Pete Choquette's blog
Long time readers of the website know that the staff here at Bolt Prospects has a bit of a chequered past with that other hockey prospects website, Hockeysfuture. Without getting to deep into the specifics, after years of myself, Chad and Tim working the Lightning page on that website we as a group had a falling out with management over what seemed to us to be obvious bias in their decision making process against us and the Lightning's prospects. It wasn't something that happened overnight and we didn't leave all at once but eventually Tim had the idea to start a blog and we seized on it and started making plans. The rest, as they say, is history.
Long time readers of this website also know that we've never been afraid to call out Hockeysfuture for what we've seen as continuing bias in the product over at that website. One of the most obvious points of contention we had with HF was their refusal for almost two years to assign a writer to cover the Lightning's prospects. It wasn't until shortly after the Lightning internet community responded strongly to an incident in which a high ranking HF writer called prospects Blair Jones and Justin Keller trash and Bolt Prospects' subsequent smackdown of said writer that HF finally conceded and assigned longtime writer and all around standup guy Phil Laugher to cover the team's prospects. Laugher earned his street cred with the Lightning fan base when he apologized publicly to Lightning fans about a year prior when HF released a set of rankings that had NHL regular Paul Ranger 9th in the organization, soon-to-be NHL regular Nick Tarnasky 19th in the organization, and Keller and Russian superprospect Vasily Koshechkin out of the rankings altogether.
Under Laugher, it has been our website's opinion that the product on HF has improved by leaps and bounds. Considering he's been struggling upstream against an online editor who clearly has ulterior motives, their site has actually become tolerable over the last year. As such, we've had an unofficial truce with HockeysFuture over the past 14 or so months. Unfortunately, Phil didn't write the horribly divorced from reality draft review HF just put out for the Lightning, a piece so bad I got multiple e-mails from the Bolt Prospects staff within moments of their reading it. Considering their strong negative reaction to the article, I'm afraid we as a site have to respond.
Now, admittedly I have no idea who Elisa Hatch is. And let me just say ahead of time, it's not her fault Hockeysfuture's editors and management decided to put her in a difficult situation and its not her fault they offered her so little editorial support in the course of writing this article. Nearest as I can tell this is Hatch's first solo article at HF and unfortunately, without knowledgable editors who actually care about the subject matter, the quality of the work suffered.
Bottom line: several of the contentions of the article are diametrically opposed to the professional opinions of several reputable scouting outlets including the Lightning's scouting staff, THN, Red Line Report and the NHL Central Scouting Service. You don't have to take it from us that the article is flawed. Take it from those other professionals.
According to Randy from AdmiralsZone.com in the comments, the AHL and PHPA have ratified the sixth veteran rule. Randy also clarifies the rule noting the 6th veteran will have less than 320 games of experience, not greater than. Karl Stewart and Bryce Lampman would both fit in under this sixth veteran rule.
Thanks to everyone for being patient with me while I get schooled up on these rules.
With the flurry of free agent signings and trades aimed toward stocking up the Norfolk Admirals roster over the last week, I think we've all had some questions about how the Lightning/Admirals will navigate around the AHL's veteran rule. I, admittedly, still didn't know the ins and outs of the rule as early as about a week ago. Thankfully, several of the Admirals fans have pointed out some of the intricacies of the rules and how the Admirals are indeed going to be able ice all this new talent they've accumlated recently.
First, here is how the rule was in effect last season. According to TheAHL.com, teams were allowed to use up to five players with 260 or more games of experience at the IHL/AHL/NHL or European elite league level at the start of the season. Goaltenders are exempt from the veteran rule. ECHL games do not count against the veteran rule.
For this season, according to rumors, the AHL/PHPA are expected to expand the AHL's veteran rule to include a sixth veteran with less than 320 games of experience at the IHL/AHL/NHL or European elite league level.
So where do the Lightning's recent signings fall in terms of games played? The following players will count against the Lightning's six veteran slots:
Remind me next year to order Red Line three weeks before draft day instead of two...
Anyway, looking through Red Line's draft guide there are a lot of positives for the Lightning coming out of this draft. Here's how they had the picks the Lightning took rated and, where given, the short blurb about each:
#30 Dana Tyrell: "Love his speed, smarts, and competitiveness."
#54 Luca Cunti: "It's a team game, Luca. It's not all about you."
#62 Alexander Killorn: "Blazing fast playmaker. Stock rising like gas prices."
#100 Mitch Fadden: "Dynamic scorer should've been taken last year."
#160 Matt Marshall: "Bull in a china shop, but has no hands or finesse."
#207 Torrie Jung
#290 Michael Ward
NR Johan Harju
NR Justin Courtnall
Asked about the quality of hockey in Switzerland, controversial Lightning draft pick Luca Cunti had this to say in the St. Pete Times:
Center and third-round pick Luca Cunti doesn't think much of hockey in his Swiss homeland. Asked about the country's developmental program, he said, "It's not better. That's why I want to come here."
Right answer. I don't think this young man is quite the coach killing punk some have made him out to be. I think he's bored playing inferior opponents in Swiss Junior A and the NLB which isn't even the top Swiss leage. He's looking for a challenge, and that's what you want from this guy: the desire to get better. So much was made about whether or not Luca would come to North America but if you look at everything the young man has said he is talking in very specific and very concrete terms about pursuing his career over here. Good. Being in the right frame of mind is a big hurdle for Cunti to get over and it looks like he might get there. The next step is to prove he can play North American hockey in the CHL or USHL and not get his helmet fed to him.
Entering the draft the Lightning's prospects of filling their organizational needs at forward looked so bleak the local media was printing stories that were already ratcheting down expectations. The team had no first round pick. It might not have had a second round pick if the Panthers had exercised the option they gained in the Chris Gratton trade. 2007 looked like a throwaway draft. Yet for some strange reason I actually had a good feeling about this draft because there were parallels to the 2002 draft. You'll recall in 2002, Jay Feaster's first draft as the head of the Bolts, the team dealt off its #4 overall pick in the controversial Ruslan Fedotenko deal and then dealt off a second round pick for defenseman Brad Lukowich leaving the team with a lone second round pick as their only selection in the first three rounds. And, like this year's draft, 2002 was panned as a poor draft class with the exception of the first 4 or 5 picks.
2002 was the finest hour of the Lightning's scouts during the Jay Feaster era even despite stubbing their toe with Adam Henrich with their first selection. They succeeded by outworking the rest of the league that day. Most of the other scouting staffs in the NHL were so sour on that draft class they didn't even want to deal with the later rounds of the draft. Carolina practically gave away a bundle of picks to the Lightning because there were no more players they wanted left on their list. And so the much maligned Lightning scouting staff crafted a working man's masterpiece almost entirely from round six on: Paul Ranger, Fredrik Norrena and Ryan Craig are all NHL regulars. Darren Reid has seen time in the league each of the last two seasons. Vasily Koshechkin is considered perhaps the best goaltending prospect in all of Russia. The team thought outside the box. They took overagers (Craig). They turned over rocks to find players (Koshechkin). They gambled on players who might not have played much during the year but had the skills and upside to warrant taking a flyer (Ranger). They haven't had a draft that good since.
Something about the challenge of making something out of nothing makes this Lightning staff rise to the occassion, and while I can't guarantee that the 2007 draft will pan out as well as that 2002 draft, there's reason to be very optimistic. The philosophy was different for this draft, but the work ethic wasn't and when Ottawa practically gave away a bundle of three picks for a spare 4th round pick today the comparisons to 2002 became even stronger. I liked what I saw today.