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2015 Supplemental Prospect Rankings

Introduction

After many days of careful debate and examination, Bolt Prospects is ready to announce its 2014-2015 Supplemental Rankings with the addition of the Lightning’s 2015 NHL Entry Draft class. The team's 2015 draft strategy seems in some ways to represent a shifting of gears by a team that appears to have taken the leap into elite status. With no glaring organizational holes after having addressed the defenseman position last summer and with a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in their back pocket, this year's draft strategy appears to have moved away from the goal of adding cornerstone pieces or addressing organizational holes and toward the goal of adding the type of grit and depth necessary to win the sport's greatest prize. As you read the Supplemental Rankings, you'll see that as a common thread throughout almost all of the 2015 draftees. In addition, you'll see how the rankings take into account the results of the team's recent summer rookie camp, which was the first opportunity to evaluate the postseason development track of some prospects and see how new prospects stacked up against returnees.

As always, before proceeding, there are the all important rules and disclaimers to get out of the way. Only prospects who were under the age of 24 on opening night of the Lightning's 2014-2015 season are eligible for the rankings (sorry Luke Witkowski). Prospects at the skater positions who have played 41 or more NHL games in a single season or 82 or more career NHL games are considered graduated for the sake of the rankings. Goaltenders who have 30 or more NHL decisions in a single season or 41 or more career NHL decisions are also considered graduated. The loophole to the 24 years of age rule is NCAA-based prospects, who are eligible for the rankings for the full duration of their college careers. With the above rules in mind, it is important to note the following three prospects will be considered overage and moved off the list for the sake of the 2015-2016 rankings: Marchessault, Ashton, and Paradis, all of whom are making their swan songs here on Bolt Prospects.

With the housekeeping out of the way, let’s begin with Bolt Prospects 2014-2015 Supplemental Rankings.

1.) G Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay (NHL)
Still safely ensconced in the top spot is goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who is considered by many observers to be the best young goaltending prospect in the game today. Vasilevskiy did little to disappoint those observers by posting a win in the Stanley Cup Final at the ripe old age of 20 after seizing the Lightning's backup job from veteran Evgeni Nabokov at midseason. Vasilevskiy remains the team's goaltender of the future and a potential top-tier NHL starting goaltender.

2.) D Anthony DeAngelo, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
The Lightning are well represented in our rankings on the blueline, and the crown jewel of that group is OHL and CHL Defenseman of the Year Anthony DeAngelo. DeAngelo once again scorched the OHL with his offensive production, but the rapid development of the defensive side of his game is the truly encouraging sign for his future. A Dan Boyle-type pure offensive defenseman, DeAngelo will likely begin his pro career next season with Syracuse in the AHL, with the NHL not too far away.

3.) D Slater Koekkoek, Syracuse (AHL)
Another jewel of the Lightning's future blueline is big, rangy two-way blueliner Slater Koekkoek. Fresh off his first healthy season in three years, Koekkoek showed steady progress as a rookie pro with Syracuse in the AHL. His big frame and fluid skating ability make him a prime minute-eater capable of playing just about any style of game in any situation his coaches choose to use him in. Koekkoek has the look of a 20+ minute a night top-four defenseman, and after a strong cup of coffee with the Lightning late in the regular season, it's a decent bet he'll be ready to bolster the team's depth on the blueline by the second half of the coming year at the latest.

4.) LW/C Adam Erne, Quebec (QMJHL)
Likely joining DeAngelo as a fresh face in Syracuse will be talented power forward Adam Erne. Standing at a stout 6'1" and over 210 pounds, the American-born forward dominated the QMJHL last year posting over 40 goals and 80 points in just 60 games and looking very much like a man among boys in the process. Erne's strong, fearless, and plays a north-south style that should translate well in the NHL, especially in an organization dotted with young playmakers like Jonathan Drouin and Vladislav Namestnikov, who are more than capable of feeding him the puck.

5.) D Nikita Nesterov, Tampa Bay (NHL)
One of the greatest developmental spikes of this past season came from Russian-born offensive defenseman Nikita Nesterov. Nesterov showed dramatic improvement in his skating and defensive game in his second year of North American pro hockey en route to earning AHL All Star honors and eventually winning a spot in Tampa Bay in the second half of the year. He'll never be mistaken for Chris Pronger, but Nesterov's ability to push the pace offensively and his shoot-first mentality on the power play mean he's a good candidate to put up nice offensive numbers as a third pair defenseman in the NHL.

6.) C/RW Mitchell Stephens, Saginaw (OHL)
The Lightning's top pick of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft was second rounder Mitchell Stephens from Saginaw in the OHL. Stephens is the poster child for the Lightning's 2015 class: an undersized forward who is relentless on the forecheck and plays the game two or three sizes bigger than his actual frame. Stephens is a good skater with a good shot, but the Peterborough native has been knocked for his lack of offensive hockey sense and creativity, which may cause him to top out as a third liner in the NHL. Stephens has primarily played center in junior hockey, but the Lightning see him as a winger in the future in the Ryan Callahan, heart and soul mold.

7.) C Brayden Point, Moose Jaw (WHL)
Checking in at 6th on our rankings is speedy, skilled centerman Brayden Point of Moose Jaw. The 19-year-old had a packed year that included putting up 87 points in 60 games with his junior team, contributing to Canada's Gold Medal winning U20 World Junior Championships team, and putting up nearly 0.5 points per game in a brief ATO with Syracuse at the end of the Crunch's regular season. Point will likely return to Moose Jaw for one final season of junior hockey before beginning his pro career where he'll look to follow in the footsteps of Bolt Prospects alumni, mighty mite Tyler Johnson.

8.) C/LW Matthew Peca, Quinnipiac (ECAC)
Another fresh, exciting prospect that will likely be playing his first full pro season next year is talented Matt Peca. Peca was one of the rare, program-altering players during his NCAA career, helping the Quinnipiac Bobcats grow from an afterthought to one of the finest teams in the ECAC over his four-year college career. Speedy and lethal off the rush, Peca's creativity as a playmaker and hands as a finisher should be on full display next year. Like Point, Peca will be trying to follow the trail to the NHL blazed before him by diminutive centermen like Tyler Johnson.

9.) LW Jonathan Marchessault, Tampa Bay (NHL)
Producing nearly a point-a-game in the AHL, often without the aid of a playmaking centerman, Jonathan Marchessault was easily Syracuse's most consistent and most dynamic offensive producer this past season. In fact, the diminutive winger was impressive enough to earn three playoff games with the big club at the end of the year. Now 24 years old, this is Marchessault's last go around in our rankings. With the Lightning depth at forward, he'll have a tough time making the club out of camp, but if he survives waivers he should be one of the first calls up from the Crunch should it become necessary.

10.) RW Dennis Yan, Shawinigan (QMJHL)
Born in the U.S., raised in Russia, and playing his junior hockey in Canada, world traveler Dennis Yan of Shawinigan enters our rankings at number 10. One of the best pure snipers of the 2015 draft class, Yan has a fantastic, quick release and is deadly lethal when he gets the puck in scoring areas. Whether or not Yan can capitalize on those gifts in the NHL, though, will depend greatly on whether the third round pick will pick up the defensive side of the game and show greater creativity in using his linemates and sharing the puck more in the offensive zone. Mind you, those are many of the same negatives that were heaped on Nikita Kucherov right before he poked most of the hockey scouting community in the eye en route to becoming a world-class winger this past season. If Yan can follow in Kucherov's footsteps, then Yan can cook in the NHL.

11.) LW Nikita Gusev, Khanty-Mansiysk (RUS)
A real Bolt Prospects favorite, the Lightning may have an ace in the hole stashed in the Russian KHL in the form of one Nikita Gusev. An ex-junior teammate of Kucherov, Gusev finally began to realize his awesome offensive promise last season with Yugra, scoring 21 goals and 37 points in 55 game and earning KHL All-Star honors in Russia's top league. Like many of the Lightning's other forward prospects, Gusev offsets his small stature with blazing speed, fantastic hands, and world-class creativity. If he ever elects to follow his countrymen like Kucherov and Nesterov to North America, we believe he could add some instant offensive punch to whatever club he joins.

12.) D Matthew Spencer, Peterborough (OHL)
After raiding Peterborough for big, rangy defenseman prospect Slater Koekkoek in the 2012 draft, Steve Yzerman decided to return to the scene of the crime to snag big, rangy defenseman prospect Matt Spencer in the second round this year. Spencer doesn't quite have the offensive upside of Koekkoek, but he shares the same good size and above average skating ability that could make him a very solid stay-at-home defenseman in the NHL. Spencer will return to Peterborough next season where he'll continue to work on his offensive chops while also refining his consistency in positioning and decision making in the defensive third.

13.) G Kristers Gudlevskis, Syracuse (AHL)
Through two years of his pro career, we're beginning to believe the name Gudlevskis might be Latvian for "inconsistent." Possessing the athleticism of a potential NHL starting goaltender, Gudlevskis can look like a world-beater one night and the dog's breakfast the next. After a strong end to his 2013-2014 season, much was expected of Gudlevskis. However, he quickly lost the battle for the starting job in Syracuse to fellow prospect Vasilevskiy and didn't exactly cloak himself in glory once he got the job back when Vasilevskiy ascended to the NHL. Heading into his pivotal third year, it'll likely be put up or shut up time for Gudlevskis in Syracuse next year.

14.) G Adam Wilcox, Minnesota (BIG10)
Joining Gudlevskis in Syracuse will likely be rookie pro netminder Adam Wilcox. Wilcox comes from the NCAA ranks where he dominated as a freshman and sophomore before taking a step backward as a junior in his final season before signing a contract with the Lightning. Wilcox lacks the size and raw athleticism of Vasilevskiy and Gudlevskis, but he has the same compete level and work ethic. With that in his back pocket, we see him as at least a potential NHL backup goaltender somewhere down the road.

15.) D Dominik Masin, Peterborough (OHL)
Hey look, another big, rangy Peterborough defenseman who isn't afraid to take the body! 2014 second rounder Dominik Masin eventually made great strides in his first season of North American pro hockey, making the adjustment to the OHL and raising his plus-minus numbers considerably in the second half of his rookie campaign. Masin has good size and mobility like Koekkoek and Spencer, with offensive upside that lies somewhere between the two, although much closer to Spencer's than Koekkoek's. With that said, the thing that sets the Czech-born blueliner apart from his two contemporaries is a zeal for the physical game that at times, dare we say, borders on Radko Gudas-like delight.

16.) LW Yanni Gourde, Syracuse (AHL)
Leading the Syracuse Crunch in goals last season was diminutive, undrafted free agent Yanni Gourde. The mighty mite looked at his best when on a line with space-makers like Paradis who gave him the room to operate and use his quick release to pot 29 goals. While not quite to the level of Marchessault, we see Gourde as following a similar developmental track, while facing the same roster problems as his Crunch contemporary. With so much depth at the forward position, it'll be difficult for Gourde to find the crack of daylight he needs to make it up to the NHL. In the mean time, though, we expect him to continue to chip in as one of Syracuse's biggest contributors.

17.) D Johnathan MacLeod, Boston University (HEAST)
Checking in at 17 is long-term project defenseman Johnathan MacLeod, a 2014 second rounder. MacLeod exceeded our expectations with a very solid freshman season at the age of 18 in one of the top programs in the NCAA. That portends good things for a raw, unpolished defenseman with great physical tools. MacLeod is big, strong, does not shy away from the physical game, and is a powerful skater. He needs to continue to refine his overall game, particularly in his positioning in the defensive third and in his decision-making as a puck mover. If he can get a leg up on those areas of his game, he could become a very solid second or third pair defenseman as an NHLer.

18.) C Tanner Richard, Syracuse (AHL)
Making a classic transition from junior scorer to pro grinder, Tanner Richard made great strides in his sophomore campaign with Syracuse of the AHL. Coming out of Guelph in the OHL as a talented playmaker who seemingly sneezed assists at will, Richard has morphed into a pesky, physical two-way centerman with the Crunch. Although he only possesses average size, the Swiss-born forward shows impressive edge and tenacity and a penchant for crawling under his opposition's skin. Those characteristics are about to become in demand in the Lightning organization in the future, if the 2015 draft class is any indication, so if Richard can continue to improve his consistency he has a shot to make it to the NHL as a lower line contributor who adds sandpaper to the club's roster.

19.) D Dylan Blujus, Syracuse (AHL)
Adding depth to an organization that was once bereft of righty defenseman prospects is American-born defender Dylan Blujus. A former second-rounder, Blujus will never be confused for Bobby Orr in the offensive department, but with good size and mobility he's been a good minute-eating two-way option both at the junior level and as a rookie pro. Blujus seems to be a player who understands the limitations in his game and smartly stays in his silo. That's smart. He needs to continue to work on his footwork and pivots and defending plays off the rush. If he does, he could become a solid third pair defenseman down the road in the NHL.

20.) D Daniel Walcott, Blainville-Boisbriand (QMJHL)
In an under-the-radar acquisition following the Eastern Conference Finals, the Lightning got the rights to undersized offensive blueliner Daniel Walcott from the Rangers for a 7th round draft pick. A late bloomer, Walcott only played two seasons of major junior hockey for the Armada and will turn pro this coming season. While Walcott is a good athlete who could fill the Nikita Nesterov role as a lefty offensive defenseman down the line, his real value may come in terms of the intangibles he brings to the rink. Consider, for instance, the fact Walcott was Blainville-Boisbriand’s captain last season, which is no small feat for a player with such little actual experience. It speaks to the respect he commands from his coaches and teammates in the locker room.

21.) C Anthony Cirelli, Oshawa (OHL)
The absence of resume is not the evidence of the absence of ability. That is the proposition of the day when considering late-blooming centerman Anthony Cirelli out of Oshawa. A virtual walk-on who was undrafted in junior, Cirelli cracked a very deep Oshawa roster last season where he played a valuable two-way role on the team's third line providing tenacious forecheck and very responsible defensive play. However, there may be more in Cirelli's future. He has shown the speed, skill, and creativity to spot on scoring lines as a junior and as he gets more of those opportunities in the future, we may find he was one of the steals of the 2015 draft. Another potential late-round Lightning gem, Cirelli will likely return to Oshawa in the OHL next season as the Gens rebuild.

22.) RW Jonne Tammela, KalPa (FIN)
Here's another potential late-round Lightning gem: pesky Finnish mosquito Jonne Tammela out of KalPa. The fourth rounder has very few negatives on his scouting report other than his subpar size (although he's practically a giant at 5'11" compared to others in the Lightning organization). Tammela's superlatives include his great speed, tenacity on the forecheck, above-average hockey sense in all three zones, and a laser quick release on his shot. He's also a nasty little bugger who agitates his opponents all over the ice with fierce, emotional play. The Finnish Brad Marchand? Tammela has options next season. He can stay with KalPa where he'll likely play in a lower line role in the SM-liiga as he did in the second half of the season in Finland's top men's league; or, he can cross the pond to play for Peterborough in the OHL after the Petes drafted him in the CHL Import Draft’s first round. Both situations seem like solid options, although in the OHL he could refine his offensive game further with a view toward reaching his full upside. At a minimum, he looks like a potential third liner who has enough game to spot on a scoring line from time to time.

23.) D Jake Dotchin, Syracuse (AHL)
Dotchin joins Dylan Blujus in adding nice depth to an organization that was truly, at one time, devoid of righty defenseman prospects. Like Blujus, Dotchin had a fairly solid rookie pro season although he suffered some injuries that seemed to curtail his development in the second half of the season. Although the same height as Blujus, Dotchin is bigger and stronger and certainly relishes the physical game to a greater degree. He's not as fleet of foot as Blujus, though, and he needs to continue to work on his puck moving out of the defensive zone. If he addresses those deficiencies, though, he could definitely be a nice, physical third pair defenseman down the line in the NHL.

24.) LW Henri Ikonen, Syracuse (AHL)
If you know where to buy hockey prospect futures, you might consider investing in a penny stock in the form of winger Henri Ikonen. Ikonen had a quiet, solid rookie pro season with Syracuse in the AHL, playing 59 games on the team's checking line and putting up modest numbers in the process. At this summer's rookie camp, though, he showed up as one of the fittest prospects in the organization and showed he's capable of playing a more skilled game when he's allowed to play in that role. He'll need to earn those opportunities as a sophomore pro with Syracuse as he continues his development path to try to make the NHL as a future third liner who can chip in offensively.

25.) RW Joel Vermin, Syracuse (AHL)
Like Marchessault, 23-year-old Joel Vermin is getting his last kick at the rankings can, checking in at 25. In many ways Vermin is a fairly prototypical winger coming out of the Swiss ranks these days. He's slightly undersized, speedy, and plays more of a north-south game despite having some above-average puck skills. Those assets allow a coach to use Vermin in a lot of situations, as evidenced by the 73 games Vermin got as a North American rookie pro last year. The window is closing, though, for Vermin. With many younger forwards dotting the roster and seemingly ahead of him on the depth chart, he'll need to have a pretty splashy second campaign with the Crunch – the third and final of his entry-level contract – to get his name into the mix for time with the Lightning.

*Contributers: Pete Choquette, Chad Schnarr, Timothy Bennett, Michael Gallimore