Lightning Director of Amateur Scouting Al Murray said repeatedly this week that the club has about 15 players it views as a tier above the rest of the 2012 draft class. Heâ€™s gone as far as saying they are comfortable with their top-15, there are no ties in the rankings, and his staff is confident they will get a great player with pick 10 and one of their top-15 will be available with their second first rounder, No.19.
With as unpredictable and dividing as this draft is, Murray and the Lightning appear set to let their list do the deciding for them.
Itâ€™s Murrayâ€™s job to take the philosophy and wishes of the NHL general manager, in this case Steve Yzerman, and formulate his list. A few weeks ago, Murray said Yzerman requested the list be made of players who will make an impact at the NHL level someday with an emphasis on skill, hockey sense, and compete level.
Yzerman has to assume his coach, Guy Boucher, will be his coach in a few years when these teenagers are ready for the NHL, which means they have to be fast enough to fit into Boucherâ€™s up-tempo style. Heâ€™s also not scared to take an injured player if it means heâ€™s going to end up with an NHLer in a few years. Weâ€™re not convinced Yzerman likes to swing for the fences, as former GM Jay Feaster used to say, by taking a player who while having a high ceiling, doesnâ€™t also have an NHL floor.
Unfortunately, Bolt Prospects has been unable to scrape together the funds to a reputable hacker (oxymoron?) or Jason Bourne (Matt Damon, not Jeremy Renner) to obtain â€œthe list,â€ so weâ€™re going to have to guess.
Based on Yzermanâ€™s criteria, we feel the Lightning may be targeting the following 15 prospects as their â€œbest available for the Lightning.â€ It does not mean best overall for everyone.
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.