Bolt Prospects 2005-2006 Final Rankings: 5-1

Today, we finally reach the big finale of our ongoing series revealing Bolt Prospects Final Rankings for the 2005-2006 season. For the sake of tradition, we'll begin with the customary disclaimers. Bolt Prospects considers a prospect to be any player under 24 years of age on opening night 2005 who has played less than 82 career NHL games and has not played 41 or more games in any single NHL season. By those criteria, [url=paul-ranger]Paul Ranger[/url], [url=evgeny-artyukhin]Evgeny Artyukhin[/url] and [url=ryan-craig]Ryan Craig[/url] have graduated from prospect status and have been moved on our prospects page to a section entitled "Bolt Prospects Alumni". Now, on to the top 5 spots on our final rankings which feature a left winger, a goaltender and three towering stay-at-home defensemen. [b]5. LW [url=radek-smolenak]Radek Smolenak[/url], 19 years old, 6'3" 204 lbs, Kingston (OHL)[/b] [i]Kingston (OHL) 65 GP, 42-42-84, 109 PIM, +19[/i] Going into the 2005 draft, Radek Smolenak was considered one of the most talented finishers in his class and this season the Kingston winger did nothing to dissuade that idea. Smolenak improved on his 2004-2005 totals by 10 goals and his overall point totals by 24 points and finished tied for 15th in the OHL in scoring and tied for 11th in goals. The young Czech has a power forward's frame but still hasn't found consistency night in and night out in his physical game. Still, the Lightning have signed Smolenak this summer and are eager to see him develop in Springfield of the AHL. If he continues to improve season to season the way he did last year, there's no reason Smolenak can't emerge as a scoring line winger in the NHL. [b]4. G [url=karri-ramo]Karri Ramo[/url], 19 years old, 6'2" 192 lbs, HPK (FIN)[/b] [i]HPK (FIN) 24 GP, 2.16 GAA, 2 SO, .929 sv%[/i] This year Karri Ramo proved his emergence in the SM-liiga in 2004-2005 was no fluke and cemented his position as the best goaltending prospect in the Lightning organization. Ramo transferred from also ran Lahti to perennial SM-liiga power HPK this year and was a tandem starter with Miika Wiikman for much of the year finishing 5th in the league in save percentage and 8th in GAA en route to the SM-liiga championship at the tender age of 19 years old. The frightening thing is, he could have done more. A knee sprain kept him out of the lineup in December just as he was establishing himself as HPK's clear cut starter. Nonetheless, Ramo is now beginning to be considered in hockey circles as a legitimate future NHL starter. Ramo blends good size, a stout build and incredible athleticism with technical skills that are beyond his years. Moreover, he's an accomplished puckhandler which is sure to warm Lightning goaltending coach Jeff Reese's heart. Some fierce 11th hour negotiating before the June 1st IIHF deadline led to Ramo and the Lightning working out an entry level contract. He will compete with fellow prospects [url=jonathan-boutin]Jonathan Boutin[/url], [url=gerald-coleman]Gerald Coleman[/url] and [url=morgan-cey]Morgan Cey[/url] for a job with the Springfield Falcons of the AHL. Ordinarily, a rookie would be at a disadvantage to take that job, but if Ramo is anything he's precocious. Expect him to rise quickly through the ranks. With the right development, Bolt Prospects sees Ramo developing into the tier of Finnish netminders that includes Boston first round pick Hannu Toivonen who, by the way, was also a HPK product. [b]3. D [url=andy-rogers]Andy Rogers[/url], 19 years old, 6'5" 206 lbs, Prince George (WHL)[/b] [i]Prince George (WHL) 21 GP, 0-3-3, 51 PIM, -3[/i] Andy Rogers' 2005-2006 season started out extremely well. The 2004 1st round pick led the Lightning's Traverse City prospect team in scoring and nearly made the Lightning out of training camp and, in the process, earned his entry level contract. Unfortunately, after being returned to junior with Prince George of the WHL, Rogers' year went south. The hulking defenseman only played 21 games, with a very modest 3 assists, before undergoing surgery in January to repair a chronic problem with his ankle. The procedure was considered successful and Rogers will likely be fully rehabbed and ready to go in training camp in the Fall, but the loss of momentum and the damage it might do to his development is undeniable. Rogers plays a simple, workmanlike stay-at-home game. He plays his angles well and uses his size and reach effectively to nullify opposing players. In training camp and exhibition season, he showed surprising poise and maturity in his decision making with the puck which is a large reason why he lasted until the very last cut. Rogers will compete for a job in Tampa right away in camp, but after only playing 21 games last year we suspect he'll need to spend some time in Springfield of the AHL to knock the rust off his game and get his development back to track. Still, look for Rogers to assume a regular place in the Lightning's defensive rotation sooner rather than later. [b]2. D [url=vladimir-mihalik]Vladimir Mihalik[/url], 19 years old, 6'8" 234 lbs, Red Deer (WHL)[/b] [i]Red Deer (WHL) 62 GP, 3-9-12, 86 PIM, -12[/i] For those looking for instant gratification in the development of a young prospect, Lightning 2005 1st round pick Vladimir Mihalik is probably not the player to look to. The young Slovak chose to play in the WHL this season and quietly made the adjustment to North American hockey, but he has yet to manifest the same physical or statistical impact that Zdeno Chara did at the same point in his development. Still, the Lightning are pleased with the steps forward Mihalik took this season. Published rumors of Red Deer head coach Brent Sutter potentially jettisoning Mihalik from the Rebels after amassing a glut of defensemen look erroneous now that the Rebels have traded two defensemen in recent weeks meaning the Lightning should feel comfortable reassigning Mihalik to Red Deer should he fail to make the big club out of camp. Mihalik's size makes him a unique player who, like Chara, could become a shut down defenseman and a regular contributor as a trigger man from the point on the power play. It will take time, however. Fortunately, the Lightning are flush with stay-at-home defenseman prospects so there will be no rush to move Mihalik up to the NHL level before he is ready. [b]1. D [url=matt-smaby]Matt Smaby[/url], 21 years old, 6'5" 220 lbs, North Dakota (WCHA)[/b] [i]North Dakota (WCHA) 46 GP, 4-15-19, 113 PIM[/i] And the number one prospect in the Lightning organization is: North Dakota captain Matt Smaby. A year ago we, like the Lightning, were concerned Smaby was playing a bit passive, relying too heavily on his poke check in the finesse style of hockey played in the NCAA. The Lightning tried to sign Matt last summer in order to get him into the more physical AHL, but with numerous defections off the North Dakota roster Smaby felt it best to return to the Fighting Sioux to mentor their young back line. A year and at least one player in the hospital later, it is looking like an excellent decision. Put simply, Smaby was an animal last season. Playing with a passion and aggressiveness that recalled a young Corey Sarich, Smaby punished his opponents in the WCHA all season long, paticularly in the neutral zone where he showed a penchant for standing up rushing forwards and eliminating them with extreme force. He was named Third Team All WCHA and a member of the WCHA All Tournament team for his role in guiding North Dakota to the WCHA Tournament title. He also was named to the WCHA's All Academic Team as well. The Lightning looked without avail for a replacement for Jassen Cullimore last season. They may have found it in Smaby. Bolt Prospects believes Smaby may be the favorite amongst a group that includes Doug O'Brien, Mike Egener, Andy Rogers and Vladimir Mihalik who will be vying for a spot in Tampa Bay next season. Smaby has all the makings of a physically imposing top four stay at home defenseman capable of helping to shut down opposing teams' top lines. [b]Bolt Prospects 2005-2006 Final Rankings[/b] [b][url=]Top Twenty Five[/url][/b] 1. D [url=matt-smaby]Matt Smaby[/url], 21 years old, 6'5" 220 lbs, North Dakota (WCHA) 2. D [url=vladimir-mihalik]Vladimir Mihalik[/url], 19 years old, 6'8" 234 lbs, Red Deer (WHL) 3. D [url=andy-rogers]Andy Rogers[/url], 19 years old, 6'5" 206 lbs, Prince George (WHL) 4. G [url=karri-ramo]Karri Ramo[/url], 19 years old, 6'2" 192 lbs, HPK (FIN) 5. LW [url=radek-smolenak]Radek Smolenak[/url], 19 years old, 6'3" 204 lbs, Kingston (OHL) 6. C [url=nick-tarnasky]Nick Tarnasky[/url], 21 years old, 6'2" 233 lbs, Springfield (AHL) 7. RW [url=marek-kvapil]Marek Kvapil[/url], 21 years old, 5'11" 172 lbs, Springfield (AHL) 8. RW [url=stanislav-lascek]Stanislav Lascek[/url], 20 years old, 6'0" 188 lbs, Chicoutimi (QMJHL) 9. D [url=mike-egener]Mike Egener[/url], 21 years old, 6'4" 213 lbs, Springfield (AHL) 10. LW [url=justin-keller]Justin Keller[/url], 20 years old, 5'11" 185 lbs, Kelowna (WHL) 11. C [url=blair-jones]Blair Jones[/url], 19 years old, 6'2" 195 lbs, Moose Jaw (WHL) 12. D [url=doug-obrien]Doug O'Brien[/url], 22 years old, 6'1" 200 lbs, Springfield (AHL) 13. G [url=vasily-koshechkin]Vasily Koshechkin[/url], 23 years old, 6'6" 210 lbs, Khimik (RUS) 14. RW [url=darren-reid]Darren Reid[/url], 23 years old, 6'2" 205 lbs, Springfield (AHL) 15. G [url=jonathan-boutin]Jonathan Boutin[/url], 21 years old, 6'1" 210 lbs, Johnstown (ECHL) 16. G [url=gerald-coleman]Gerald Coleman[/url], 21 years old, 6'4" 190 lbs, Springfield (AHL) 17. RW [url=alexander-polushin]Alexander Polushin[/url], 23 years old, 6'4" 200 lbs, Cherepovets (RUS) 18. RW/C [url=chris-lawrence]Chris Lawrence[/url], 19 years old, 6'4" 217 lbs, Mississauga (OHL) 19. G [url=morgan-cey]Morgan Cey[/url], 24 years old, 6'3" 177 lbs, Johnstown (ECHL) 20. RW/C [url=andre-deveaux]Andre Deveaux[/url], 6'3" 240 lbs, Johnstown (ECHL) 21. LW [url=zbynek-hrdel]Zbynek Hrdel[/url], 20 years old, 6'4" 195 lbs, Johnstown (ECHL) 22. D [url=mike-lundin]Mike Lundin[/url], 21 years old, 6'2" 186 lbs, Maine (HEast) 23. LW/C [url=adam-henrich]Adam Henrich[/url], 22 years old, 6'4" 234 lbs, Johnstown (ECHL) 24. G [url=kevin-beech]Kevin Beech[/url], 19 years old, 6'4" 177 lbs, Sudbury (OHL) 25. D [url=gerard-dicaire]Gerard Dicaire[/url], 23 years old, 6'2" 230 lbs, Springfield (AHL) [b][url=]Honorable Mentions[/url][/b] D [url=pj-atherton]PJ Atherton[/url], 23 years old, 6'2" 190 lbs, Springfield (AHL) D [url=jay-rosehill]Jay Rosehill[/url], 20 years old, 6'3" 195 lbs, Johnstown (ECHL) [b][url=]Top Five Overage Prospects[/url][/b] LW [url=zdenek-blatny]Zdenek Blatny[/url], 25 years old, 6'1" 195 lbs, Springfield (AHL) G [url=johan-holmqvist]Johan Holmqvist[/url], 28 years old, 6'3" 185 lbs, Brynas (SWE) C [url=jason-jaspers]Jason Jaspers[/url], 25 years old, 5'11" 207 lbs, Springfield (AHL) RW [url=norm-milley]Norm Milley[/url], 26 years old, 6'0" 195 lbs, Springfield (AHL) G [url=fredrik-norrena]Fredrik Norrena[/url], 32 years old, 6'0" 195 lbs, Linkopings (SWE)