Pete's Rankings: 25-21
Last night marked the conclusion of the Lightning prospect season as the London Knights won the Memorial Cup shutting out Rimouski 4-0 in the championship game. Boltsprospects offers congratulations to the Hunters and the entire Knights organization for assembling what will go down as perhaps the greatest junior team in the history of Canadian hockey. With all the games played and the offseason commencing, I will begin to post who I feel are the Lightning's top-25 prospects 5 prospects at a time. Today, I offer prospects 25-21:
25.) LW Alexei Glukhov, Victoria Salmon Kings (ECHL)
Ht/Wt: 6'3" 176 lbs. Drafted: 9th Round 2002
9GP 0-0-0 4PIMs (RUS)
32GP 5-12-17 12PIMs (-13) (ECHL)
3GP 0-1-1 6PIMs (-2) (AHL)
Out of obscurity and into the top-25 comes forward Alexei Glukhov. After spending nearly a season and a half languishing on the 4th line of Khimik Voskresensk in the Russian Superleague, Glukhov finally decided to make the leap to North America at mid season. With work visas difficult to obtain in the United States Glukhov was eventually sent to Victoria, British Columbia to play for the Salmon Kings of the ECHL where he was a rare bright spot for the expansion team's otherwise abysmal season. While there Glukhov put up over a half point a game and became a trusted member of the Salmon Kings lineup even playing some defenseman when suspensions left the team depleted on the blueline. Blessed with an outstanding shot, Glukhov even was rewarded with some time playing point on the power play before finally receiving a short 3 game try-out with the Springfield Falcons at the end of the year. Alexei brings a level of speed and skill to the lineup that the Falcons desperately lack, so expect him to be a contributor next season with the Falcons. He uses his reach effectively and has shown a surprising willingness to take and give checks early on in his North American career. No one ever doubted Glukhov's ability, as the former 9th round pick even has enjoyed some limited experience with the Russian junior team in international tournaments, but his willingness to compete was always the biggest knock. He's begun to answer that knock but next step is for Glukhov to gain at least 20 pounds to fill out his slight 6'3" 176 lb. frame to prove he can contribute at the AHL level. If he doesn't, the AHL is a brutally physical league and Glukhov could find himself on the trainer's table.
24.) C Andre Deveaux, Springfield Falcons (AHL)
Ht/Wt: 6'3" 240 lbs. Drafted: Signed as a Free Agent (6th Round 2002 MTL)
73GP 4-8-12 210PIMs (-17)
Winner of the Falcons' Unsung Hero award, Andre Deveaux checks in at 24 on the rankings countdown. A former sixth round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens, Deveaux went unsigned prompting the Lightning to give him a tryout with their Traverse City prospect camp team last summer. After impressing the organization with his hard work and toughness, Deveaux was signed by the Lightning and placed with the Springfield Falcons for whom he centered the team's checking line most of the season. No one will ever confuse Deveaux for Cam Neely, as his junior best year of 16 goals with Owen Sound as an overager is anemic at best for a 20 year old, but his work ethic and grit have prompted Falcons coach Dirk Graham to predict Deveaux will one day become an NHL checking liner. That may be difficult for Deveaux given his lack of hands and his particularly poor skating but there is one player in the Lightning organization Deveaux might compare favorably to: Chris Dingman.
23.) LW Dennis Packard, Springfield Falcons (AHL)
Ht/Wt: 6'4" 234 lbs. Drafted: 7th Round 2001
47GP 2-8-10 25PIMs (-14) (AHL)
15GP 3-4-7 6PIMs (+1) (ECHL)
It wasn't too long ago that the NHL's CSS ranked Dennis Packard their best NCAA prospect in their preliminary rankings the year before the 2001 draft. Four years of Harvard have come and gone as well as his rookie pro season with the Springfield Falcons and Dennis Packard's offensive upside has still failed to materialize. He remains, however, a legitimate checking line prospect as a result of his excellent size, skating, and intelligence on the ice. While not overly zealous, Packard will take and give a hit and he will drive the net causing problems for opponents in all three zones of the rink. Packard's speed earns him a ranking higher than Deveaux, but he must endeavor to prove he can chip in offense from the lower lines if he is ever to make the NHL. With a Harvard degree, one has to trust that Dennis is smart enough to make those adjustments in his game.
22.) LW Justin Keller, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Ht/Wt: 5'11" 185 lbs. Drafted: 8th Round 2004
72GP 31-22-53 103PIMs (+14)
Big time players perform in big time games and there are few players in junior hockey who have elevated their play come playoff time as much as Justin Keller has over the past two seasons. After scoring the Memorial Cup clinching goal last season for the Rockets Keller was snapped up in the 8th round by a Lightning team desperately seeking skill for their organization. Keller rewarded the team by potting 31 goals during the regular season for Kelowna, tops amongst all Lightning CHL prospects. But where Keller has really caught the team's eye has been in the playoffs. This season Keller finished fourth in the WHL in playoff scoring with 22 points in 23 games, 4th in the league overall and 3rd in the league with 12 playoff goals. In leading the Rockets in scoring Keller also led them to yet another WHL championship and their third straight Memorial Cup appearance where he tallied a respectable two assists in three games. One knock on Keller which dropped his draft stock was his size, but Justin began to answer critics this season by adding a considerable amount of edge to his game. Showing a new willingness to mix it up, Keller more than doubled his rookie PIM totals with 103 this season before finishing 9th in the WHL playoff with 44 minutes in sin bin time. The other knock however, skating, remains to be addressed if Keller is to elevate himself into a legitimate scoring threat at the pro level.
21.) D Mike Lundin, Maine Black Bears (HEast)
Ht/Wt: 6'1" 175 lbs. Drafted: 4th Round 2004
40GP 1-13-14 2PIMs (+9)
Without question Mike Lundin was bitten by the sophomore jinx this season. After a dazzling freshman campaign in which he registered 19 points for perennial NCAA power Maine, Lundin struggled much of the first half of the season to find his game eventually finishing with just 1 goal and 14 points for the year. Lundin is a good skater who makes an excellent breakout pass but has a tendency to play soft and passive at times. Next season as an upperclassman the Minnesota native will be counted on heavily to elevate his game for the Black Bears. If he does, the route to an NHL contract after his senior year seems clear with the lack of offensive defenseman prospects in the organization. When he does, it will be imperative for Mike to bulk up and increase his upper body strength as well as increase his intensity and willingness to compete physically in his own end of the ice.
Pete's Lightning Prospect Rankings
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)
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.