The NHL Entry Draft and Free Agency Frenzy are tiny blips in the rearview mirror and the next event – the Nashville prospects tournament – is still a few weeks away (and we’ll be there). August is the low-point of the hockey year and the Bolt Prospects staff has been using this lull to re-charge their batteries in preparation for another long season of daily reports and constant updates and commentary.
Editor’s Note: Batteries is a figurative term. We’re not robots, though we feel like it sometimes.
The prospects themselves are hard at work preparing for the season and/or dumping ice buckets over their respective heads for a good cause. Some, like Jonathan Drouin, have aspirations to make the big club. Others, like Daniel Milan, are hoping to stay in the organization beyond this season.
It’s time to take a look at who’s trending in what direction as camp approaches. The great part about hockey, and especially developmental hockey – is this is subject to change. There are few things more exciting than watching someone turn their career around. This is the Afanasenkov Rule. You never know.
The following 4-part series includes current prospects and players that started last season as prospects who remain in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization.
TAMPA BAY –The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed goaltender Ben Bishop to a two-year contract extension today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
Bishop, 6-foot-7, 214 pounds, posted a 37-14-7 record last season in 63 games. He also recorded a .924 save percentage and a 2.23 goals-against average. He ranked fourth in the NHL for games played and wins, as well as seventh for save percentage and goals-against average. Bishop’s five shutouts placed fifth in the NHL and were the second-most ever posted in franchise history. He set Lightning single season records for wins, save percentage and goals-against average. Bishop set the franchise mark for most saves in a game on January 19 at Carolina with 48. His 1,625 saves were the second most in a season by a Lightning goaltender. His successful season led to a nomination for the Vezina Trophy, given annually to the player voted to be the league’s best netminder.
Written by Pete Choquette (@jollymeangiant)
The dog days of summer find us in a rare lull on the calendar here on Bolt Prospects between the ending of Lightning rookie camp and the start of annual prospect tournaments and training camp. What better opportunity to take the time to examine how the Lightning's 2014 draft class figures into our rankings? With that in mind, here's our 2013-2014 Supplemental Prospect Rankings, the final round of rankings before the 2014-2015 season.
The 2014 NHL Entry Draft offered a tremendous opportunity for the Tampa Bay Lightning to replenish a prospect system that has been depleted by the mass graduation of well over a half a dozen prospects that moved up from the AHL to NHL level last season. Some of the finest prospects in the land still held down the top spots in the rankings, but there was a considerable vacuum behind the top half dozen or so spots. With three picks in the coveted top-60 of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, the team held three golden tickets to begin to restock and reload. The Lightning used those picks to select three defensemen, addressing the most obvious deficiency in their prospect pipeline. Will the needs-based approach to drafting pay off, or will the shift in philosophy this year backfire on the club? Time will tell.
Before we start with the rankings, it's time to once again review the rules of the rankings. Players under 24 years of age on opening night of the 2013-2014 NHL season were eligible for the rankings. Older prospects are considered overage prospects for the purposes of the website (sorry, J.P. Cote). Any skater prospect with 41 or more NHL games in a single season or 82 or more career NHL games is considered graduated on the website. Any goaltender with 30 or more decisions in a single NHL season or 41 career NHL decisions is also considered graduated. Lastly, NCAA prospects are exempt from the 24 year-old cutoff for the duration of their college careers.
Got it? There will be a quiz later. With that out of the way, let's begin...
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed forward Richard Panik to a one-year, two-way contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
Panik, 6-foot-1, 208 pounds, played in 50 games with Tampa Bay last season, recording three goals and 13 points. He also played in 13 games with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League in 2013-14. With the Crunch he accumulated three goals and 11 points. Panik also played in two games during the Lightning’s Eastern Conference Quarter-Final series against the Montreal Canadiens during the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
A native of Martin, Slovakia, Panik has appeared in 75 career NHL games, all with the Lightning, with eight goals and 22 points. He won the AHL’s Calder Cup Championship with the Norfolk Admirals in 2012. Panik represented his native Slovakia at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia and skated in four games.
Panik was drafted by Tampa Bay in the second round, 52nd overall, at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
TAMPA BAY –The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed free agent forward Brenden Morrow to a one-year contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced. Tampa Bay also signed forward Philippe Paradis (pair-ah-DEE) to a one-year, two-way contract.
Morrow, 6-foot, 205 pounds, played in 71 games with the St. Louis Blues in 2013-14, recording 13 goals and 25 points with a plus-1 rating. He scored four power-play goals and three game-winning goals. Morrow ranked eighth on the team for goals and averaged 11:54 in ice time per game.
A native of Carlyle, Saskatchewan, Morrow is a veteran of 921 NHL games with the Dallas Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins and Blues. He has accumulated 262 goals, 567 points and is a plus-108. He is a seven-time 20-goal scorer and has reached the 30-goal plateau on two occasions. He served as the captain of the Stars from 2006 until he was traded to Pittsburgh during the 2012-13 season. Morrow has appeared in 94 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, notching 19 goals and 46 points.
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed forward Brett Connolly to a one-year, two-way contract, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.
Connolly, 22, skated in 11 games with the Lightning last season, posting a goal and four penalty minutes. His lone goal during the 2013-14 season came on November 2 against the St. Louis Blues. Connolly also skated in 66 games with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League, recording 21 goals and 57 points to go along with 50 penalty minutes. The 6-foot-2, 193-pound forward ranked first on the Crunch for both points and assists (36).
The Campbell River, B.C. native has skated in 84 career NHL games, all with the Lightning over three seasons, notching six goals and 17 points go along with 34 penalty minutes. Three of his six career goals have been game-winners. Connolly has also skated in 137 career AHL games, collecting 52 goals and 120 points.
Connolly was originally drafted by the Lightning in the first round, sixth overall, at the 2010 NHL Draft.
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed forward Jerome Samson to a one-year, two-way contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
Samson, 26, skated in 68 games with the St. John’s IceCaps of the American Hockey League last season, recording 27 goals and 56 points to go along with 49 penalty minutes. He ranked first on the IceCaps and 12th in the AHL for power-play tallies with 11. The Greenfield Park, Quebec native ranked second on St. John’s for goals and was third for points. He also appeared in 17 AHL postseason games last season, posting three goals and six points, helping the IceCaps reach the Calder Cup Finals.
The 6-foot, 195-pound forward has skated in 46 career NHL games, all with the Carolina Hurricanes over parts of three seasons, notching two goals and nine points. Samson recorded an assist in his NHL debut on January 7, 2010 against the Nashville Predators. He registered his first career NHL goals during the 2011-12 season while playing for the Hurricanes.
The undrafted forward has skated in 424 career AHL games with the IceCaps, Charlotte Checkers and Albany River Rats, posting 160 goals and 336 points to go along with 306 penalty minutes. Samson was named to the AHL First All-Star Team following the 2009-10 season after he posted 37 goals and 78 points while playing for Albany
Prior to the draft I took a stab at what the Lightning roster would have to look like to be a conference contender. In the write up, the generic “acquisition” player was slotted in both the second and third pairs of the defensive six, and Paquette and Callahan were in the top-11 forwards (Jon Cooper frequently dresses 11/7 rather than the traditional 12/6), adding grit, character, and physicality. The latter two were part of Cooper’s wish to balance out the size of the forward group while becoming a harder team to play against. I had a third acquisition on defense in the 7/8 spot, as well as the obvious No. 2 goalie slot.
Now a week after the free agent frenzy, Yzerman has done – in my opinion – exactly what was needed to become a conference contender. While he added two defensemen and not three, he added two to the top-4 instead of one to the top-4 and two to the bottom-3 on the blueline. Big ups to Stevie-Y for that. I also had Sustr slotting down to Syracuse – barely – in order for him to get more developmental minutes. That’s exactly what’s happened, too. Purcell also moved as expected, though that one was fairly obvious due to contract status and player type.
Before I bruise myself with pats on the back, I had Brett Connolly going to Syracuse due to the glut of forwards blocking him. This was a stroke of derpius since Connolly is waiver eligible and therefore a demotion to the AHL has a near zero chance of happening. Nice going, genius.
At any rate, here’s how I see the roster playing out come October. Lines are speculative, of course, as they’ll change five minutes into the first game. This is more of a who-ends-up-where list:
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed forward Cody Kunyk to a one-year, two-way contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
Kunyk, 24, made his NHL debut with the Lightning on April 13 at Washington, logging 10:12 in ice time. He was signed by Tampa Bay as an undrafted free agent on March 20, 2014.
The Sherwood Park, Alberta native skated in 37 games for the University of Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks last season, posting 22 goals and 43 points to go along with 22 penalty minutes and a plus-13 rating. The 5-foot-11, 197-pound forward led the Nanooks for goals, points, power-play goals (six) and shorthanded goals (two). Kunyk was named the WCHA's Player of the Year and to the First Team All-WCHA team. He also led the WCHA for scoring during the 2013-14 season.
Kunyk skated in 148 games over four seasons at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, amassing 60 goals and 133 points. He set career highs his senior year for goals, assists (21) and points. Kunyk became the 30th Nanook in program history to join the 100-point club with a goal on November 22, 2013.
Despite no official release by the organization, the Tampa Bay Lightning have apparently signed defenseman Matt Corrente to a one-year, two-way contract per the player's twitter account and corroborated by capgeek.com. Corrente, a 6'0" 205 lbs right-handed defenseman, is a another depth signing in a recent trend of acquisitions that include
The Carolina Hurricanes signed Corrente last summer and he spent the entire season playing for team's AHL affiliate Charlotte Checkers, leading the team in penalty minutes with 136. Corrente was a 1st round pick in the 2006 draft by the New Jersey Devils and spent 5 seasons in that organization, amassing 34 games with New Jersey and another 163 games with their AHL affiliate Albany Devils.
Corrente will join Jean-Philippe Cote and Joey Mormina in anchoring a veteran presence on the Syracuse blueline that sports a young crop of defensive prospects slated to include Luke Witkowski, Nikita Nesterov, Artem Sergeev, Slater Koekkoek, Dylan Blujus, and Jake Dotchin.