This week at Bolt Prospects we start our â€œMail Bagâ€ column. We have yet to come up with a creative name for it, so send us any and all suggestions. In the meantime (or regardless), weâ€™ll post obscure YouTube clips about mail.
The following questions were sent to us (Pete, Tim, Nigel and/or Chad) via email (firstname.lastname@example.org ), twitter (@boltprospects), Facebook (www.facebook.com/boltprospects ), leaving a comment here with this column, or at our siteâ€™s online community forum (click the Forums tab on the home page).
On to the questionsâ€¦
Is there any chance of Vasily Koshechkin  signing and coming over to the States? Ever? He's already 28 now, is the time basically up on him and will he be stuck in the KHL? (jaydeedub via BP Forums)
Background: Koshechkin was an eighth round pick of the Lightning in 2002. Nicknamed â€œThe Catâ€ for his reflexes, the 6â€™6â€ goalie has been starring in the KHL for years.
Pete: I think it's up to Vasily. If he'd be willing to come to North America, I imagine some team would be willing to give him at least a training camp tryout. He's one of the most outstanding goaltenders in all of Russia and he's been on the hockey world's radar for several years now. I imagine the best thing would be a Niklas Persson -esque training camp tryout where he can return to Europe if he doesn't make an NHL roster.
Chad: There was talk last spring that Koshechkin was interested, but wanted guaranteed games played and a one-way contract. Neither is abnormal for players of his stature overseas to demand. With the goaltending picture muddled for next season with Rolosonâ€™s contract up, Garon in the last year of his deal, and a Dustin Tokarski  who may or may not be ready, thereâ€™s a window there for Koshechkin to get his shot. The question is if the Lightning are still interested.
Goaltending prospects have been hyped for the Lightning the past few seasons as one of the pluses of our organization, but the numbers haven't really been overly impressive. Which of our young goalies do you think has the best chance to make the big club (and stay there)? (NoSpin via Forums)
Pete: I disagree about the numbers. Dustin Tokarski had a very strong rookie season and was very good the second half and into the playoffs last year. Jaroslav Janus  had an excellent rookie season too before getting his knee hurt. Tokarski's got quite a lot of experience and intangibles that should make him an NHLer someday. Janus may have higher upside though, with his athletic gifts. There does need to be another goaltender selected to come in behind these two, though, as Adam Wilcox  is probably 4-5 years away from turning pro.
Whatâ€™s up with Richard Panik ? Injured or not playing? (lnzyder via Twitter)
Chad: Panik has played in two games so far this year for Norfolk and has one goal on one shot. Itâ€™s hard to believe it, but the player tied for the greatest single-season shooting percentage of all time canâ€™t get in the lineup. I asked two people with the Norfolk organization and both told me the same thing â€“ there are too many quality forwards in Norfolk right now and itâ€™s tough getting everyone into the lineup. Right now Panik and Ondrej Palat  are playing the waiting game. Norfolk has very good balance with the A-group, so itâ€™s possible one or both could wind up with the Everblades for a while.
What can we expect from Richard Panik in Norfolk this season? Will he have the chance to be on a scoring line or could it still be a productive season in his overall development even if he does not? (Bolthed via Forums)
Pete: It's mostly up to Richard. If he applies himself every day and in every practice, he'll climb the depth chart. If not, he could find himself in the Coast. The choice is his, whether he realizes it yet, or not.
If you were Yzerman for a day, what would be the first three moves you make? (NoSpin via Forums)
1. I would give $300,000 in cash to Bolt Prospects.
2. I'd inquire with a team like Winnipeg what it would take to get a player like Johnny Oduya to try to stabilize the back line.
3. I'd destroy all records of the $300,000 in cash I gave to Bolt Prospects.
1. Sign Cory Conacher  to an NHL entry-level contract.
2. Stabilize the defense a little more despite all our one-way contracts.
3. Inquire about the availability of Jonathan Bernier from the Kings. The future goaltending on the team projects well, but not immediately (2012-2013). Even if I donâ€™t make a move now, I know what it takes when I need it. Cory Schneider looks to be staying in Vancouver.
What exactly happened to Paul Ranger ? (thefly via Forums)
Pete: The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long.
Chad: Beautiful, Pete. Iâ€™m sure if Paul wanted us to know, weâ€™d know. While rumors say heâ€™s focusing on school in Ontario and/or has lost the passion to play, no one knows, or theyâ€™ve been asked not to say.
What is the team's biggest need to make another deep run in the playoffs? (bassassin via Forums)
Pete: A d-man, definitely.
Chad: Agreed. Iâ€™m a little worried about the goaltendingâ€™s endurance level, too. Iâ€™d feel better if we had a No.3 ready to step in if needed.
Are the Lightning satisfied with the development of Dustin Tokarski to this point? What does the organization think his ceiling is, and what does BP.com think his ceiling is at this point? (dannybolt via Forums)
Pete: I'm sure they'd like to see him pushing a little harder at the NHL rather than having to fight off a challenge from Janus for the No.1 job in Norfolk. That said, the plan for him entering the year was for him to be the big dog in Norfolk this year and challenge for a spot in Tampa in camp next year, and he's not off plan, yet. We see him as a potential Marty Turco-type, minus the puckhandling chops.
Chad: Donâ€™t forget Tokarski lost a lot of valuable training camp and late summer training time with the abdominal injury. Heâ€™s not back to form at this time, but during camp, Cooper, Yzerman, etc were talking glowingly about him. And for what it's worth, Boucher hates the use of "ceiling" for a prospect. Doesn't believe in the term.
Will we see James Wright  in the NHL again? (dannybolt via Forums)
Pete: Yes. He's big, skates well, is good on faceoffs, and has leadership intangibles. He'll land somewhere, if not in Tampa.
Chad: I agree, but likely not in a prominent role. Guy Boucher said Wrightâ€™s struggling mentally to get over last yearâ€™s knee injury. Some things to keep in mind: His contract is up this year and he wasnâ€™t an Yzerman pick. He needs to turn things around quickly to get a multi-year deal next summer, but is still a candidate for the popular one-year deal coming out of an entry level contract. With Dominic Moore 's contract coming off the books next year, there's potentially a spot for him if he can grab it.
We've had a lot of well-regarded prospects not pan out over the years, as well as plenty of guys that never really had a shot, but who would you say was the most disappointing Bolt prospect as far as the genuine potential wasted, and do you blame our system at the time or the player in that instance? (Hoek via Forums)
Pete: Luca Cunti  might've been the best pure skater I've ever seen the Lightning draft and he was soft as Charmin. Such a waste of potential. I blame the NCAA and Luca.
Background: Luca came from the Swiss pro leagues to play for St. Cloud State University. The NCAA Clearinghouse kept delaying the confirmation of his amateur status, then deemed him ineligible. Cunti went to the USHL (Chicago) and ended up in Rimouski of the QMJHL before the Lightning passed on signing him. Cunti returned to Europe.
Chad: Riku Helenius  is one for me. Thereâ€™s still time for him, but the shoulder injury he suffered a few years ago really set him back, and he never was able to get back on the developmental path he was on. He had trouble winning the No.1 job with the Seattle Thunderbirds and didnâ€™t play well for some below-average AHL teams when he was in North America. It really emphasizes the importance on a goaltenders mental approach to the game. Is he a fighter or not?
Why haven't we been able to develop a single goalie prospect? Is it that certain that Tokarski is finally going to break that barrier? (Hoek via Forums)
Pete: I believe the only two goaltenders the Lightning have taken with top-60 picks in 19 drafts have been Tyler Moss and Riku Helenius. There's a lot of your answer, right there. If you don't draft them, you don't get them.
I thought our system was predicated on puck control and constantly engaging the play. At the start of last season I seen this, and I thought our team was extremely exciting. We crashed the crease offensively, and forced the play defensively. However, I feel like I've seen this team slowly become more and more tentative, we turn the puck over more, and don't force the play as much. This has opened the door to all sorts of problems, for instance lengthy periods of time in our own zone because we are too slow to retrieve the puck. And offensively, we have less of a presence around the crease and the rebounds are being gobbled up by the opposing teams defense. What is going on? Has the philosophy shifted? (RSchmitz via Forums)
Pete: Players temporarily forgot the work ethic that made them successful in the playoffs last season.
Chad: Agreed, plus this club has a fine line between clicking as a five-man unit and looking like a beer league team. When they're on, they are really on. When they're off, it's ugly.
If the BP staff was forced to fight to the death, which of you would be the sole survivor? (NoSpin via Forums)
Pete: I'd give Tim the DDT and then put Chad in the crossface.
Chad: And heâ€™d do it all with a visor on.
Thatâ€™s all for this week! Gotta have more representation from Twitter next week (most of the questions from Twitter this week were Connolly related).