dead last in the Western Conference. Teams can turn around quickly in the junior ranks though, and Rogers will be counted on to not only anchor the Cougars blueline with his usual poise and intimidating physical presence but to provide leadership as the team attempts to grow into a legitimate playoff contender. With a little more word on his first pass out of the zone and another 10-20 pounds added to his frame, Rogers could be just 2-3 years away from assuming a role on the Lightning's shutdown pairing in his own right. [b]2.) C/LW Alexander Polushin, CSKA2 (RUS)[/b] [b][i]Ht/Wt: 6'4" 200 lbs. Drafted: 2nd Round 2001[/i][/b] 21GP 13-10-23 18PIMs (1st League) 17GP 3-4-7 4PIMs (-1) (Superleague) There's perhaps no prospect in the Lightning organization with the potential of Alexander Polushin. However, after losing much of last season after undergoing knee surgery, Polushin rejected overtures from the Lightning to come to North America this season to play in the AHL with the Springfield Falcons. The consequence was dreadful for Polushin's development. After spending much of his career with CSKA under the tuteledge of legendary coach Viktor Tikhonov, Polushin struggled to adjust with a coaching change this season and the seeming clash of wills landed Polushin in the First League, the Superleague's farm league, for much of the year. Part of the conflict was due to Polushin's conditioning as his weight ballooned some due to his inability to skate while rehabbing his knee. Coupled with the influx of locked out NHLers which forced Polushin into a role considerably less desirable than the 14 or so minutes a night Polushin received under Tikhonov, the situation became somewhat toxic. None of that, however, detracts from Polushin's considerable on ice potential. Alex is a well rounded, unselfish player who uses his size to dig for loose pucks in the corner. Although he posseses a laser for a shot and superb stickhandling ability for a player his size, Polushin would rather set up his teammates for scoring opportunities with his precision passing and above average vision. Don't read too much into Polushin's disagreement with CSKA's coach, as his previous coach Tikhonov was infamous for being one of the strictest bench bosses in the history of his sport. If Polushin can coexist with Tikhonov happily, he can probably handle life with John Tortorella. The problem however is Polushin's resistance to signing a two way deal and, most importantly, to playing in the AHL for a year or two to develop his game. The Lightning are dealing from a position of power now and are not going to hand unproven prospects NHL roster spots based on potential alone any longer. Given that his current coach with CSKA kept him in the Russian equivalent of the minors, it is mind boggling to conceive why Polushin would shun the minors in North America. [b]1.) D Mike Egener, Springfield Falcons (AHL)[/b] [b][i]Ht/Wt: 6'4" 213 lbs. Drafted: 2nd Round 2003[/i][/b] 45GP 3-2-5 183 PIMs (-11) And the winner of the #1 spot in my rankings on the Lightning's Top-25 prospects is, drumroll please, Mike Egener. There must be something in the water at the practice rink for the Calgary Hitmen organization. Over the past three seasons no other organization has groomed more defensemen with the rare combination of size and skating ability that NHL teams covet. From Brett Carson to Jeff Schultz to the Lightning's own Andy Rogers, no one produces big mobile defensemen quite like the Calgary Hitmen. But what separates Egener from this star studded cast of blueline prospects are the intangibles he displays on and off the ice. On the rink, put simply, Mike Egener is perhaps the most excitable physical player the Lightning organization has seen since Enrico Ciccone was giving cheap shots to Scott Mellanby's teeth and making Blimpie commercials that moved more subs than a Groton, CT harbor master. Egener backs down from no man, and he punishes his opposition from the boards, to the slot to the tunnel to the visiting locker room, literally. And while sometimes discipline is lacking in his game, physical abilities certainly aren't. Egener is a quick skater with amazing burst who patrols every inch of his defensive third of the ice with malice in his heart. He may never be a top pairing power play guy who will get you 30+ points a season, but Egener does have an explosive cannon for a shot and the ability to lug the puck out of danger in his own end to the redline for a crisp dump in to start the forecheck. Off the ice Egener is an impressive leader, with maturity beyond his years. Some scouts have even been quoted as believing Egener is captain material, with leadership skills akin to long time New Jersey Devil mainstay Ken Daneyko. Also, Egener has always been active in the community, and that trend continued this season as he shared the Falcons' Good Guy award for community service, and no, it surprisingly didn't involve an orange vest. Egener has put concussion problems that dropped his draft year stock well behind him, but he missed nearly half of last season with knee problems that almost required surgery. If he can stay healthy, and with a dash of discipline, expect Egener to fulfill his potential as the left handed Cory Sarich clone the team foresees him becoming. [b]Pete's Lightning Prospect Rankings 1.) D Mike Egener, Springfield (AHL) 2.) C/LW Alexander Polushin, CSKA (RUS) 3.) D Andy Rogers, Prince George (WHL) 4.) LW Adam Henrich, Springfield (AHL) 5.) RW Evgeni Artukhin, Springfield (AHL) 6.) D Paul Ranger, Springfield (AHL) 7.) C/LW Ryan Craig, Springfield (AHL) 8.) D Doug O'Brien, Springfield (AHL) 9.) D Gerard Dicaire, Springfield (AHL) 10.) G Brian Eklund, Springfield (AHL) 11.) D Matt Smaby, North Dakota (WCHA) 12.) RW Darren Reid, Springfield (AHL) 13.) C/LW Nick Tarnasky, Springfield (AHL) 14.) G Karri Ramo, Lahti (FIN) 15.) G Jonathan Boutin, Quebec (QMJHL) 16.) G Gerald Coleman, London (OHL) 17.) C/LW Dimitri Kazionov, Togliatti (RUS) 18.) C/LW Zbynek Hrdel, Rimouski (QMJHL) 19.) LW Mark Tobin, Rimouski (QMJHL) 20.) D Andreas Holmqvist, Springfield (AHL) 21.) D Mike Lundin, Maine (HEast) 22.) LW Justin Keller, Kelowna (WHL) 23.) LW Dennis Packard, Springfield (AHL) 24.) C Andre Deveaux, Springfield (AHL) 25.) LW Alexei Glukhov, Victoria (ECHL)[/b] [i]Note:Rankings take into consideration future upside AND NHL readiness in comparing players. The team the player is listed with is the last franchise in the league the player spent the largest part of the year with. Height/weight metrics were compiled from the player's team or league where available. These rankings are my personal rankings and not representative of the opinions of the Boltprospects staff as a whole.[/i]