2016-2017 Midterm Rankings (20-25+)

Previous: Midterm Rankings 11-19

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20. C Christopher Paquette, Niagara/Peterborough (OHL) (Not ranked)
Age: 19
Vitals: 6-2, 201 lbs
Acquired: 5th round, 2016
Season totals: 66 GP, 19-29-48, +1, 28 PIM

When Paquette was drafted last summer, the Lightning hoped he’d have a Cirelli-like rise. Cirelli was drafted as a lower-line guy who didn’t get a lot of ice time until late in the year. Paquette was a fourth line player on a stacked Niagara squad whom the Lightning identified as a potential riser. Paquette got up to the second line on Niagara this year, playing on the wing. In a surprise move, the Petes acquired him at the deadline to be a big center for their push to the conference’s top seed. Mission accomplished. Paquette settled in as a center for Peterborough and worked his way up to top-line duty. He’s far from polished, but could use this playoff experience to catapult himself into a big season next year with the Petes. He has good skills, but is still relatively new to a role this big in the OHL. It’s all coming together nicely. He looks like he could be a nice depth forward down the line at the least. Cedric’s cousin is one to watch.

21. D Matthew Spencer, Peterborough (OHL) (19)
Age: 20
Vitals: 6-2, 205
Shoots: R
Acquired: 2nd round, 2015
Season totals: 60 GP, 7-22-29, 8, 60 PIM

Spencer was drafted No. 44 overall in 2015 with the thought he’d become the sum of his impressive parts. The big righty has all the tangibles to be an effective pro defenseman – something Peterborough saw when they drafted him third overall in the OHL Priority Draft after Travis Konecny and Dylan Strome (Mitch Marner went at 19). Spencer is an excellent skater with good size and a hard shot. He has a good hockey IQ, but his decision-making sometimes gets him in trouble. For his raw ability, most thought he’d finish his final year of junior with more than 29 points for a team that finished first in its conference. He was third among Peterborough rearguards in scoring and third overall on the team in plus/minus. He was signed last year by the Lightning so he’ll join the Crunch next year as he works his way up to what looks to be a stay-at-home role with the Lightning. He is in the same category as Cernak, Dotchin, MacLeod, and others in that regard.

22. W Bokondji Imama, Saint John (QMJHL) (NR)
Age: 20
Vitals: 6-1, 214 lbs
Shoots: L
Acquired: 6th round, 2015
Season totals: 66 GP, 41-14-15, +11, 105 PIM

If you say you knew Boko Imama would score more than 40 goals this year – even as an overager – your pants are on fire (Politifact confirms). Imama worked on his shot, hands, and especially his skating last offseason to turn himself into more than someone who causes pregame nap nightmares for the opposition. Imama has a quick release and accurate snap shot and his new-found skating ability opened up enough time and space for him to use it. He doesn’t have a contract, but if the Lightning want him in Syracuse next year he would be an asset to the team. The Lightning have used Luke Witkowski on their fourth line recently in an effort to bring energy and physicality to the forward ranks. Should Imama continue to improve, he might be able to reach that spot in a few years. He could contribute on more than the fourth line in Syracuse if his overall play continues to climb and he earns a spot next to someone who can feed him the puck. He could also be a wicked power play option in the blue ice. You try to move him, because we're not going near him.

23. RW Jonne Tammela, Peterborough (OHL) (20)
Age: 19
Vitals: 5-11, 185 lbs
Shoots: L
Acquired: 4th round, 2015
Season totals: 2 GP, 1-0-1, +1, 0 PIM

It was a lost season for Tammela, who came over from the Finnish pros to try his hand at North American hockey. Tammela looked good at prospects camp, showing good agility, hockey sense, and overall skill. Add the fact he’s a puck hound and he's a nice piece to the overall puzzle. However, Tammela had knee issues in fall camp and though he tried to make a comeback with Peterborough, he only got in two games before his knee kept him out again. He eventually underwent surgery in Syracuse and has been rehabbing there to get ready for next season. The Crunch expect him to be in Syracuse (he’s already signed), though the Petes are left wondering what could have been if they had Tammela on their roster as the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 team in the playoffs. The big question with Tammela moving forward will be how quickly he can get back to (and stay at) 100%. Hopefully it doesn’t take him a year to find his feet again.

24. D Daniel Walcott, Syracuse (AHL) (24)
Age: 23
Vitals: 5-11, 180
Acquired: Trade with NYR (previously 5th round, 2014)
Season totals: 55 GP, 4-11-15, -10, 68 PIM

For the second consecutive year Walcott was put at forward by the Crunch when they ran out of healthy forwards, but unlike last year the team eventually let him settle back at defense. It’s hard to say if all the time he spent at forward helped or hurt Walcott’s development, but it’s probably not ideal for someone with NHL aspirations as a puck-moving defenseman. The Lightning traded for Walcott’s rights when the lefty was coming off 39- and 41-point seasons with QMJHL Blainville-Boisbriand. He hasn’t been able to put up many points in the pros, but he adds a bit of grit to the lineup. He’s got another year on his Entry Level Contract to prove he has NHL potential.

25. D Jonathan Racine, Saint John’s/Syracuse (AHL) (New)
Age: 23
Vitals: 6-2, 194 lbs
Shoots: L
Acquired: Trade with Montreal (previously 3rd round, 2011)
Season totals: 48 GP, 0-4-4, +2, 111 PIM

Acquired in the Nikita Nesterov trade, Racine essentially took the spots of Witkowski and Dotchin on the Syracuse backline as a people-mover. He provides physicality and size to a unit that is relatively young and known more for its mobility than crunching people (see what we did there?). Racine has spent a lot of time in the penalty box with Syracuse, though he’s also seen time in the press box. His upside isn’t very high, but he’s got a lot of AHL experience and fills a role.

Dropped Out: 1-Andrei Vasilevskiy (graduated), 2-Brayden Point (graduated), 15-Adam Wilcox (traded), 22-Otto Somppi, 23-Ryan Zuhlsdorf.

Comments: Somppi has been a good No. 2 center for Halifax, at least until another shoulder injury sidelined him. He likely will go for surgery to correct the issue, which is reminiscent of Slater Koekkoek’s story. He had moderate production for the Mooseheads while filling mostly a defensive role. As for Zuhlsdorf, he scored in two of his first three games with Minnesota then never found the twine again. However, he slowly earned more and more ice time with the Gophers for his defense and should be in position to make a jump up the rankings next year, his sophomore season. He's in a great situation for pro development.

Not ranked (no particular order):

Oleg Sosunov, MHL (Russia)
Bounced between leagues and in and out of lineups. Towering blueliner project has a loooooong way to go.

Kris Oldham, University of Nebraska-Omaha
Oldham got in a few games, but by the end of the year was sitting behind a sophomore goalie. Hopefully Oldham can overtake Evan Weninger next year for more starts.

Johnathan MacLeod, Boston University
Third pair defenseman on a stacked Terriers team was in the lineup more as a junior than as a sophomore. Depending on BU’s incoming class, it could be more of the same or more responsibility for the big righty stay-at-homer.

Ryan Lohin, UMass-Lowell
I’ll be honest, he probably should be on the list. He was excellent down the stretch for UML and finished among team leaders in points. Big things ahead.

Henri Ikonen, Syracuse
Ikonen seems a far cry from the complementary forward he was in OHL Kingston next to Sam Bennett. He’s been in and out of the Syracuse lineup, but with his contract ending it’s hard to envision him being a part of the Lightning’s future.

Saku Salminen, SaiPa (Finland)
Salminen continues to plug along in Finland’s top league, but besides being a decent lower line center with size, he doesn’t offer enough to demand he come over – especially with the Lightning’s current prospect forward depth.

Brian Hart, Kalamzaoo (ECHL)
Hart was assigned to the ECHL by Syracuse then replaced on the Crunch by a series of ECHL players on loan. He hasn’t produced in Kalamazoo, so there’s not a lot of hope he’s going to make it right now. That could change, of course.

Cameron Darcy, Kalamazoo (ECHL)
Darcy is in the same situation as Hart, except Darcy is producing at more than a point-per-game rate for the K-Wings. He could earn a spot back with the Crunch later this year or next and then it’s a matter of earning his way up the lineup. He has good skill, but the all around game isn’t there yet.

*Pete Choquette, Chad Schnarr, and Timothy Bennett contributed to this feature

For other parts of this feature, click the appropriate link below:

Midterm Rankings 1-10
Midterm Rankings 11-19