Atherton Participating in Offseason Charities for Springfield

Make of it what you like, but defenseman PJ Atherton [url=http://www.falconsahl.com/detpages/pressbox3014.shtml]is appearing in a charity softball game for the Falcons today in Springfield.[/url] This could be an indication that he will be around next season with the Falcons. The Lightning hold Atherton's rights for one full year after his graduation date meaning that technically they could wait until the very end of the 2006-2007 season before making a contract decision on the defenseman. It should be noted goaltender JM Pelletier appeared in several Falcons charity events last summer but still bolted for Rochester of the AHL, so you cannot read too much into this development.

Lightning in Talks with Shane Willis

Tom Jones of the [i]St. Pete Times[/i] is reporting the Lightning are in contract negotiations with former Springfield Falcons captain Shane Willis. Willis spent last season in Switzerland with HC Davos where he had 5 goals and 15 assists in 32 games before moving to Sweden. There, Willis played with recently signed (Tampa) goaltender Fredrik Norrena and Linkopings HC, getting one assist in six regular season games, then exploding for 6 goals and 11 points in 13 playoff games. He captained Springfield in 2004-2005 and scored 18 goals and 34 points in 58 games. Willis is known for his fine rookie season in Carolina where he registered 20 goals and 44 points to earn him an all-rookie team selection. His career was knocked off course when he suffered a concussion in a playoff game after a hit from the Devil's Scott Stevens. Willis was traded to the Lightning on March 5, 2002, in Tampa GM Jay Feaster's first trade, coming to the Bolts with Chris Dingman for goaltender Kevin Weekes. In 33 games with Tampa, Willis has 4 goals and 9 assists, though is regarded as just needing an extended opportunity to make his mark. With rumors of Tampa dealing a scoring line player for a goaltender, that opportunity could be in front of him.

2006 Entry Draft Preview: The Forwards Pt. 2

Bolt Prospects continues its draft preview with the profiles of three more centers who may be available at the Lightning's 15th pick in the NHL Entry Draft on June 24th in Vancouver:

Lightning Bring Back Perrin

According to a Springfield Falcons press release, the Lightning have signed center Eric Perrin to a one-year deal. Perrin, a 5-foot-9, 176-pound native of Laval, Quebec last played in the Lightning uniform in Game 4 of the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals. He played in 12 total playoff games in 2004 and recorded an assist, his first in the NHL, during Game 1 of the ECF. Perrin also recorded nine shots on goal en route to winning the Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in his first NHL season. He appeared in four regular season games and logged a season-high 11:49 of ice time in the season finale on April 3. “As we have stated many times, losing Eric Perrin to Europe last season as a result of the re-entry waiver rules in the new CBA was a major blow to our organizational depth,” Feaster said. “Eric performed very well for us during his late-season recall and into the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2004. We are very pleased that he has chosen to re-sign with us now and we look forward to seeing him competing for a spot on our roster in camp.”

2006 Entry Draft Preview: The Forwards Pt. 1

Two for the price of one? That's what you get tonight on Bolt Prospects. We have already previewed available goaltenders and defensemen for the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, and now we'll begin with some of the forwards. Without a doubt the strength of this draft is up front, particularly at center where as many as ten pivot men could go off the board in the first half of round one. This is particularly good news for the Lightning because one of their primary needs is at the center position, particularly the need for a playmaking center. After years of giving the forward position lower priority, due partly to a young NHL corps of forwards including Lecavalier and Richards, the Lightning devoted much of their 2005 draft to the position in what can only be called a monumental success. [url=radek-smolenak]Radek Smolenak[/url], [url=blair-jones]Blair Jones[/url], [url=marek-kvapil]Marek Kvapil[/url] and [url=stanislav-lascek]Stanislav Lascek[/url] already look like solid picks while [url=chris-lawrence]Chris Lawrence[/url] and Marek Bartanus showed signs of life in the second half of the season. Still, Jones is the lone scoring line center prospect of any note and Bolt Prospects still ranks goal scoring winger as a secondary need for the organization.

2006 Entry Draft Preview: The Defensemen

In our ongoing series previewing the Lightning and the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, today we will move from the goaltenders out to the defensemen. USNTDP defenseman Erik Johnson is considered to be a virtual lock for the #1 overall selection in this draft, but beyond the big Minnesota born blueliner there is a huge drop off. In fact, it isn't out of the realm of possibility that Johnson will be the only defenseman who is a lottery pick this year. From pick 15 on, however, there are several defensemen who will be selected in the second half of the first round. With [url=matt-smaby]Matt Smaby[/url], [url=vladimir-mihalik]Vladimir Mihalik[/url], [url=andy-rogers]Andy Rogers[/url] and [url=mike-egener]Mike Egener[/url] already in the fold the Lightning are very well stocked with big, mobile, physical stay-at-home defensemen. Where they are perilously thin, however, is in defensemen who can fill more of an offensive role. Bolt Prospects only rates only one offensive defenseman prospect in its top 25, and that is Maine blueliner Mike Lundin who checks in at 22 and who some here on the Bolt Prospects staff (me) believe will struggle to get a contract next summer. At the NHL level, Dan Boyle has two years remaining on his contract before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. If Boyle leaves, the Lightning will need a tempo pushing offensive defenseman to take his place if they are to continue their successes. For that reason, Bolt Propspects ranks offensive defenseman as a primary need heading into the draft on June 24th in Vancouver.

2006 Entry Draft Preview: The Goaltenders

We've already begun to shift gears at Bolt Prospects into coverage for the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by examining organizational strengths, weaknesses, tendencies and philosophies. Today we'll take the next step on the road to June 24th in Vancouver by starting to examining some of the Lightning's potential options at their pick, 15th in the first round. First up under the microscope are the goaltenders. It should be noted this is generally considered a down year between the pipes for draft prospects with no dominant top tier NHL prospects on the level of recent draftees like Roberto Luongo or Karri Lehtonen or even Rick Dipietro and M.A. Fleury. There is, however, some depth in terms of goaltender in this class if the Lightning choose to wait beyond the first round pick to try and land another goaltending prospect. In studying up on this draft it is clear the Lightning may have the opportunity to grab the first goalie off the board, if they so choose to do so, and it also appears that decision will come down to two prospects: Jonathan Bernier of Lewiston of the QMJHL and Riku Helenius of Ilves Jr. A in Finland. Bolt Prospects rates goaltending as a secondary need in this draft, but if the Lightning feel either player is the best player available at the 15 spot they could and should grab him.

2006 NHL Entry Draft Preview: Lightning Strengths, Weaknesses, Tendencies and Philosophies

[i][b]Update 6/21:[/b] I'm going to sticky this at the top of the site until draft day so it doesn't get lost. I'm also going to provide the links to our draft capsules on this page: [url=http://www.forecaster.ca/tbo/hockey/draft-team.cgi?TB&DraftID=13]Lightning Picks[/url] 1st Rd, 15th Overall: G Riku Helenius, 6'3" 202 lbs, Ilves Jr. (FIN Jr.) 3rd Round, 78th Overall: D Kevin Quick, 6'0" 175 lbs, Salisbury (USHS) 6th Round, 168th Overall: D Dane Crowley, 6'2" 210 lbs, Swift Current (WHL) 7th Round, 198th Overall: LW Denis Kazionov, 6'3" 187 lbs, Tver (RUS2) [url=http://www.boltprospects.com/node/1143]Goaltenders[/url] [url=http://www.boltprospects.com/node/1144]Defensemen[/url] [url=http://www.boltprospects.com/node/1145]Forwards Pt. 1[/url] [url=http://www.boltprospects.com/node/1147]Forwards Pt. 2[/url] [url=http://www.boltprospects.com/node/1150]Forwards Pt. 3[/url] [url=http://www.boltprospects.com/node/1153]Forwards Pt. 4[/url] [url=http://www.boltprospects.com/node/1162]Pete's Mock Draft[/url] For those who don't have the time to read the whole article, scroll down to the summary at the end.[/i]

Report: Russian Hockey Federation Agrees to IIHF-NHL Transfer Pact

According to Russian Hockey Digest, President Vladislav Tretiak and the Russian Hockey Federation have agreed to the IIHF-NHL Transfer Agreement. TSN in Canada is also reporting a signing will come on June 16. Such a signing would pave the way for prospects such as the Penguins' Evgeni Malkin to come to North America this summer. The Lightning currently have 10 prospects in Russia:

Redline Report Mock Draft

Although my copy of Redline's 2006 Draft Guide has yet to show up on my front stoop, Redline [url=http://www.usatoday.com/sports/hockey/columnist/woodlief/2006-mock-draft.htm]has released their mock draft online for USAToday.[/url] Redline has the Lightning selecting goaltender Jonathan Bernier out of Lewiston of the QMJHL. Bolt Prospects will have more on Bernier and all the potential 2006 picks in the coming weeks.
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