Bolt Prospects 2005-2006 Final Rankings: 25-21

Today is the day. With the Lightning's Top Five Overage Prospects and Honorable Mentions already posted, we will now begin to unveil our Top Twenty Five Prospects in the Lightning organization five at a time in reverse order beginning with 25-21. Just a reminder, Bolt Prospects criteria deems that a prospect in any player 24 years or younger on opening night 2005 who has less than 82 games total career NHL experience and less than 41 NHL games in any one season. [url=paul-ranger]Paul Ranger[/url], [url=evgeny-artyukhin]Evgeny Artyukhin[/url] and [url=ryan-craig]Ryan Craig[/url] have already graduated under these criteria and have been moved to a new section on our prospects page titled "Bolt Prospects Alumni". So, without any further adieu:

More from the NHL Scouting Combine

TSN [url=]has more from the NHL Combine[/url] being held througout this week in Toronto. Of particular interest: W Jiri Tlusty, who has drawn comparisons to Martin Havlat, reportedly was disappointing in both conditioning and strength exercises and appeared "soft." C Peter Mueller scores above average in all events. LW Chris Stewart, brother of Panthers 1st round pick Anthony Stewart, showed up to the combine overweight and out of shape. Surprisingly, despite his brother being and avid weightlifter in juniors, Chris' performance in strength tests were mediocre. C Bryan Little of Barrie, a Bolt Prospects favorite, reportedly showed up with nary an ounce of body fat and was good in strength drills but underperformed in the aerobic drills. D Bobby Sanguinetti of Owen Sound, another Bolt Prospects favorite, appeared lean and cut and performed well in the strength tests.

Bolt Prospects 2005-2006 Final Rankings: Honorable Mentions

Three times a season we post our rankings of who we feel are the top 25 prospects in the Lightning organization. A prospect, under our criteria, is any player who was 23 or under on opening night this season with less than 82 games of career experience in the NHL and has not played 41 or more games at the NHL level in any single season. Three prospects crossed the threshold for graduation last season: [url=paul-ranger]Paul Ranger[/url], [url=evgeny-artyukhin]Evgeny Artyukhin[/url] and [url=ryan-craig]Ryan Craig.[/url] As a consequence, you'll note we've moved these three onto a new section on our prospects page titled "Bolt Prospects Alumni". With those three moved out of the pool of players elligible for consideration, the Bolt Prospects writers generated their own rankings and then combined them to generate our final top-25. The Honorable Mentions we are revealing today are two players whose names made the ballots at least once, but who did not have enough combined votes to make the top 25. We think they still deserve some recognition, however, so today we're posting our 2005-2006 Final Rankings Honorable Mentions in alphabetical order:

TSN NHL Combine Coverage

TSN [url=]is doing some blogging of the NHL Combine which has been ongoing this week in Toronto.[/url] Yesterday was the first day of skills testing and a handful of top prospects got put through their paces. D Erik Johnson and C Jordan Staal scored the highest praise while W Michael Frolik, once projected as a top pick, also did well. C Jonathan Toews and C Phil Kessel struggled with the aerobic portion of the day while C Derrick Brassard was subpar in the weight lifting component.

Bolt Prospects 2005-2006 Final Rankings: Top Five Overage Prospects

As promised, today Bolt Prospects is beginning its release of its Final Rankings for the 2005-2006. To kick off the process we will announce our Top Five Overage Prospects. But first, a brief note about the criteria that defines an "overage prospect". According to Bolt Prospects rules, any Lightning property 24 or older on opening night 2005-2006 who has less than 82 total NHL games player and less than 41 NHL games played in any sinle season is considered an overage prospect. Ryan Vesce, for instance, is inelligible for consideration because he is not a Lightning property. Also, Jimmie Olvestad is inelligble for consideration because he has already cleared the thresholds for graduation by our standards. So, with the legal disclaimer out of the way, here are Bolt Prospects 2005-2006 Final Rankings: Top Five Overage Prospects, in alphabetical order:

Tobin to Re-Enter Draft

June 1st came and went and, as expected, the Lightning did not sign LW Mark Tobin allowing him to re-enter the NHL Draft. The 2004 2nd round draft pick was not the only prospect who rights the Lightning let go of today. Under the new CBA, all non-Russian Europeans drafted in 2002 or prior had to be signed by today as a well. As a consequence, the Lightning relenquished the rights to the following prospects: LW Ivan Rachunek (7th Round 1999), C Karri Akkanen (6th Round 2002), D Henrik Bergfors (9th Round 2001) and C Johan Hagglund (4th Round 2000). The Lighning avoided a similar fate with netminder [url=fredrik-norrena]Fredrik Norrena[/url] by signing him prior to the June 1st deadline.

Goaltending Makeover Continues: Bolts Sign Holmqvist

The Tampa Bay Lightning have announced the signing of Johan Holmqvist to a one-year deal. Holmqvist is the third goalie signed by Tampa Bay this week, joining fellow Swedish Elite League veteran Fredrik Norrena and SM-Liiga (Finland) youngster Karri Ramo. “At the end of the season we sent both Jeff Reese and Corey Schwab, our two goalie coaches, to the World Championships along with our Chief Scout Jake Goertzen,” Feaster said. “They not only watched Johan play and lead his team to the Gold Medal, but they also attended some of his team’s practices and then met with Johan personally. They unanimously recommended we sign him. Clearly, we feel as an organization we have done our homework on Johan. “He is a player who has won championships at multiple levels of competition, and we are confident he is ready to challenge for a spot in Tampa. We are thrilled to welcome him to our organization.” The Lightning now have seven goaltenders under contract: Holmqvist, Norrena, Sean Burke, Ramo, Jonathan Boutin, Gerald Coleman, and Morgan Cey.

Trib Confirms Ramo/Smolenak Signings

Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune [url=]also is reporting the signing[/url] with quotes from Jay Feaster, so it is indeed official. The Lightning GM, commenting on [url=radek-smolenak]Radek Smolenak's[/url] work ethic, defensive zone play and consistency, considered his rough edges, says, "The tools - including size, skill, skating ability and reach, are all there if he is willing to pay the price. We look forward to getting him started on his professional career." On [url=karri-ramo]Karri Ramo[/url], Feaster notes, "Getting Karri Ramo signed and started on his professional career in North America is a very significant event for our organization," as Ramo is considered the top goaltending prospect in the organization.

WDAE: Lightning Sign Ramo and Smolenak

What a difference 24 hours makes. 620 WDAE is reporting the Lightning [url=]have signed prospects Karri Ramo and Radek Smolenak.[/url] Just a day ago talks between the Lightning and Ramo appeared to be stalled with both sides far apart on the financial particulars of a new deal. However, with the IIHF deadline looming, it appears progress was made quickly today in some heavy eleventh hour negotiations. [url=karri-ramo]Karri Ramo[/url] is rated by Bolt Prospects as the best goaltending prospect in the Lightning organization. This season, at age 19, he was a tandem starter for SM-liiga club HPK and helped his team capture championship gold in Finland's top league. He was fifth in the SM-liiga amongst goaltenders with 20 or more appearances in save percentage at .929 and his 2.18 GAA was 8th in the league. Ramo also served as backup on Finland's U20 World Junior Championships team. [url=radek-smolenak]Radek Smolenak[/url] will join fellow sniper prospect [url=justin-keller]Justin Keller[/url] in Springfield next season. He scored 42 goals and 84 points in 65 games this season with Kingston in the OHL to go along with 109 penalty minutes. One of the best pure finishers in the Lightning pipeline, he was amongst the final cuts for the Czech Republic's U20 World Junior Championships team.

"Goaltending Makeover is NOT Finished!"

The Lightning organization has made clear to Bolt Prospects that [url=fredrik-norrena]Fredrik Norrena's[/url] signing is just the first step in a series of offseason moves the team intends to make between the pipes. The Lightning are unsure what the 32 year old Norrena will be able to bring to the table for the team right out of the gates but they expect him to be a legitimate contender for the team's number one job in camp. The team also has indicated it is still looking for a veteran goaltender to play in Springfield next season and intends to place just one prospect netminder with the Falcons and two with the Johnstown Chiefs. On the contract front, negotiations with goaltending prospect [url=karri-ramo]Karri Ramo[/url] and center [url=blair-jones]Blair Jones[/url] continue to move at a painfully slow pace. The Lightning hold Ramo's rights until the summer of 2008, but with Ramo establishing himself at the SM-liiga level and able to earn elite league money in Finland, the situation appears to be at a stalement. The situation looks similarly deadlocked with Jones, who appears to be headed back to Moose Jaw for another year of junior unless progress can be made in negotiations over the summer. The Lightning will hold Jones' rights until the summer of 2007.
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