2006 Entry Draft Preview: The Forwards Pt. 4
Tonight brings the final installment of our 2006 Entry Draft Preview for the June 24th draft in Vancouver. To date we've chronicled 14 players who might be of interest to the Lightning on draft day and tonight we will add two more potential prospects from the Czech Republic to bring the total to 16 players.
Name: Michael Frolik
Weight: 185 lbs
Rankings: #2 European Skater (CSS), #12 Overall (THN), #11 Overall (Red Line), #8 Skater (TSN.ca/ISS)
Kladno (CZE) 48 GP, 2-7-9, 32 PIM, -8
Few players were more a victim of high expectations than Michael Frolik was this season. The talented Czech winger was expected to challenge to be the #1 overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft but he struggled to adapt to the Czech Extraliga and his subsequent loss of confidence led to a lackluster campaign. Still, Frolik has almost everything you ask for in a prospect. He combines speed with great stickhandling ability, a deadly accurate wrist shot and incredible passsing ability. His penchant for reading and reacting in the offensive zone is also a cut above. He still has to bulk up and learn the defensive side of the game, but make no mistake, Frolik has game breaking talent. Red Line compares the youngster to Minnesota's Marian Gaborik. That kind of talent is unlikely to make it to where the Lightning pick at 15, but if Frolik does slip, the Lightning could have the steal of the draft. Frolik will play for Rimouski of the QMJHL next season which, of course, was the junior team of Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards.
Strengths: High end offensive skill. Great skater, incredible puckhandler. Finishes with a deadly accurate wrist shot. Pin point passing ability.
Weaknesses: Confidence waned playing against men at 17 years old. Needs to get stronger to compete in the pro ranks. Still learning the defensive side of the game.
Name: Jiri Tlusty
Weight: 196 lbs
Rankings: #3 European Skater (CSS), #8 Overall (THN), #9 Overall (Red Line), #10 Skater (TSN.ca/ISS)
Kladno (CZE) 44 GP, 7-3-10, 51 PIM, -15
Surprisingly, Frolik was outshined for much of the year by his Kladno teammate Jiri Tlusty, a hardworking, hard charging spark plug who vaulted quickly up many scouts' charts. Tlusty skates incredibly well and has surpising strength for a young man his stature and a motor that doesn't quit. All scouts agree on his speed, passing ability, work ethic and well-rounded two-way game. Where some part ranks is on his goal scoring upside. Red Line, for instance, notes Tlusty posseses what they believe to be a big time NHL start and pure finishing skills and compare the young Czech to Edmonton's Ryan Smyth. Others, like scouts cited by THN, don't see the big time goal scoring potential. One thing seems to be certain though: the scouts view Tlusty as a safe, solid pick because of his will to compete. Because of that, it is unlikely Tlusty will fall to the Lightning's pick at 15. But, just as with Frolik, if he does it will be a steal of Titanic proportions.
Strengths: Great speed and passing ability. Hard worker with a great two-way game. Surprisingly strong for a man his size and very hard to beat in the corners.
Weaknesses: [i]Not as naturally skilled as his teammate Frolik. There is some disagreement about Tlusty's goal scoring upside in the scouting community.
We had to draw the line somewhere and 16 seemed like a decent place, but there are a couple of other prospects who might be of interest to the Lightning at 15. 6'4" Prince George defenseman Ty Wishart is considered one of the most solid stay-at-home defensemen in this draft with great character and work ethic. His skating is considered mediocre though and he had a poor U18 World Junior Championships. From Spokane of the WHL comes Austrian born right winger Michael Grabner, one of the best pure skaters in this draft. He's still improving as a finisher and in the defensive game, but is invisible in the physical game. An outside shot might go to Michael Handzus clone Tomas Marcinko out of Kosice in Slovakia, the same program that gave the Lightning Vladimir Mihalik.
Want some names to consider beyond the first round? Brandon Wheat Kings center Codey Burki is considered one of the most skilled players in this draft, but he could drop as far as out of the first two round because of a perceived lack of work ethic. Chris Lawrence anyone? Red Line compares Burki to former Lightning player Cory Stillman. Bolt Prospects correspondant Chad Schnarr has weighed in that one of his favorite potential later round gems could be Apple Valley High School star David Fischer. Fischer has excellent size and mobility and plays a high energy offensive game. THN even has Fischer ranked as high as 25th overall, but the consensus seems to be he'll go in the 2nd round. As Chad also has noted, it's a shame we don't have a 2nd round pick. Another offensive defenseman of interest could be Kingston's Ben Shuttron, a smallish defenseman with above average offensive ability. Also, Matt Corrente (Saginaw, OHL), Michael Ratchuk (USNTDP) and Keith Seabrook (Burnaby, BCHL) fit the Dan Boyle typology.
This year's Vladimir Mihalik type big defensive project: try 6'7" Maine defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin. The Gatineau born defenseman is tall as a giraffe, and about as skinny as one too. He played sparingly as a freshman, making it difficult to project where he will go.
Between the pipes, how about a personal favorite, Reto Berra of Switzerland? The 6'4" goaltender was passed over in last year's draft but always shines on the international stage. This year's triumph was backstopping Switzerland to a surprising tie against a loaded Team USA team at the U20 World Junior Championships. Red Line has one of the better lines of the year about Berra, "An octopus... only with longer arms." Also of interest might be USNTDP netminder Joe Palmer or HIFK's mammoth netminder Niko Hovinen. If the Lightning don't take a goalie in the first round, they'll be looking for one later on.
And your player most likely to draw Martin St. Louis analogies? Try Gatineau's Claude Giroux, a 5'11" (on phone books) winger who Red Line compares to Buffalo's Daniel Briere. Only his size keeps him out of the first round. How far could he fall?