Itâ€™s been a lengthy evaluation process but the time is finally here!
Today, Bolt Prospects is releasing its Preliminary Rankings for the 2007-2008 season. Due to the addition of the Lightningâ€™s 2007 draftees, who will be appearing in the rankings for the first time, we have re-expanded the list back to 25. Seven players who have never appeared in the rankings make their debut this Fall.
Just a reminder of the rules: a prospect is any player under the age of 24 on opening night of the Lightningâ€™s NHL season that has not played 41 or more games in an NHL season or more than 82 games in their NHL career. For goaltenders, the games thresholds are slightly different. Netminders will be considered prospects if they have not achieved 30 or more decisions in an NHL season or 41 decisions in their NHL careers. In addition, due to the large number of prep school players drafted by the Lightning in the last two years, all college players will be considered prospects, regardless of their age, until they graduate.
Players over the age of 24 on opening night that have not graduated are considered overage prospects. Please note Vasily Koshechkin  has been moved to the overage prospect list due to age.
With all the legal disclaimers out of the way, lets begin:
1. G Karri Ramo , Norfolk (AHL)
Ramo was among the last cuts at the Lightning camp after leading camp scrimmages in all statistical categories for goaltenders. He suffered a high ankle sprain after one game with Norfolk, but is expected to return soon and resume his duties as the starter for the Admirals.
Chad- â€œRamo won the back-up job in Tampa Bay late last season and was in contention this fall. Itâ€™s just a matter of time before Ramo is a main-stay in Tampa.â€
Tim- â€œThe only thing keeping Ramo from being an NHL netminder is the untradeability of Marc Denis, and the only winner in this scenario is the Norfolk Admirals.â€
2. G Riku Helenius , Seattle (WHL)
Helenius missed almost the entire season last year with shoulder surgery. Now healthy and with a Tampa contract in hand, Helenius has made the decision to move to the Canadian junior ranks.
Pete- â€œPlaying in the WHL this season Helenius will get more opportunities to get his career back on track than he would have playing sparingly back home in Finland.â€
3. D Mike Lundin , Tampa Bay (NHL)
One of the biggest movers in the Preliminary rankings is Maine alumnus Mike Lundin who leaps from 14 on our list all the way up to 3.
Pete- â€œLundin defied the odds making the Lightning with a nearly flawless camp. He may not be be the most imposing player physically, but his mobility and his intelligence have vaulted him to the head of the line in the organization.â€
Chad- â€œRecognizing he will add strength/weight as he develops, the Lightning projects him as a legitimate NHL Top Four defenseman.â€
4. D Matt Smaby , Tampa Bay (NHL)
Smaby joins Lundin as the only Lightning prospects to make the team out of camp this season.
Chad- â€œSmaby is finding ice time in Tampa and the club projects him to be a Top Four/Five defenseman once he gets more comfortable in the league. Smaby will be a force and fan favorite in Tampa Bay, but it will take time for him to adapt.â€
Pete- â€œSmaby beat out a plethora of veteran defensemen to make the Lightning, and his physical edge is a dimension the Lightning haven't seen on their blueline since Cory Sarich was a young man.â€
5. D Vladimir Mihalik , Norfolk (AHL)
Vladimir Mihalik enters his rookie season of professional hockey after showing steady, incremental improvement over the past two seasons in the WHL.
Tim- â€œSummer worries about Mihalik struggling with the speed of the pro game are nearly abated.â€
Pete- â€œMihalikâ€™s already taking a steady shift on the top pairing in Norfolk and heâ€™s showing the ability to chew up minutes. Heâ€™s incredibly smooth and mobile for such a big man, and his ability to jump in the play offensively and unleash his laser shot are very underrated. As good as Lundin and Smaby are going to be, Mihalik could be better.â€
6. LW Dana Tyrell , Prince George (WHL)
Tyrell is the first of the 2007 draftees to make our list and represents a new breed of Lightning prospect exhibiting speed and skill at the expense of bulk.
Pete- â€œFresh off the Canada Russia SuperSeries and a strong showing in Norfolk Admirals camp, Tyrell debuts on Bolt Prospects' rankings at 6. Boasting superb speed, fearlessness, and a strong work ethic, Tyrell has all the tools to make it to the NHL. Now he just has to put it all together.â€
Tim- â€œTampa's first pick this past summer has all the tools to be a scoring line forward in the NHL; speed, scoring touch, strength and defensive play, hockey smarts.â€
7. C Blair Jones , Norfolk (AHL)
After playing 20 games in Tampa last season in a checking role, Jones has started this season on the top line in Norfolk in more of a scoring role.
Tim- â€œCentering the top line in Norfolk this season should help round out Jones' offensive game. His short-lived training camp showed unequivocally that Jones needs another year of seasoning.â€
Pete- â€œThe Lightning see Jones as their third line center of the future. Jones has had a strong start to the season in Norfolk offensively and is showing that when his intensity level is high he can be a force at the AHL level.â€
8. LW Luca Cunti , St. Cloud State (WCHA)
The Lightningâ€™s riskiest and arguably most talented 2007 draftee debuts at 8.
Chad- â€œPossibly the biggest wildcard of the Lightning draftees, and thatâ€™s not referring to his NCAA amateur status for St. Cloud State â€” which is still up in the air. Cunti may be the most talented forward in the system, but he has to find the dedication to match. Heâ€™s in a great situation when heâ€™s finally cleared to play.â€
Pete- â€œThe Lightning took a home run swing for the fences drafting Cunti despite a reputation for having a poor attitude. Luca silenced critics who claimed he would never come to North America by committing to St. Cloud State University where he will play for respected coach Bob Motzko who helped develop fellow Central European Thomas Vanek.â€
9. D Kevin Quick , Michigan (CCHA)
Kevin Quick embarks on his college career this season with Michigan of the CCHA after playing last season with Salisbury in the New England prep ranks.
Chad- â€œThe Lightning canâ€™t say enough about the far-off future of this Michigan Wolverine freshman. For now, he will just try to find ice time on a deep and talented Michigan roster.â€
Pete- â€œNow the real test begins for Kevin Quick. The slick skating defenseman may have the most upside of any blueline prospect in the organization, but he spent last season playing inferior opposition in the prep ranks. Now he will be playing with the big boys in the CCHA, and we will see Quick pushed harder than he ever has been in his career. Exciting stuff.â€
10. C Mitch Fadden , Lethbridge (WHL)
While not quite the homerun swing that Cunti was, Mitch Fadden comes to the Lightning organization with some baggage and an even bigger amount of upside.
Tim- â€œThere could very well be warrant out for the arrest of Jake Goertzen for highway robbery in stealing this sleeper in the fourth round of the 2007 draft. Faddenâ€™s great skating and natural scoring ability bolsters the Lightning's offensively-challenged group of prospects.â€
Chad- â€œFadden will push for the WHL scoring title this year, but some Lethbridge followers will tell you he has a lot more to offer than what he shows. Like Cunti, Fadden is a bit of a wildcard. If he can get the mental side of his game together, the Lightning will have a steal.â€
11. G Jonathan Boutin , Norfolk (AHL)
Boutin retains the distinction of being the organizationâ€™s best prospect youâ€™ve never heard about.
Pete- â€œBoutin is entering his third year of professionally hockey. That's a critical year developmentally. He got the year off to a disastrous start playing poorly in Norfolk camp, breaking a team rule, and getting temporarily banished to Mississippi for the ECHL preseason. Boutinâ€™s back now though and looks poised to regain his spot as the teamâ€™s backup in Norfolk behind wunderkind Ramo. His athleticism is unmatched by any other netminder in the Lightning organization.â€
12. G Ryan Munce, Norfolk (AHL)
The pleasant surprise of the early season in Norfolk has been the play of netminder Ryan Munce who makes his debut in the rankings at 12.
Chad- â€œWhile his top-end upside may have some question marks, Munce was one of the highlights of Norfolkâ€™s training camp and heâ€™s continued that strong play to the regular season.â€
13. LW Justin Keller , Norfolk (AHL)
Keller, a former runner-up for WHL MVP, has started his second season of professional hockey on the second line in Norfolk.
Chad- â€œKeller looked comfortable in his brief Lightning preseason action. If he can stay healthy this year in Norfolk he should make a name for himself. A playmaking center at his side would do wonders for this sniper.â€
Pete- â€œKeller's strong camp with Norfolk earned him the privilege of a single game call-up to Tampa in the preseason. Keller is the proverbial Little Engine That Could. He's small and his skating is just average, so at times he takes a beating. But he's also a very hard worker and an incredibly intelligent player with a sniper's instinct. Keller will be one of the Lightning's young prospects counted on to step up for the Admirals this season.â€
14. D Andy Rogers , Norfolk (AHL)
Despite coming to camp in the best shape of his life, Andy Rogers had a mediocre showing at Traverse City and now finds himself as the 7th defenseman in Norfolk.
Tim- â€œStill too early to give up on this former 1st rounder, but clearly Rogersâ€™ stock is dropping on the blueline with the emergence of Lundin and Mihalik as top prospects; Rogers still has another two years left on his rookie contract so this isn't a make-or-break campaign for him in the organization, but he has his work cut out for him on a veteran-laden Admirals backline.â€
Pete- â€œIf all you saw of Rogers was the pre-game warm-ups youâ€™d assume he was the bluechipper of bluechippers. Big men should not be as mobile as Rogers. However, partly due to losing huge parts of the last two seasons to injury, Rogersâ€™ puck skills havenâ€™t developed and his decision making with the puck borderlines on awful at times.â€
15. C Alex Killorn , Deerfield (USHS)
Bolt Prospects places a future Harvard man at 15 in their rankings.
Tim- â€œThe speed of the New England prep school leagues are known for producing players that translate well to the college and professional hockey ranks. Like Quick, Killorn is a long-term investment. Red Line compared this 2007 3rd round pick to Brian Rolston and Harvard University will be the next stop in 2008-2009 for this young forward who already possesses tremendous skating, scoring, playmaking skills.â€
Chad- â€œKillorn has the ability to be a high-end prospect in the organization. Patience is the key.â€
16. C/LW Johan Harju , Lulea (SWE)
Harju, 21, was drafted overage by the Lightning in the 2007 draft and has vaulted quickly into the organizationâ€™s spotlight with a red hot start to the Elitserien season for Lulea.
Chad- â€œThought to be coming to North America this season, Harju stayed in Sweden where he is white-hot for Lulea of the SEL. Harju could play his way into the NHL camp next summer with a chance to make the Lightning.â€
17. LW/D Mike Egener , Norfolk (AHL)
Faced with long odds of making it in the organization due to the Lightningâ€™s depth on defense, Egener has been moved to forward and has thrived in the new role. His forechecking has even drawn comparisons within the organization to that of possible Hall-of-Famer Gary Roberts .
Pete- â€œIt's hard to believe Egener is going into his fourth year of professional hockey. The mobile, aggressive blueliner is at least two years behind schedule due to injuries and difficulty adjusting to the speed and rigors of the pro game. Don't cash out your stock on Egener just yet though. He's still one of the better skaters in the organization and he had a good camp in Norfolk. Moreover, his recent conversion to forward as a result of roster shortages in Norfolk has yielded intriguing results. Is Egener the next Ben Clymer?â€
18. RW/C Chris Lawrence , Norfolk (AHL)
Lawrence was a prolific scorer in his final year of junior hockey in the OHL, but has been forced to adjust to a third line checking role in his rookie season of pro hockey.
Chad- â€œLawrence was fantastic for Mississauga last season playing with confidence in the OHL. He needs to play with that same swagger as a rookie pro.â€
Pete- â€œLawrence looks like a bit of a project, but the good news is heâ€™s been coachable so far and seems willing to work on the shortcomings in his game.â€
19. RW Marek Kvapil , Mississippi (ECHL)
One of the great enigmas in the Lightning organization has been Marek Kvapil, a young man who showed he can be on the top line in Norfolk one week and demoted to Mississippi the next.
Chad- â€œKvapil had a strong rookie year, then a tough sophomore campaign. He simply has to put it together this year for Norfolk. He certainly has the skills.â€
Pete- â€œKvapil continues to destroy his chances of success in the organization by refusing to play with the intensity the coaching staff in Norfolk expects. He wonâ€™t hang in to take a hit to make a play and he wonâ€™t work hard to get the puck back on the forecheck or the backcheck.â€
20. LW Radek Smolenak , Mississippi (ECHL)
Smolenak started white hot this season in Traverse City, but was promptly exiled to the ECHL for soft and dispassionate play.
Chad- â€œSmolenak had a fantastic Traverse City tournament and earned the coveted â€˜prospectâ€™ label from those that lead the Lightning. The key for him now is to establish consistency in his game for Norfolk.â€
Pete- â€œLets cut to the chase: when youâ€™re 6â€™3â€ 200+ lbs you should not cling to the perimeter and you should not refuse to compete along the wall. Like Kvapil, Smolenak wonâ€™t sniff the AHL until he shows intensity and lets the organization know he wants it.â€
21. D Dane Crowley , Everett (WHL)
Other than Boutin, Crowley might be the organizationâ€™s best kept secret.
Chad- â€œCrowley was returned WHL Everett as an overager and is adding some much needed experience and defensive presence to the Silvertips. Crowley has the ability to put up big points this year.â€
22. RW Stanislav Lascek , Mississippi (ECHL)
Itâ€™s hard to believe this is the same guy who once finished second in the QMJHL in scoring.
Tim- â€œAfter a disastrous 2006-2007 campaign, Lascek needed to have a strong Traverse City tourney followed by an equally strong Norfolk training camp â€“ neither happened. Lascek will find himself starting the season in Mississippi and if he's not careful, outside of the Lightning's future plans.â€
Chad- â€œLascek has the tools to be an offensive force in the AHL, but injuries, off-ice issues and lackluster play have delayed his impact. When he is healthy, he will start in the ECHL, where he likely will be among Mississippiâ€™s leading scorers.â€œ
23. RW/C Matt Marshall , Nobles (USHS)
Marshall is the sixth and final 2007 draftee to make the rankings and the organization felt he might have been the best skater in his entire draft class.
Tim- â€œAnother great skater taken by the Lightning in the 2007 draft, Marshall lacks the finishing skills to have any scoring line upside; however, as a long term project, Marshall could develop into a checking or energy line contributor in the NHL.â€
Pete- â€œThe Lightning believes it got a checking line bulldog in this summer's draft in Nobles forward Matt Marshall. The team touted Marshall as perhaps the best skater in the 2007 draft class and he carries the reputation of being a bull-in-a-china-shop on the forecheck. Unfortunately, he also carries the reputation of having Roberto Duran-esque hands. Marshall has one more year of prep school before he will move on to Vermont of the Hockey East conference.â€
24. D Jay Rosehill , Norfolk (AHL)
Rosehill quietly continues to stick around at the AHL playing his honest brand of physical, simple hockey.
Chad- â€œProbably the Lightningâ€™s most unheralded defensive prospect, all Rosehill does is play his hardest and give an honest effort night in and night out. A great teammate.â€
Pete- â€œFrom the outset, this year looked like it might be the year Rosehill's nine lives would run out. The young defenseman defied the odds the past two seasons primarily sticking in the organization at the AHL level but this year he's facing a glut of prospects and veteran AHL defensemen the likes of which he's never seen. Still, Rosehill had a very good camp for the Admirals and if we've learned anything it's not to bet against Jay Rosehill.â€œ
25. C Dimitri Kazionov, Kazan (RUS)
Kazionov has established himself as one of the better two-way players in Russia. The question is whether he and his younger brother, who is also a Lightning prospect, will ever find their way to North America.
Pete- â€œThe Kazionov brothers were supposed to head over to North America this season but those plans fell through. Dimitri, the older of the brothers, plays a solid third line role for Kazan in the Superleague, but he might be a scoring liner in Norfolk.â€