Bolt Prospects would like to announce the release of its 2006-2007 Midterm Rankings for prospects in the Lightning organization. There have been multiple changes since the Preliminary Rankings we released in October, most notably a new top prospect in the organization, AHL All-Star Karri Ramo , and the graduation of top ten prospect Nick Tarnasky  who played his 41st NHL game of the season just this past weekend. Multiple prospects also managed to crack the rankings for the first time by virtue of their play so far this season.
Just a quick reminder on how we differentiate between "alumni", "prospect" and "overage prospect". Any player who plays 41 games or more at the NHL level in any single season or 82 or more total career NHL games will be considered graduated and will be moved to the "Bolt Prospects Alumni" section of the prospects page. With Tarnasky's full-time promotion to the NHL and prior graduations by Doug Janik  and Eric Perrin , the alumni list has now grown to six players over the span of the past year and a half since we first put up the prospects page and profile content. Any player under the age of 24 on opening night of the 2006-2007 season who hasn't met the criteria for graduation is considered a "prospect" and is elligible for our rankings. Any player 24 or older who has not yet met the criteria for graduation is considered an "overage prospect" and is not elligible to make the list. In addition, with Johan Holmqvist  on track for graduation this season, we've adopted new, but similar, rules for goaltenders whereby graduation will occur upon the 30th decision of any single NHL season or the 41st career NHL decision. For anyone wondering, Holmqvist has already earned 23 decisions this season (with a 14-9-0 record).
With all the legal disclaimers out of the way, here are the 2006-2007 Bolt Prospects Midterm Rankings which can also be found on our prospects page .
Bolt Prospects 2006-2007 Midterm Rankings
1. G Karri Ramo , Springfield (AHL)
Pete- "Springfield's lone AHL all-star representative has given the Lightning organization a reason to seriously consider bringing him up to the NHL full time sooner rather than later."
2. D Matt Smaby , Springfield (AHL)
Chad- "Former North Dakota captain is making a quicker-than-expected transition to the professional game..." Pete- "If you have your head down coming through the neutral zone, Smaby will bury you. Consistency is the last hurdle on his way to the NHL."
3. D Vladimir Mihalik , Prince George (WHL)
Tim- "Tampa brass impressed with his WJC performance and continued development; has already equaled last season's numbers in a third less games played." Pete- "You have to like the sharp uptick in his development." Chad- "Back in Prince George, he is improving offensively and learning how to use his massive size to his advantage."
4. G Riku Helenius , Ilves (FIN)
Chad- "Ultimately, his significant shoulder injury earlier this year shouldn't hold Helenius back from reaching the lofty expectations set for him - but the rehab and lack of playing time is definitely a delay."
5. C Blair Jones , Springfield (AHL)
Tim- "Six games centering Tampa's third line was eye opening regarding his NHL-readiness; needs to get stronger on the puck in order to compete every night in the NHL." Pete- "Jones looked good in his callup to the NHL and may be just a few pounds of muscle away from becoming a regular with the Lightning."
6. RW Marek Kvapil , Springfield (AHL)
Chad- "Kvapil is becoming a complete player, but his statistics have taken a hit in the process." Pete- "He's put on muscle and seems more able to compete in high traffic areas. Needs to improve his decision making in the neutral zone and defensively."
7. LW Justin Keller , Springfield (AHL)
Tim- "An impact player offensively for Springfield as a first year pro answers many questions about whether this diminutive winger could contribute at the pro level." -Pete "Keller was on a pace for roughly 20 goals in his rookie season before a high ankle sprain claimed him for the last month. Keller has a sniper's touch, but he needs to develop an NHLer's strength."
8. D Andy Rogers , Springfield (AHL)
Chad- "If Rogers could only stay healthy, he could be at the top of these rankings." Tim- "While he probably has a shot at a Tampa roster spot come next fall, he still needs to prove he can play 75 games in the same season." Pete- "When he plays, he shows abundant amounts of poise and maturity."
9. D Mike Egener , Springfield (AHL)
Tim- "A Steve Stirling workhorse on the Springfield blueline this season, which is exactly what needed to happen for this former top prospect in the organization." Chad- "The light is finally turning on for Egener as a professional." Pete- "Egener shows good ability to cancel out opposing rushes and finishes his checks with ill humor and authority in his own zone. He desperately needs to work on his passing."
10. LW Radek Smolenak , Johnstown (ECHL)
Chad- "Of the four rookie forwards to watch this year (Jones, Lascek, Keller, Smolenak), Smolenak may have the best overall size/skill-set, but has fallen behind the others as he remains transitioning to pro hockey in the ECHL." Pete- "He possesses the total package with size, speed and the ability to handle the puck with a high degree of skill at top speed. Needs to use his size more and develop consistency."
11. G Jonathan Boutin , Springfield (AHL)
Chad- "Boutin is starting to use his impressive raw skills and athleticism more consistently and will be 'the man' in Springfield should Ramo be called to Tampa." Tim- "When your minor league affiliate's #2 netminder is named AHL Goaltender of the Month, you know you've got a good thing cooking on the farm."
12. LW Stanislav Lascek , Springfield (AHL)
Tim- "Lit up the ECHL playing for Johnstown in the first month of the season and was rewarded with a recall to Springfield." Chad- "Lascek's work ethic is underrated, so look for him to have a breakout second half if he earns the ice time." Pete- "Needs to adjust to the speed and physicality of the AHL."
13. G Vasily Koshechkin , Togliatti (RUS)
Pete- "On the positive side, Koshechkin has solidified his spot on the Russian Euro Tour teams. On the negative side, his numbers in the Superleague have declined compared to last year's phenom season and he has been quoted in newspaper reports as saying may not want to leave Togliatti any time soon for North America." Tim- "Feaster needs to find a way to bring â€˜The Catâ€™ to North America."
14. D Kevin Quick , Salisbury (USHS)
Chad- "The future Michigan Wolverine remains a source of excitement for the Lightning organization because of his skating and all-around game. Perhaps because of this, Quick's modest 0-3-3 numbers at the high school level are viewed as somewhat underachieving thus far." Pete- "Made an excellent decision choosing Michigan as his destination for when he makes the jump to the NCAA next year."
15. RW/C Chris Lawrence , Mississauga (OHL)
Pete- "Lawrence has nearly doubled his offensive pace from last season and only an early season head injury that held him out for a few weeks has kept him out of the OHL's leading scorers." Chad- "Lawrence has taken his leadership role in Mississauga and run with it. As a winger, he is among offensive leaders for the Ice Dogs - second in goals and points; first in points-per-game - but more importantly, his work ethic has been consistently strong. He's playing himself into a contract and could be moved back to center when signed."
16. D Doug O'Brien , Springfield (AHL)
Chad- "More was expected this season from this former Memorial Cup All-Star. O'Brien has to produce more offensively and be more consistent in his own end." Pete- "It's been a tough season for Doug, getting his face smashed in a violent checking incident with Petr Kanko and seeing his production slip. Has he missed his window of opportunity already now that Rogers and Smaby have arrived?"
17. G Gerald Coleman , Johnstown (ECHL)
Chad- "Coleman has battled injuries so far this year, but has had several strong outings for Johnstown." Pete- "He went from Springfield's starter and two cups of coffee in the NHL to, arguably, the second best goaltender for the ECHL affiliate in less than one year. Ouch." Tim- "Coleman remains a serviceable minor league netminder; not a stretch to think he is one trade away from a steady AHL gig."
18. D Mike Lundin , Maine (HEast)
Chad- "Lundin has done everything asked of him as a senior leader at Maine. He is having a breakout year offensively and has improved in his own zone as an every-situation player for Coach Tim Whitehead." Pete- "He's ramped up his production considerably in his senior year and he's always logged a ton of minutes. A pity he shies away from the physical game." Tim- "Playing a key role as a senior on the top ranked University of Maine blueline; improved development positions him as a strong candidate for a rookie contract next summer."
19. D Dane Crowley , Everett (WHL)
Pete- "To me, Dane has been the surprise of the season thus far. He nearly doubled his pace of production in Swift Current proving that he could anchor their power play and he plays a rugged western league style game. I can't wait to see how he stacks up in the minor pros."
20. D Jay Rosehill , Springfield (AHL)
Tim- "With the likes of Delmore, Smaby, Egener, Rogers, and O'Brien patrolling the Springfield blueline, no one expected Rosehill to stick on the Falcons roster much less play a lion share of the games; the only Falcon blueliner with a positive plus/minus rating has to count for something." Pete- "He's the least flashy defenseman in the organization, but he's shown an immeasurable increase in his poise and confidence over the last year. Didn't look out of place on Springfield's top pairing while Egener was out with an injury last month."
21. D PJ Atherton , Johnstown (ECHL)
Chad- "After playing as a stay-at-homer for the Golden Gophers the last four years, Atherton is becoming a dependable two-way defenseman as a pro. He's setting himself up for strong contract consideration at season's end." Pete- "His mobility and his willingness to get involved offensively have made him a weapon for Johnstown as a rookie. But, will he ever be smart enough in his own zone?" Tim- "Raise your hand if you predicted that Atherton would be among the Top 20 in scoring among all ECHL rookie skaters by mid-season; Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?"
22. C/LW Dimitri Kazionov , Kazan (RUS)
Tim- "This 22 year old Ak-Bars pivot has supplanted Alexander Polushin  as the organization's best skater prospect outside of North America; question is whether that is good news or bad news." Pete- "Kazionov has developed into a solid two-way player in the Superleague. He's cooled a bit recently on offense but he's still in the top ten in Russia in +/-."
23. RW/C Andre Deveaux , Johnstown (ECHL)
Pete- "You'd still be hard pressed to find a harder worker or someone more difficult to knock off the puck on the forecheck than Andre Deveaux." Chad- "Deveaux has the size and strength to be a checking center, but has found a bit of offense with the Chiefs."
24. C Denis Kazionov , Tver (RUS)
Pete- "Highly impressive statistics in the CHL/Russia Challenge helping to lead a JV squad of Russian juniors up against the best Canadian junior players. It's notable, albeit constricting to his development, that Denis is already a regular on the 4th line in the Superleague at 18 years old."
25. LW Marek Bartanus , Owen Sound (OHL)
Chad- "Bartanus had an up-and-down showing for Slovakia in Sweden (WJCs), which is a reflection of his overall play this year for Owen Sound (unfortunately there's been more 'down' in Owen Sound thus far). He has to become more consistent and have one of his patented hot streaks in order to secure a contract and help the Attack go deeper in the playoffs."
Other Players Receiving Votes:
LW Adam Henrich , Johnstown (ECHL)
Pete- "Maybe too little, too late, but Henrich has finally shown some improvement this season."
RW/C Zbynek Hrdel , Johnstown (ECHL)
Tim- "Despite starting the season in Springfield, Hrdel is struggling offensively while bouncing between the ECHL and the AHL; with one year left on his rookie contract, time is running out."