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Draft Day Two Preview

The Lightning enter the 2018 NHL Draft with seven picks, but without a first round pick due to the trade deadline deal with the Rangers for Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller. Predicting who the Bolts will pick with each of their Round 2 through 7 picks, and the Kings 7th rounder is an impossible task. But, we can throw out some players we think the Bolts might view as possibilities. As always, the Lightning draft team will say they are drafting best player available, but we will be looking at organization needs in the prospect system for much of the context of this preview.

2017-2018 Final Rankings

Introduction
For the third time in the past four seasons, a Lightning team was able to advance deep into May in the playoffs only to see the Stanley Cup remain elusive. With a roster of mainstays that have been together for over a half decade now, is this the summer that Steve Yzerman decides to make some changes? If he does, Tampa Bay is in the rare and envious position of having a surplus of hungry young lions pawing at the gate to get into the NHL.

To some surprise, a very youthful Syracuse Crunch team was able to once again go multiple rounds in the Calder Cup playoffs after a strong regular season where they remained one of the AHL Eastern Conference's best teams even after divesting its roster of a number of quality veteran players. This development, along with the Canadian junior nationals once again looking like the Lightning's own U20 academy team, highlighted the remarkable quality of the club's pipeline. We count, easily, at least 11 legitimate future NHL players on the 2017-2018 Final Rankings, with the club soon to add another draft class into the fold.

A brief reminder of the rules: Only players under the age of 24 on opening night of the 2017-2018 season are eligible for ranking. Skaters with 41 or more NHL games in a single season or 82 or more total NHL games are considered graduated from the rankings. Goaltenders with 30 or more decisions in a single season or 41 or more career NHL decisions are also considered graduated. Lastly, NCAA players remain eligible for ranking for the duration of their college careers regardless of age.

Foote Impresses at First Crunch Practice


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Cal Foote got the full experience during his first day as a pro.

The new Syracuse Crunch defenseman was a part of the team's picture day before practice, and after he needed signed a slew of jerseys, sticks and other promotional items.

On the ice, he went through a full team practice and then was a part of a small group held afterward for extra conditioning drills.

Although it's not set when Foote will make his pro debut, Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx was impressed with the 19-year-old on day one.

"I like his calm out there. He seems to me that he looks like an old pro," Groulx said. "I like that."

Crunch's Archambault Showing Off Offensive Flair


By Jeremy Houghtaling

The goal was so pretty, the players stopped celebrating to watch the replay.

Olivier Archambault picked up the boards on the half wall, cut toward the middle, deked through a defender, took the puck from his backhand to his forehand and easily slid the puck past the Springfield goalie. The overtime game-winner was just the beginning of a three-goal weekend for the Syracuse Crunch forward.

Archambault has put on a show offensively in his tryout with Syracuse.

“When you see a goal like that, you’re like ‘Wow!’’ Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx said. “It’s a great move. We know he has those skills. He made a great play. You don’t see those goals every game.”

2017-2018 Midterm Rankings

Introduction
Well, it finally was time for Steve Yzerman to cash in. After several years of carefully cultivating one of the deeper prospect pools in the NHL, the Lightning used that depth to complete a trade deadline blockbuster that leveraged prospects Libor Hajek and Brett Howden to land playoff reinforcements Ryan McDonagh and J. T. Miller. Have no fear, though, the Lightning still maintain a deep stable of solid youth, some of whom are already contributing at the NHL level while an extremely youthful Syracuse Crunch team has found its voice and is playing well beyond its years down in the AHL. So, even though a couple of bigger names have moved along, don't expect that to diminish a likely youth movement to come in Tampa Bay over the next two or three years, particularly on the lower lines at the forward position.

As per custom, it's now time for a review of the prospect ranking rules. Any player 24 or older on opening night of the Lightning's season is considered an overage prospect for the purposes of the rankings, hence why Yanni Gourde and Matt Peca were considered overagers earlier this season. A skater with 41 NHL games in a single season or 82 career NHL games of service is considered graduated from prospect status on the website. This has included newly minted Bolt Prospects alumni Mikhail Sergachev, Gourde, and Jake Dotchin so far this season. Goaltenders who have 30 NHL decisions in a single season or 41 career NHL decisions are considered graduated. Lastly, any NCAA player is considered a prospect for the duration of their college career regardless of age.

So, let's begin...

Crunch's Yan Focuses on Consistency in Rookie Season


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Consistency is a key for Dennis Yan’s development.

The Syracuse Crunch winger has four multi-point games during his rookie season, including a goal and an assist against Laval Saturday. Of his 20 points in 40 games this season, nine have come during a multi-point performance.

Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx believes Yan has the tools, but needs to use them each and every game.

“I like the skills. I like the size. He’s got to bring it together every day,” Groulx said. “He’s not consistent at doing that. When he does that, he’s a very good player. When he does not, he’s a different player.”

Crunch's Walcott 'Making Friends' With Abrasive Style


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Daniel Walcott realizes that he’s at his best when he’s abrasive.

The Syracuse Crunch forward prides himself on his play on the forecheck and ability to rile up opponents. Walcott can also chuck some fists when the time comes.

Since moving from defense to forward full-time earlier this season, Walcott has focused on bringing energy to the Crunch lineup.

“I’m an energetic guy, so if I can spread the wealthy with my energy, I’ll do that,” Walcott said. “Also, I want to create plays and play the right way defensively. If I’m on the ice, I can’t get scored on. That’s been a focus for me — to bring energy and be physically, but be sound defensively.”

Even After Highlight Reel Save, Ingram Pragmatic About His Development


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Connor Ingram isn’t letting one play get to his head.

The Syracuse Crunch goalie made a highlight reel save that ended up on SportsCenter’s Top 10 in a 3-1 win in Charlotte Sunday. Even after a spectacular diving stop with his stick, Ingram focused more on making the next save.

Ingram remains pragmatic about the play and hockey in general as he works his way toward the NHL.

“It went right to left, I slid in and missed my post on the left side and it was a wide open net. You’ve got to do whatever you can to get there, and luckily he just shot it right into my stick,” Ingram said. “I’m not going to take credit for it. It’s a pretty fluky thing that’ll happen.”

After Multiple Trades, Verhaeghe Producing for Syracuse Crunch


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Carter Verhaeghe is more well-traveled than most 22-year-old hockey players.

Originally drafted by his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs in 2013, Verhaeghe has been traded twice and split the last two seasons between the ECHL and the AHL.

Verhaeghe believes his experience has helped mold him into a nearly point-per-game player this year for the Syracuse Crunch.

"I've been through a lot in my short career so far, and I think that only helps me," Verhaeghe said. "I've played for a bunch of different coaches and different teams, and I think everything has contributed to the player I am now."

Stephens Shining on Crunch's Scoring Lines


By Jeremy Houghtaling

For Syracuse Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx, Mitchell Stephens may have been on the fourth line, but he wasn't a fourth-liner.

With a glut of healthy forwards and Tampa Bay not calling for reinforcements early this season, Groulx had the rookie center the team's fourth line. Once the inevitable injuries happened, Stephens earned more time on the Crunch's scoring lines.

With a point in 12 of the last 15 games, Stephens has become one of Syracuse's most consistent contributors offensively.

"I remember sitting down with him at one point and telling him that we had no injuries, no call-ups, and it's not because he was playing on the fourth line that we saw him as a fourth liner. ... We had four healthy lines and those lines were made in order to have the team balance," Groulx said. "We didn't see him as a defensive player. I think he needed those 10 games to get more confident and feel the water a little bit to see what it's like to play in this league. Then he started scoring and putting up points. He hasn't stopped since then."

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