Today we are releasing Bolt Prospects’ 2013-2014 Preliminary Rankings. Our rankings of the top 30 prospects in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization again reflect the bounty of what we consider to be the golden age of Lightning prospects. That depth is finally breaking through at the NHL level in the form of the seven rookies that made the Lightning's 2013-2014 opening night roster – six of which are included in our rankings. More impressively, none of those six prospects made the top three of our list, meaning the best is still to come. That's why it's no stretch to suggest the Lightning have the best prospect depth in the NHL today.
The golden age of the Lightning farm system continues. Despite the Syracuse Crunch's loss in the AHL's Calder Cup Finals, the Lightning organization can still boast arguably the finest prospect depth in the NHL. That depth is further bolstered by a 2013 NHL Entry Draft that saw the Lightning add a potential franchise player and also a player who was ranked by several scouting services in their top 15 prospects in the draft class. As of right now, it truly appears the Lightning may be set for a generation at the forward and goaltending positions. And, while there's still much work to be done on defense, it's no exaggeration to say the future has never been brighter. Indeed, Hockey Prospectus has even gone so far as to name the Lightning the top prospect system in the league, which is a true feather in the cap of an organization that was universally panned by the hockey media for player development just a half decade ago.
Bolt Prospects' 2013-2014 Final/Supplemental Rankings follow our websites rules for eligibility for prospects. Players 24 years or older on opening night of the Lightning's season (or what was supposed to be opening night prior to its cancellation due to the NHL lockout, in the case of this season) are considered overage prospects and are not eligible for the rankings. For that reason, a prospect like Riku Helenius isn't in the list. Additionally, skating prospects that have appeared in 41 NHL games in a single season or 82 career NHL games are no longer eligible for the list, which is why Brett Connolly is considered graduated and no longer in the rankings. For goaltenders, the bar is a little lower with 30 NHL decisions in a single season necessary for graduation and 41 NHL decisions in a career being the threshold to become a Bolt Prospects Alumni. Finally, all NCAA-based players remain eligible for the rankings regardless of age for the full duration of their college careers. There will be a quiz later.
Until then, please enjoy Bolt Prospects' 2013-2014 Final/Supplemental Rankings...
By Pete Choquette
It's been a long, strange trip for Bolt Prospects to arrive at this year's Midterm Prospect Rankings. Between the end of the NHL lockout and an abbreviated training camp, call-ups, graduations, and trades, there's been a lot of movement in the rankings. One lesson learned from the first half of this season: no more standing still for Lightning prospects. Even first and second round picks can't afford to stagnate in their development with so much quality depth within the organization. More than that, the youth movement is already beginning in Tampa Bay with three prospects currently up with the Lightning and recently graduated Keith Aulie also with the NHL club.
We're now almost two months deep into the second NHL lockout in less than a decade. As difficult as it is to remember, though, hockey goes on. It goes on in small junior rinks in Canada and on campuses throughout the U.S. It goes on in the sporting halls of Sweden and Russia. And, it goes on in Syracuse, New York, where players on the cusp of making the highest level of hockey in the world patiently await the mere chance to make their case to play in the NHL. For those players, and in spite the cynical greed of the NHL's business wing, Bolt Prospects presents its 2012-2013 Preliminary Rankings.
We delayed the release of the rankings a few weeks when optimism ran high that hockey would be back after Thanksgiving, believing that perhaps an NHL training camp was in the cards for some of our prospects. But with the breakdown of talks between the commissioner and the NHLPA, it looks like a Lightning camp is far from imminent. So, we press forward, in spite of the setback.
Now that the 2012 NHL Entry Draft is complete along with the Lightning's Prospect Developmental Camp, Bolt Prospects is proud to release our 2011-2012 Supplemental Rankings, our final rankings of the season. We'll begin again in the Fall shortly after training camp with the 2012-2013 Preliminary Rankings. With the Lightning adding several good prospects through the draft and a banner season on the ice for the prospects the team already had, we have expanded our list from the traditional 20 to 25 which reflects the unprecedented depth the organization has developed this year.
A quick review of the rules, as always: skaters who play 41 or more NHL games in a single season or 82 or more career NHL games are considered graduated, and are no longer eligible for the rankings. As a consequence, Brett Connolly is no longer eligible for inclusion in the rankings. Goaltenders who earn 30 or more NHL decisions in a single season or 41 or more career NHL decisions are considered graduated, and are no longer eligible for the rankings. Players 24 years of age or over on opening night of the Lightning's season are considered overage prospects and are not eligible for inclusion in the rankings. NCAA players are exempt from the 24-year-old rule and are eligible for the rankings for the duration of their college careers.
With the disclaimers aside, here are our 2011-2012 Supplemental Rankings:
Best. Prospect. Season. Ever.
After each of the previous six seasons in which we've posted Final Rankings for the Tampa Bay Lightning's prospects, we've had the opportunity to look back on the year and celebrate the progress the organization has made in cultivating and developing its youth. Steady improvement has been made year-to-year as we've tracked the achievements of the team's young players around the world.
This year, the team reached heights we never imagined 6-1/2 years ago, with 9 of our top 10 prospects winning championships in their respective leagues this season. The Lightning's depth has our rankings bursting at the seams, with a few prospects that could make it to Tampa Bay next season surprisingly finding themselves on the outside of the top 10. Bottom line: we have no idea how the Lightning's developmental organization is ever going to top what they did this season.
Then again, with a large bag full of top-60 picks in this year's NHL Entry Draft, perhaps the seeds of the Lightning's next great prospect season are less than two weeks away from being planted.
With the graduation of Brett Connolly from prospect status, it's finally time to release Bolt Prospects' 2011-2012 Midterm Rankings. While difficult for the Lightning at the NHL level, this season has proven to be incredibly exciting for the development of the team's prospects. The Lightning have never boasted such incredible depth in the system, and that depth extends to overage prospects like Trevor Smith, Pierre-Cedric Labrie, and J.T. Wyman, who have made positive contributions to the big club during injury recalls. The team should also be excited about the performance of AHL signees like Philip-Michael Devos and Cory Conacher, the latter of whom is a lock to earn an NHL entry-level contract from the Lightning very soon.
Now that the season has begun, it's time to update our prospect rankings here on Bolt Prospects. Readers of the site know the drill, as we update our rankings three times during the season and add Supplemental Rankings shortly after the draft each year. But, for new readers, or for those who might've forgotten the rules, here's our legal disclaimer regarding prospect eligibility.
Bolt Prospects considers any prospect 24 years of age or older on opening night of the Lightning's season to be an overage prospect and ineligible for inclusion on the list. As a consequence, older prospects like Mattias Ritola, Blair Jones, and Johan Harju are no longer included on our list. The exception to the 24 year old rule is NCAA players, who shall remain eligible for the rankings so long as they remain in college. Bolt Prospects also has rules pertaining to a player's graduation from prospect status that also determines eligibility for the rankings. For skaters, any player who has played 41 or more NHL games in a single season or 82 or more career NHL games is ineligible for the list. As a consequence, players like James Wright and Dana Tyrell are ineligible for the list. For goaltenders, any player who receives 30 or more NHL decisions in a single season or 41 or more NHL decisions in a career is ineligible.
With all that in mind, here are Bolt Prospects 2011-2012 Preliminary Rankings:
Now that the 2011 NHL Entry Draft is over, Bolt Prospects is issuing its 2011 Supplemental Rankings. The rankings add the 2011 draft picks, subtract prospects who did not receive qualifying offers from the club, and reflect some slight adjustments in the rankings based on changes in the depth chart. The remainder of this story includes the placement of the 2011 draft picks. For a full look at our Top-25 Rankings, please take a look at our Prospects page.
With the 2010-2011 season happily lasting much longer than the last few seasons, we find ourselves in the month of June before releasing our 2010-2011 Final Rankings. This season brought a new word into the Lightning prospect fans' vocabulary: "patience." With only Dana Tyrell graduating this season, the Lightning made sure their top prospects had a little more time on the vine to ripen. At the same time, though, attrition cost the Lightning some of its better prospects, as was the case with Mitch Fadden who allowed off-the-ice issues to cost him a spot in the organization. And, other prospects had lackluster seasons that led us to believe that perhaps the chances of their NHL futures were limited. Towards that end, we made the editorial decision to trim our rankings down from their typical 25 to 20 for this Final Rankings. We will be raising the list back to 25 after the NHL Entry Draft in a few weeks when we release a supplement to these rankings.
The rules are simple: any skater prospect who was under 24 years of age on opening night of the Lightning's season and has played less than 41 NHL games in any single season and less than 82 career NHL games is eligible for the rankings. This excludes, for instance, Blair Jones. For goaltenders, any netminder who has earned less than 30 NHL decisions in any single season and less than 41 career NHL decisions and was under 24 years of age on opening night is eligible for the rankings. That excludes Cedrick Desjardins, for instance, who turned 25 in September. The exception to these basic rules are NCAA based players, who are considered eligible prospects for the duration of their college careers regardless of age.