Wow. I just looked at our referrers page and noticed we've had 2,850 non-staff hits in the last 72 hours. I am truly humbled and appreciative. About a month or two ago I was shooting off my mouth to one of the site's detractors we'd have over 3,000 hits on draft week. We've already blown through that and will probably have over 6,000 this week. We're still a long way from where I believe the site can go, but I'm thankful to all our readers for spreading the good word about us. I'm really excited to see how it all evolves and matures over the next year or two.
Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. Bring on the draft.
Update: 6/16 3:24 PM
Just in the last couple of hours we leap frogged the 3,000 non-staff hit mark for, to the best of my knowledge, the first time in the site's history. So, again, thank you all for your support.
In the first two parts of the forwards section of the 2006 Entry Draft preview we covered six potentially available centers of interest for the Lightning: Bryan Little, James Sheppard, Cory Emmerton, Ondrej Fiala, Ben Maxwell and Patrik Berglund. Bolt Prospects ranks center, and particularly playmaking center, one of the Lightning's primary organizational needs along with offensive defenseman. Goal scoring wingers are still a secondary need though, even after a very successful 2005 Entry Draft and today we'll begin to offer the profiles of a few wingers who might also be of interest when the Lightning pick at 15th overall in the first round on June 24th in Vancouver.
Bolt Prospects continues its draft preview with the profiles of three more centers who may be available at the Lightning's 15th pick in the NHL Entry Draft on June 24th in Vancouver:
Two for the price of one? That's what you get tonight on Bolt Prospects. We have already previewed available goaltenders and defensemen for the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, and now we'll begin with some of the forwards. Without a doubt the strength of this draft is up front, particularly at center where as many as ten pivot men could go off the board in the first half of round one. This is particularly good news for the Lightning because one of their primary needs is at the center position, particularly the need for a playmaking center. After years of giving the forward position lower priority, due partly to a young NHL corps of forwards including Lecavalier and Richards, the Lightning devoted much of their 2005 draft to the position in what can only be called a monumental success. Radek Smolenak, Blair Jones, Marek Kvapil and Stanislav Lascek already look like solid picks while Chris Lawrence and Marek Bartanus showed signs of life in the second half of the season. Still, Jones is the lone scoring line center prospect of any note and Bolt Prospects still ranks goal scoring winger as a secondary need for the organization.
In our ongoing series previewing the Lightning and the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, today we will move from the goaltenders out to the defensemen. USNTDP defenseman Erik Johnson is considered to be a virtual lock for the #1 overall selection in this draft, but beyond the big Minnesota born blueliner there is a huge drop off. In fact, it isn't out of the realm of possibility that Johnson will be the only defenseman who is a lottery pick this year. From pick 15 on, however, there are several defensemen who will be selected in the second half of the first round. With Matt Smaby, Vladimir Mihalik, Andy Rogers and Mike Egener already in the fold the Lightning are very well stocked with big, mobile, physical stay-at-home defensemen. Where they are perilously thin, however, is in defensemen who can fill more of an offensive role. Bolt Prospects only rates only one offensive defenseman prospect in its top 25, and that is Maine blueliner Mike Lundin who checks in at 22 and who some here on the Bolt Prospects staff (me) believe will struggle to get a contract next summer. At the NHL level, Dan Boyle has two years remaining on his contract before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. If Boyle leaves, the Lightning will need a tempo pushing offensive defenseman to take his place if they are to continue their successes. For that reason, Bolt Propspects ranks offensive defenseman as a primary need heading into the draft on June 24th in Vancouver.