Bolt Prospects Prospect of the Month: December
There were several very worthy candidates for this month's award, so this was probably the most difficult decision to make in the short history of the Prospect of the Month honor. Four Lightning prospects, two of them overage players, had strong months posting point a game or better paces: Dane Crowley (10 GP, 2-8-10, 24 PIM, +3), Chris Lawrence, (12 GP, 5-7-12, 25 PIM, +5), Eric Healey, (15 GP, 7-11-18, 38 PIM, +3), and Norm Milley, (15 GP, 9-6-15, 42 PIM, +2). Each of these players could've easily won the award, but December was the month of the goaltender in the Lightning prospect system. So without further adieu, this month's winner is...
G Jonathan Boutin, Springfield (AHL)
Living in the shadow of wunderkind Karri Ramo all season, Jonathan Boutin has very quietly shown incredible progress in his sophomore campaign and is beginning to make his make his mark at the AHL level. With Ramo on a short recall with the Lightning, Boutin was thrust into the club's starting role during the first half of the month and he rose to the occassion reeling off wins against Manchester and Providence in the first weekend of December. On December 1st, against the Monarchs, he stopped 33 of 35 shots in the Falcons' 3-2 overtime win. The following night at home against Providence, Boutin stopped 29 of 31 shots in regulation and overtime before stopping 6 of 8 shooters in the shootout to secure his second straight win. With Ramo struggling after returning to the Falcons, Steve Stirling turned to Boutin for back-to-back starts the following weekend and Boutin extended his winning streak to 4 games winning in Worcester on December 9th 3-0 by posting a 32 save shutout in which he was named first star of the game. The next night the Falcons hosted Syracuse and Boutin stopped 21 of 22 shots faced to improve to 4-0-0 on the month. On December 17th Boutin stopped 32 shots before falling in a shootout 5-4 at Portland. With Ramo rounding back into form it would take nearly two weeks before Boutin received his next start against Bridgeport on December 30th stopping 37 shots to be named first star in a 3-1 win against Bridgeport. Boutin fell the following day 3-0 at division leading Manchester stopping 24 shots to complete the month at 5-1-1.
Overall Boutin has a 5-3-1 record this year with a 2.13 GAA and .930 save percentage. The statistical improvement when compared to his rookie campaign last season (8-12-2, 3.13 GAA, .899 sv%) is stunning. He enjoys neither the limelight nor the praise that has been showered on his tandem mate Ramo this season, and his NHL aspirations may not find their fulfillment as immediately as Ramo's, but there can be little doubt Boutin is beginning to play his way into the discussion as the Lightning chart their long term plans. There was never a doubt when it came to Boutin's athleticism or abilities. And, after being plagued by inconsistency throughout his junior years and (to a lesser extent) as a rookie in the professional ranks Jonathan is finally beginning to show the maturity and poise it will take for him to make it at the next level.
Boutin's December Statistics
9 GP, 5-1-1, 1 SO, 1.77 GAA, .942 sv%
December Prospects of the Week
12/25-12/31, G Karri Ramo, Springfield (AHL)
12/18-12/24, LW Chris Eric Healey, Springfield (AHL)
12/11-12/17, RW/C Chris Lawrence, Mississauga (OHL)
12/4-12/10, D Dane Crowley, Swift Current (WHL)
11/27-12/3, G Jonathan Boutin, Springfield (AHL)/G Gerald Coleman, Johnstown (ECHL)/Springfield(AHL)