2006 Entry Draft Preview: The Forwards Pt. 3
In the first two parts of the forwards section of the 2006 Entry Draft preview we covered six potentially available centers of interest for the Lightning: Bryan Little, James Sheppard, Cory Emmerton, Ondrej Fiala, Ben Maxwell and Patrik Berglund. Bolt Prospects ranks center, and particularly playmaking center, one of the Lightning's primary organizational needs along with offensive defenseman. Goal scoring wingers are still a secondary need though, even after a very successful 2005 Entry Draft and today we'll begin to offer the profiles of a few wingers who might also be of interest when the Lightning pick at 15th overall in the first round on June 24th in Vancouver.
Name: Chris Stewart
Position: Right Wing
Weight: 228 lbs
Rankings: #8 North American Skater (CSS), #14 Overall (THN), #34 Overall (Red Line), #14 Skater (TSN.ca/ISS)
Kingston (OHL) 62 GP, 37-50-87, 118 PIM, +19
The tale of the Stewart family (Chris is the brother of Panthers first round pick Anthony Stewart) is an uplifting rag to riches story. Stewart's father, a former athlete from Jamaica, immigrated to Canada with little more than the shirt on his back. With little in the way of material riches (on more than one occassion the Stewarts had to live in government housing for lack of money) the Toronto community rallied around the family which includes five daughters and particularly the two talented sons who took to the game of hockey like ducks to water. Three years ago Anthony was selected in the 1st round of the 2003 Entry Draft in the midst of a successful junior career with Kingston of the OHL. On June 24th, Chris Stewart will try to replicate the feat. While very young to organized hockey he has already established his credentials as one of the most physical power forwards in the OHL. Stewart has good size which he uses to manhandle opponents in the corners and to uncork a heavy shot. His skating is also incredibly good for a young man his size. He isn't considered as skilled as his brother Anthony but is generally considered to have a stronger work ethic. However, scouts were perplexed when Stewart showed up to the NHL Combine soft and out of shape. His performance in strength testing, in particular, was underwhelming given his reputation and may drop his stock on draft day. Red Line compares Stewart to Sabres winger Mike Grier.
Strengths: Good size and work ethic allows him to own the corners and high traffic areas. Booming shot. Extremely good skater for such a heavy frame.
Weaknesses: Has only been playing organized hockey for the past two years and lacks high end skill. Conditioning may be an issue.
CHL Top Prospects Skills Testing: 60 ft Dash: 2.997 seconds, 150 ft Dash: 5.878, Slap Shoot: 84.8 mph, Full Lap: 14.629 seconds, Puck Control: 19.242 seconds
Name: Kyle Okposo
Position: Right Wing
Weight: 195 lbs
Rankings: #11 North American Skater (CSS), #10 Overall (THN), #8 Overall (Red Line), #11 Skater (TSN.ca/ISS)
Des Moines (USHL) 50 GP, 27-31-58, 56 PIM, +28
One thing all the scouting services agree: Kyle Okposo is good. So much so, in fact, it's probably an act of wishful thinking to hope he could fall to the Lightning's pick at 15. While he is only average in stature, Okposo packs a whollop and the pint sized power forward showed himself to be a force to be reckoned with in the USHL this season. Okposo is a very good stickhandler who is extremely difficult to knock of the puck. He routinely manhandles bigger players in the corners to win loose pucks. His work ethic is tireless and when he hits, he hits to hurt. He's not a natural finisher, but he can score goals. He also plays a well rounded 2-way game and can be used in all game situations. The embarassment of riches continues for the University of Minnesota program as Okposo has already verbally committed to play for the Golden Gophers. Red Line compares the St. Paul, MN native to Phoenix's Shane Doan.
Strengths: Solidly built and strong despite a smallish frame. Competes hard and is nearly impossible to knock off the puck. Routinely wins battles against bigger players in the corners. Shows improving scoring ability. Plays a well rounded game and is strong defensively.
Weaknesses: Not a natural finisher. Remains to be seen if his play at the USHL level translates to a higher level like the NCAA.
Name: Michael Forney
Position: Left Wing
Weight: 185 lbs
Rankings: #39 North American Skater (CSS), #24 Overall (THN), #12 Overall (Red Line), #30 Skater (TSN.ca/ISS)
Thief River (USHS) 21 GP, 23-37-60, 28 PIM
If the Lightning are willing to gamble on a US high school player who has struggled through a littany of injuries this year, they might have one of the best snipers in this draft. Forney started the year with Okposo in Des Moines going scoreless in 3 games, but became home sick and went back home to Minnesota to play high school hockey. Forney separated his shoulder in the Minnesota high school hockey championships en route to leading Thief River to their first state title in 40 years. He rehabbed the injury vigorously and was healed enough to play for Team USA in the U18 World Junior Championships but unfortunately broke his ankle in the team's first practice in Sweden. As a consequence he played less than 40 games this season also making strong appearances at the U18 Eight Nations and Five Nations international tournaments, making him a high risk high reward prospect. What little scouts did see of Forney they liked. Forney is a superb athlete who also lettered in Tennis and Football this year and it shows in his long effortless skating stride once he gets up to speed. Forney is a sniper who smartly finds the open holes in a defense and buries his chances with relentless precision. He doesn't shy away from the physical game and loves to throw hits although the most common knock on his game is that he must improve his overall strength. Forney has committed to North Dakota for his college hockey and Red Line compares him to Kings winger Alexander Frolov.
Strengths: Pure finisher with great hands and a knack for finding open ice. Strong skater once he gets up to speed. Very willing in the physical game.
Weaknesses: Needs to improve his strength. Played very few games this past season as a high schooler and because he struggled with some injuries. Hasn't played top competition yet like he will in the NCAA.