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Bolt Prospects' 2015-2016 Midterm Rankings

Introduction
Now past the All-Star Break of the 2015-2016 campaign, it's time for Bolt Prospects' Midterm Rankings. The year thus far might be summed up best by one word: adversity. Adversity has visited the big league club in the way of injuries, contractual uncertainties, and off-ice controversies. Nothing quite so soap operatic has besieged the Syracuse Crunch or the team's other young prospects, but adversity has found its way all the way down into the pipeline, as well. Pre-season surgeries, disciplinary scratches, and yes, injuries too, have all played a part in shaping these Midterm Rankings. They've also tested one of the former strengths of the organization: it's depth. Make no mistake; the Lightning organization is far removed from the days of putting several NHL-caliber prospects into the league in a single season. This group is top-heavy and thin, which may be reflected in the Crunch's middling record throughout much of the season. As a consequence, the Lightning find themselves in desperate need of the development of one or two long shot diamonds in the rough, and a strong Entry Draft this June.

The rules for the rankings remain the same. Only prospects under the age of 24 on opening night of the season are eligible to be ranked. Skating position players with 41 games played in a single NHL season or 82 career NHL games played are considered graduated and not eligible for the rankings. Please note, for the sake of clarity, that only NHL regular season games are considered in the calculation, for anyone wondering why a certain Russian-born defenseman didn't graduate last season. Goaltenders who earn 30 decisions in a single NHL season or 41 career NHL decisions are also considered graduated and are not eligible for the rankings. Finally, NCAA-based players are exempt from the 24-year-old age rule for the duration of their college careers.

With the typical legal disclaimers out of the way, we begin...

The Bolt Prospects Podcast, Volume 53

This week’s “Luke Witkowski Edition” of the Bolt Prospects Podcast (also available on Lightning Power Play, Lightning Radio's iHeart station) includes the following topics:

· Interview with squid-throwing prospect Luke Witkowski
· Coach’s seat heating up quickly in Syracuse
· Crunch fans the Rodney Dangerfield of AHL fanbases
· DeAngelo drama
· When the Lightning losing is acceptable (and when it’s not)
· TB’s goaltender of the future to be determined by Stamkos?

The Bolt Prospects Podcast, Volume 52

This week's “Radek Smolenak Edition” of the Bolt Prospects Podcast (also available on Lightning Power Play, Lightning Radio's iHeart station) includes the following topics:

NOTE: This was recorded before the Drouin suspension. A special edition of the podcast will be posted Thursday morning.

· The No. 52
· Sitting on the corner of Drouinsanity and Stammergeddon
· #BPMailbag (Vasy being shopped? ... DeAngelo timeline ... Drouin trade ideas)

Crunch Trio Ready for AHL All-Star Challenge


By Jeremy Houghtaling

While players certainly don’t look past games, there’s certainly events they look forward to.

The Syracuse Crunch’s weekend begins just like any other with a home-and-home against the Hershey Bears. But on Sunday, Syracuse welcomes representatives from all over the American Hockey League for the annual skills competition with the AHL All-Star Challenge set to follow on Monday night.

“It’s a tremendous experience,” said Crunch defenseman Matt Taormina. “I was fortunate to do it last year and experience how it was. The skills competition is an unbelievable time. You go out there, joke with the guys, have fun, and mess around. You get to know the guys a little better too, since we’re always enemies out on the ice.”

Witkowski Doing Dirty Work for Crunch


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Luke Witkowski showed little hesitation in getting his hands dirty.

During a stoppage in the final minute of the third period during a game in Binghamton Saturday, a squid -- apparently thrown from the stands -- ended up on the ice. The Syracuse Crunch defenseman and avid outdoorsman took off his glove to pick up the sea creature, gave it a quick whirl as he pondered what to do with it, and sent it flying back into the stands.

“I noticed the refs were skating away from it and no one was grabbing it, so I thought I’d chuck it back up to where it came from,” Witkowski said.

Witkowski is no stranger to doing the necessary dirty work on the ice, and is now focused on improving his game with by logging big minutes in the American Hockey League to make the next step to the National Hockey League.

BP Podcast Special Edition: Drouinsanity in its Fullest Form

A special edition of the Bolt Prospects Podcast (also available on Lightning Power Play, Lightning Radio's iHeart station) includes the following topics:

· Complete Drouinsanity
· The end of #freedrouin

The Bolt Prospects Podcast, Volume 51

This week's “Val Filppula Edition” of the Bolt Prospects Podcast (also available on Lightning Power Play, Lightning Radio's iHeart station) includes the following topics:

NOTE: This was recorded before the Drouin suspension. A special edition of the podcast will be posted Thursday morning.

· The No. 51
· Is the Lightning’s recent success sustainable?
· Cooper’s safety nets don’t include Stamkos
· Second line coming around?
· #BPMailbag (Trades, Koekkoek and DeAngelo futures, & more)

The Bolt Prospects Podcast, Volume 50

This week's “Kristers Gudlevskis Edition” of the Bolt Prospects Podcast (also available on Lightning Power Play, Lightning Radio's iHeart station) includes the following topics:

· The No. 50
· Interview with Kristers Gudlevskis
· Weekend with Drouin
· Drouin’s trade value, the best options, and what could/should come back
· Stamkos is worth $10M if…
· #BPMailbag, Drouin & Stamkos Edition
· Interview with Tanner Richard

Crunch's Richard Continues to Round Out Game


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Tanner Richard is still adding more facets to his game.

A playmaker in junior, the Syracuse Crunch center spent the past two years developing a more physical presence fit for a grinding line. In his third full pro season, Richard has become the team’s most reliable player for faceoffs and is refining his ability to be an agitator that takes the opposition off their game.

Richard’s versatility has earned him more playing time in all situations.

“He’s matured as a player, because he’s more well-rounded,” said Crunch head coach Rob Zettler. “I can use him in a number of different situations. I trust him out there and he works hard to get back as well. He’s earned his ice time and he’s certainly been a valuable player for us all year.”

The Bolt Prospects Podcast, Volume 49

This week's “Gretzky Edition” of the Bolt Prospects Podcast (also available on Lightning Power Play, Lightning Radio's iHeart station) includes the following topics:

· The No. 49
· Every angle of the Drouin drama.
· Coach vs Player
· Forget #freedrouin. Free the skill.

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