Pete Choquette's blog
Like I said, the only thing that's for certain in this draft is that nothing's for certain. For those of you who sat through the first round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft Friday night (a bizarre decision by NHL higher ups hell bent on running the league into the ground, I think) you witnessed one of the more scrambled draft boards in recent memory as several teams went well off the board with one of the top 30 selections in the draft. For the Lightning, they made an appearance, but little else, and with no guarantee the Panthers won't exercise their option on pick #47 (the Gratton re-re-acquisition) the Lightning might not have much to do until the 75th and 77th overall picks in the third round. Still, if you like speculation, here's speculation. In no particular order, here are some of the top forward prospects still remaining in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft heading into day two:
"The only thing that's for sure is nothing's for sure."
As a part of our summer cleaning at Bolt Prospects, we've updated the profiles for the Top 20 prospects in the organization and we will likely complete updates for every other pertinent prospect in the organization over the next month or two.
In addition, because they went unsigned and the Lightning no longer hold their rights, Marek Bartanus, Kevin Beech and Jan Zapletal have been removed from the prospects page. We suspect this is but the opening salvo of a summer housecleaning as the Lightning are expected to let several prospects and overage prospect walk once free agency hits in July.
Finally, with regard to draft coverage, Bolt Prospects has again ordered Red Line Report's draft guide and will be blending their insight with that of other sources to provide our draft coverage later this month. Because the Lightning do not hold a first round selection, we won't be doing comprehensive profiles on potential draftees prior to the draft but Bolt Prospects will again be the place to turn to for draft capsules of new Lightning prospects as they are selected.
Thanks as always to our readers.
Courtesy of Chad, Vladimir Mihalik smacks down a puny fly of an opponent.
Word on the street is that despite the fact Vasily Koshechkin is under contract to Lada Togliatti through the 2007-2008 season, Togliatti may not be able to afford Vasily and he may be on his way to Tampa as a result. Recall, Togliatti traded half their team two seasons ago including Dimitri Kazionov during the December Euro Tour break because one of their main partners in ownership pulled out of the club. Apparently those financial problems haven't disappeared which is why Koshechkin coming to North America may be on the table a year earlier than was thought going into this season.
As some of you might know, the Falcons just completed E-baying practically their full rosters worth of black road jerseys and practice jerseys tonight. How Mitch Fritz and Daniel Corso's jerseys fetched more than Karri Ramo's, I'll never know.
In any event, yours truly just plunked down a couple hundie on young Matt Smaby's #27. No pressure Matt, but you better make the team now.
Erik Erlendsson of the Trib blogs some kudos to Bolt Prospects in his Tuesday entry on the Lightning's offseason and the possibility of re-signing prospect defenseman Andreas Holmqvist. We blog kudos back to his blog, which has come along nicely over the past year.
Specifically regarding Holmqvist: suffice it to say he has some significant support behind him in the organization. And, considering the scouts who followed the Swedish league and Swedish World Championships team last season did deliver Johan Holmqvist and Andreas Karlsson to the team last season, it's not out of the realm of possibility to see an Andreas Holmqvist comeback on the horizon. I think the only thing that is precluding it might be a sense in the front office that they've already been fooled once by Andreas before. The former 2001 2nd round draft pick got a very lucrative one-way deal to come to North America the year before the lockout and was utterly putrid. The scouting report from that juncture of his career was not exactly glowing. His ability to play in his own third of the ice often took on the appearance of a deer trapped in headlights. Few who were there will forget his rookie training camp pairing with Mike Egener and how the two youngsters were abused shift after shift by the likes of Dimitry Afanasenkov (they made Affy look like Pavel Bure) in preseason scrimmages. Andreas also lacked anything resembling upper body strength. It's not that he didn't try to use his frame to body up people. He would lean on opponents and try to work along the wall. But the average ten year old could probably bench more than Holmqvist when he came across the Atlantic. Andreas also needed to work on his first step acceleration, but that was a minor point in comparison to the previous two strikes. The Lightning scouts around that time truly believed at the time Andreas' offensive skill set was NHL caliber. The young man is an incredible sight to behold when he runs a power play. Crisp skater. Sharp passer. Thunderously heavy shot. So Jay Feaster gave him the money, and probably felt luck a sucker every day for the next two years straight until Andreas went back to Sweden to play for Linkopings in the Elitserien. I don't blame him for being hesitant.
But, since going back to Sweden, Holmqvist has done just about everything you could ask of a young player to burnish his credentials for a comeback. He's had two solid offensive seasons and has been a semi-regular fixture on Sweden's Euro Tour teams. He even got a medal playing on the bottom pair for Sweden at last year's World Championships. This season he was mercilessly consistent the second half of the Elitserien season and had a strong playoffs helping Linkopings advance to the league finals before being knocked off by MODO for the championship.
To me, there's not a lot of risk in re-signing Holmqvist and it's a little bit of a no-brainer. I presume he can't command much more than a one-year, two-way, league minimum contract. If his agent can get anything more than that, well, then I want his agent to be my agent too. So if it's not a money issue then it comes down to organizational needs and the 50-man roster. From an organizational standpoint, in case anyone hasn't noticed, there's not a lot offensive defenseman prospects in this organization right now. There are even less right handed point shots. God forbid if Dan Boyle should ever get hurt. Holmqvist potentially kills those two birds and another: since Andy Delmore was traded to the Thrashers the Lightning have been lacking someone to run their power play at the AHL level. Holmqvist would probably spend at least the first half of the season in Norfolk and could handle the role. He was ruthlessly efficient on the power play during Linkopings' playoff run.
The 50-man roster might be the hurdle. The Lightning have a potentially large class of incoming prospects: as many as ten by my count if they can find a way to wrangle Vasily Koshechkin out of the last year of his rumored deal with Togliatti. Between players moving up to Tampa and prospects who probably won't be asked back I only see six or seven spots as definitely opening up. Whether or not the other three the Lightning would need to clear can become available might ultimately make the decision on a Holmqvist comeback.
Honest question: how does Don Waddell keep his job every year? It took him eight seasons to finally get the Thrashers into the playoffs and they embarass themselves. Thoroughly. Look, Espo managed to get the Lightning into the playoffs by year four on a pittiful shoestring budget. Waddell gets resources out the ying yang and somehow manages to make hamburger on a steak budget.
Then again, maybe it's just payback for a certain Thrashers fan making sure she rigs the HF rankings every season?
So the Thrashers will definitely lose Tkachuk to free agency. Dupuis looks like a decent bet to follow. Zhitnik is still under contract for another year, but he's also old as dirt. If he's all that's left of trading three first round picks, seriously, how can Waddell keep his job? Because he finally got the Thrashers into the playoffs after nearly eight years of futility? Can Atlanta Spirit LLC really be that gullible? Probably.
Oh, and Marian Hossa continues to cement his reputation as a Yashin-esque playoff choker, followed closely by Ilya Kovalchuk whose raw natural abilities are only matched by his immense, gargantuan selfishness. It's a shame the Lightning didn't get that one more goal in the shootout in the season finale. Atlanta's mental softness has been apparent for years now and I'm not even in the slightest surprised at how easily they were picked apart.
The Draft History page has been updated to reflect 2006-2007's regular season statistics.
Fun fact: while current Florida Panther Chris Gratton holds the career Lightning draft pick mark for NHL games played (1,008), he was surpassed this season by Vincent Lecavalier in career NHL goals (233). Roman Hamrlik still holds the mark for assists (374). Gratton is second (340), then Brad Richards (306), then Daymond Langkow (296). Gratton also holds the mark for career points (544) although his lead is a scant 34 points ahead of Lecavalier (510), who passed Hamrlik (505) this season. Lecavalier and Richards have played just 629 and 490 NHL games, for comparison purposes.
Not so fun fact: in just one season Columbus' Fredrik Norrena swept the Lightning draft pick career marks for games played (55) and wins (24) away from Zac Bierk (47 games played, 9 wins). Norrena became the first Lightning draft pick ever to reach double digits in wins. How sad is that?
More inside the numbers...
Thrashers lose 3-2 to the Caps at home in "Blue Land" (which also shares a border with "How Stupid Will You Feel If You Traded Three First Round Picks To Finish Second in the Division Land"). Atlanta wastes their game in hand and now, if the Lightning get just 1 point out of their next game against the Panthers it will set up an epic season finale with a championship banner on the line.