D Luke Witkowski, Ohio (USHL)

Sixth Round, One-Hundred Sixtieth Overall
D Luke Witkowski, 6'2" 180 lbs, Ohio (USHL)
Rankings: Unranked

58 GP, 3-10-13, 139 PIM

Unranked by the major scouting services, Witkowski, a Western Michigan University commitment for 2009, has only recently begun playing defense. The Ohio Junior Blue Jackets rearguard is known for his skating, physical play, and work ethic. Witkowski told McKeen's Hockey he projects as an offensive defenseman.

D Mark Barberio, Moncton (QMJHL)

Sixth Round, One-Hundred and Fifty-Second Overall
D Mark Barberio, 6'1" 200 lbs, Moncton (QMJHL)
Rankings: #134 North America CSS, #36 Overall Red Line Report, #59 Overall THN

70 GP, 11-35-46, 75 PIM

Perhaps a steal here for the Lightning who get a strong defender who logged nearly 30 minutes a night last season for Moncton. Barberio is a solid two-way defender who will take the body, but there's a knock on his skating ability. Red Line projects Barberio as a #4 or #5 defenseman in the mold of Craig Rivet. THN projects Barberio as more of an offensive defenseman and even suggests some organizations had Barberio ranked as a first round pick.

RW Kyle De Coste, Brampton (OHL)

Fifth Round, One-Hundred Forty-Seventh Overall
RW Kyle De Coste, 6'2" 178 lbs, Brampton (OHL)
Rankings: #115 North America CSS, #274 Overall Red Line, NR THN

66 GP, 10-12-22, 48 PIM

De Coste is one of the younger players in this draft, so he's more of a project pick who brings a decent sized frame to the table. More info to follow.

G Dustin Tokarski, Spokane (WHL)

Fifth Round, One-Hundred Twenty-Second Overall
G Dustin Tokarski, 5'11" 185 lbs, Spokane (WHL)
Rankings: #9 North American Goalie CSS, #129 Overall Red Line Report, THN #NR, McKeen's #90 Overall

45 GP, 30-10-3, 2.05 GAA, .922 sv%, 6 shutouts

Tokarski stole the show at the 2008 Memorial Cup, winning MVP honors for the Spokane Chiefs. A bit undersized, the positionally sound, mentally tough goaltender stopped 53 shots in the Finals to defeat the Kitchener Rangers. "The Tick" split duties in the regular season. The Watson, Saskatchewan, native finished among the top goalies through the regular Western Hockey League season and was named the Western Conference championship series MVP after the Chiefs beat the Tri-City Americans in a memorable seven-game series that included five total overtime and three double-overtime games. He missed being eligible for the 2007 draft by one day. He went undrafted in the WHL Bantam Draft. He led his midget club to a championship, and considering Spokane has a young roster, he could put up huge numbers on his way to another Memorial Cup experience next year in Rimouski.

C James Wright, Vancouver (WHL)

Fourth Round, One-Hundred Seventeenth Overall
C James Wright, 6'3" 185 lbs, Vancouver (WHL)
Rankings: CSS 35 North America, Red Line #76 Overall, THN #48 Overall

60 GP, 13-23-36, 21 PIM

Wright had an up and down year battling mono for part of the season before finishing strong with a good playoff run. The consensus on Wright appears to be that he is a long term project. He has good size and strength, a good long stride, and decent hands. However, he doesn't have much burst and he's reluctant to use his size to his advantage. This is a boom or bust pick. Red Line projects him as a "2nd liner or never develops" and compares him to Kris Beech. THN pegs him as a "checking forward" with the potential to become a third or fourth line shut down center.

Lightning Trade Pick 62

The Lightning have traded the 62nd pick in the draft to the San Jose Sharks.

The Lightning received a 4th round pick (117), a 5th round pick (147), and a 3rd round pick in 2009.

Lightning Select Stamkos First Overall

First Round, First Overall
C Steven Stamkos, 6'1" 180 lbs, Sarnia (OHL)

Stamkos, who has been compared to former Red Wing great Steve Yzerman by multiple scouting outfits, scored 58 goals and 105 points in 61 games last season for Sarnia of the OHL to go along with 88 penalty minutes.

Bolts Re-acquire Rights to Prospal

According to tampabaylightning.com, the Tampa Bay Lightning have re-acquired the rights to unrestricted free agent Vaclav Prospal from the Philadelphia Flyers for a 2008 7th round draft pick and a conditional 2009 draft pick.  The 7th round pick (196th overall) traded to the Flyers was originally acquired from the Nashville Predators at the trade deadline for Jan Hlavac.  If the Lightning resigned Prospal this summer, the Flyers will obtain an additional 2009 4th round pick from Tampa Bay.  The Bolts had traded Prospal to the Philadelphia at the trade deadline for defenseman Alexandre Picard and a 2009 2nd round draft pick.

Walz, Raeder to Round Out Lightning Coaching Staff?

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune is reporting former Wild centerman Wes Walz has been contacted by the Lightning to gauge his interest in a possible assistant coach position with Tampa Bay. The newspaper, citing "a source," also states San Jose Sharks scout and former NHL assistant coach and goaltender Cap Raeder could also be added - along with Phoenix's Rick Tocchet - to the Lightning coaching staff, which is expected to be headed by ESPN's Barry Melrose.

No formal coaching announcements can take place until OK Hockey finalizes their ownership transfer this week.

Walz, who has no NHL coaching experience, confirmed to the Star-Tribune that indeed he would be interested in a Lightning coaching position. "Obviously I can't officially sign a contract until after June 18," Walz told the paper, "but if it makes sense financially and the term is right, I'm very interested."

Raeder was an assistant coach with the Kings from 1988-1995, which would make him a member of Melrose's staff in Los Angeles from 1992-1995. After leaving the Kings, Raeder served as an assistant coach with the Boston Bruins from 1995-1997, then as a scout for San Jose from 1997-2000, when he was named assistant coach for the Sharks. He was a Sharks assistant coach through 2000-2001, then retained as a professional scout. Raeder served as an interim head coach with the Sharks for two games between the tenures of Darryl Sutter and Ron Wilson in 2002.

The Arizona Republic reported last week the Lightning requested permission to speak with Tocchet, who's contract with the Coyotes is up at the end of the month, about an assistant position on the coaching staff. Tocchet was on Melrose's 1994-1995 Kings squad, finishing second to Wayne Gretzky in points. Potential Lightning co-owner Len Barrie played one game with Tocchet's 1989-1990 Philadelphia Flyers club.

With Lightning Head Coach John Tortorella now out of a job and watching as the coaching vacancy list shrinks (Los Angeles is reportedly interested in hiring Kings assistant Mike Johnston), and current Associate Coach Mike Sullivan communicating with the Atlanta Thrashers, it appears much-maligned Goaltending Coach Jeff Reese will be the next Bolt coach under contract to be looking elsewhere for work.

If the Star-Tribune's source is correct, it looks as if Cap Raeder could be the next goaltending-focused coach in Tampa Bay, with Tocchet and Walz as assistants behind Barry Melrose's bench.

Five Days to Ottawa

We've been very quiet here at Bolt Prospects lately. It's not for a lack of interest in the team, mind you, or excitement about the impending draft. However, it's hard to post commentary at this time with so much up in the air. After years of having the same ownership and hockey operations team in place, it was easy to predict what the Lightning were going to do and what kind of players they would pursue. However, with new owner Oren Koules coming in with an ownership group suspected of also including former NHLers Len Barrie and Luc Robitaille and Head Coach John Tortorella cut loose with rumors of ESPN analyst Barry Melrose taking over, it's difficult to know what kind of players the Lightning will pursue. If Melrose does indeed take over, what will his system look like after 13 years out of coaching? How will he handle the new rules? No red line? It's impossible to say.

And so, my personal draft preview has to begin with this admission: I'm apprehensive about the ownership situation, and as the weeks go on I continue to wait for the next shoe to drop, and then the next, and then the next. Having a new ownership group which is more enthusiastic about hockey and willing to put more money into the on ice product is potentially exciting. But the idea of a cast of amateurs and/or people who have been away from the game for many, many years swooping in and hiring their cronies and giving them key positions of leadership in the hockey operations is frightening. I worry about the level of professionalism this new group is going to have, and without saying much of a word in the media Koules and his people have already managed to project the image of a traveling circus that is coming to town. Friday and Saturday's draft will be their first opportunity to show to the hockey world that they bring organizational discipline and rigor to the table, and not just the flash of a Hollywood production.

From a personnel standpoint, there's no secrets going into this draft. The biggest hole in the organization is at the second line center position, and Steve Stamkos will fill that hole immediately. Barring the Stamkos family car driving off a cliff on the way to Ottawa, the talented Sarnia pivot will be the number one pick Friday night, as evidenced by the fact the Lightning have been marketing the young man through their "Seen Stamkos?" campaign for the last two months. Having read the scouting reports from three independent organizations and having watched several of his World Junior Championships games, I have come to one conclusion: Steven Stamkos will be the most complete and most NHL ready player the Tampa Bay Lightning have ever selected in their history, including Vincent Lecavalier. He has been universally compared to former Red Wings great Steve Yzerman, and I have to say the comparisons are apt. On tape, like Yzerman, there's no one thing about Stamkos' game that makes me say, "Wow, he's going to be one of the best two or three in the game at that!" A guy like Mikkel Boedker, for instance, is a better skater than Stamkos, while heralded 2009 eligible John Tavares struck me as a better natural finisher. However, if you look across the board, there really are no weaknesses in Stamkos' game. He may not be the best at any one thing, but like Yzerman I suspect that when Stamkos matures he will be one of the best 10-15 players in the game at pretty much everything. Skating. Finishing. Passing the puck. Moving away from the puck. Back checking. Faceoffs. Battle level. Leadership intangibles. You have to put a check by every single one of these when looking at Stamkos.

There's More!

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