One of the things that tends to get lost in the shuffle of watching the Lightning's young prospects develop is just how much emphasis the team puts on drafting intelligent young men with a surplus of character. Case in point: On Friday Mike Lundin was named to the Hockey East All-Academic team for the fourth straight season to wrap up a sterling academic career with the University of Maine. For his career acheivements, Lundin was named a 'Distinguished Scholar' after posting a 3.0 or better GPA for four straight years in college.
The Lightning and Lundin are currently in negotiations regarding his first pro contract and the young defenseman is likely to begin his pro career next season with Norfolk of the AHL.
Bolt Prospects 2006-2007 Final Rankings
2006-2007 was a difficult season for the prospects of the Tampa Bay Lightning. After two years of modest improvement with their full affiliation in Springfield of the AHL and a large crop of talented junior scorers coming into the organization, expectations were that this was the season the Falcons and the Lightning organization would finally turn the corner. Expectations were not met, and the Falcons took a large step backward with a miserable second half of the season that led to the dissolving of the affiliation. The Lightning also saw ties severed with their ECHL affiliate in Johnstown after two years of control over hockey operations only led to a pair of 5th place divisional finishes.
The Bolt Prospects 2006-2007 Final Rankings reflect the painful lessons of a campaign which, for the Lightning's minor league system, was one of the worst in recent memory. As a consequence of overall poor play indicating a lack of depth, the Bolt Prospects staff voted unanimously to trim the Top-25 rankings to 20 for the first time in the history of the site. Make no mistake, the decision is an indictment of what we saw from the Lightning's prospects in 2006-2007. There are passengers in this organization, and we suspect several of them will begin to be culled from the organizational roster during the off season. The rankings are also an indictment of the promising class of young rookie forwards who failed so spectacularly to make an impact in their pro debuts. On the bright side though, they also show the strength the organization has developed at the goaltending and defenseman positions. Of our top ten prospects, only one (Blair Jones) is a forward, while four are goaltenders and five are blueliners.
So, without further adieu, here are the Bolt Prospects 2006-2007 Final Rankings. They are the last of a year we'd rather forget and a starting point on the way to 2007-2008, a new season and a new affiliation with Norfolk of the AHL that we hope will bring redemption for some of the organization's young talent.
According to the news web site Michigan Live (MLive.com), Lightning defensive prospect and University of Michigan commitment Kevin Quick has been invited to Team USA's 2007 National Junior Team Evaluation Camp this summer in preparation for the 2008 World Junior Championships. The tournament will be played in Pardubice and Liberec in the Czech Republic in early January.
Quick hails from Buffalo, New York and has just completed prep school in Salisbury, Connecticut. The Lightning has not had a drafted prospect on the USA WJC team since Paul Mara in 1998.
Six weeks after more or less terminating their ECHL affiliation with the Johnstown Chiefs, the Tampa Bay Lightning issued a press release today reporting that the team has entered into a one-year affiliation agreement with the Mississippi Sea Wolves of the ECHL. The Sea Wolves will serve as the Lightning's primary ECHL player developmental home for the 2007-2008 season. This marks a return by the Lightning organization to the Gulf Coast region and the ECHL Southeast Division, as Tampa had a multi-season affiliation with the Pensacola Ice Pilots prior to the affiliation with Johnstown.
Everett Silvertips defenseman Dane Crowley was not taken by the Edmonton Oil Kings in Tuesday's WHL expansion draft. The Everett Daily Herald had speculated early Tuesday that Crowley may be left unprotected. Tips General Manager Doug Soetaert was debating over whether to protect his potential professionals - Phoenix first rounder Peter Mueller and Crowley. Mueller, who signed an NHL contract last fall, can only play in the NHL with Phoenix or in the WHL - so he was to be protected. The paper considered Crowley an "even-odds bet to play professionally" next year. At 20 years of age, Crowley can play in the minor leagues.
The signing comes as a surprising and unexpected move by Tampa as Helenius missed most of last season with a shoulder injury. It has been speculated that Helenius may be coming to North America this fall to play in Canadian juniors, and that signing him a year early will mitigate signing risks next summer in the event he has a breakout season.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have named Mike Sullivan their new assistant coach effective immediately. Sullivan becomes the 12th assistant coach in franchise history, joining head coach John Tortorellaâ€™s staff along with assistant/goaltenders coach Jeff Reese, video coach Nigel Kirwan and strength and conditioning coach Eric Lawson.
"Mike Sullivan is a very bright, energetic, innovative and dynamic hockey coach," Feaster said. "He has experience as a head coach in the NHL and at the international level. Moreover, he was very successful as a head coach in the AHL. He has played professionally under Torts and he shares with John a belief in how to coach and develop players. We believe he is the ideal candidate to help John Tortorella get the best and the most out of our players.
By signing Lawrence, Tampa avoided losing his rights as he would have been eligible to re-enter the 2007 NHL Entry Draft on June 1 had he not come to terms with the Lightning.
UPDATE: (May 30) In the Russian newspaper, "Soviet Sport," another version of why Koshechkin's contract with the Lightning is unsigned was published.
It is rumored that Koshechkin wants to test himself at the training camp and sign the contract only after the camp if he will see by the results of the camp "enough possibilities for the career growth." As it was reported he wants to go to the camp without a contract with any team and after the camp he plans to sign a contract with Tampa or CSKA.
Anyway, those reports, no matter what is the truth if there is a truth in both newspaper notes, say that Koshechkin plans to try himself at least at the Lightning camp.
Both Tampa Bay newspapers are reporting the number of players at Lightning camp this fall in Brandon, Florida will shrink to around 26. This will leave out as many as 28 prospects, AHLers, etc.
Lightning General Manager Jay Feaster told the St. Pete Times the plan, which could be tweaked depending on free-agent signings, will allow more intense and targeted training. He also pointed to financial reasons for the decision, including putting more of the budget toward NHL payroll.
Times reporter Damian Cristodero, citing Feaster, reports in the article Tampa Bay will not hold a summer rookie conditioning camp, but will return to the Traverse City tournament this year "only because it already is committed."