2019 Post-Draft Prospect Rankings


Introduction

The 2018-2019 regular season has come and gone and it was the best season in Lightning history. Then the playoffs happened. A funny thing happened on the way to lifting the Cup and it happened so fast the only thing most Lightning fans remember was the culprit was wearing a blue jacket and John Tortorella was giddy.

The Lightning took the first step to putting both the good and bad of the 2018-2019 season behind them this past week with the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Tampa Bay added seven prospects to the farm, and some were bigger than others. But where does Nolan Foote, Max Cajkovic, and others fit into the current stable of youngsters? Glad you asked. We’ve added the newbies into the existing group to come up with our post-draft rankings.

As usual, a refresher is in order about the rules of the rankings. Only players under the age of 24 on opening night of the regular season are eligible to be ranked. Skaters with 41 NHL games in a single season or a total of 82 career NHL games are considered graduated and are ineligible to be ranked. Goaltenders with 30 decisions in a single NHL season or 41 career NHL decisions are also considered graduated. Finally, NCAA-based players are eligible for the rankings for the duration of their college careers, irrespective of their age. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Consult your doctor if … nevermind.

And away we go…

1.) D Cal Foote, Syracuse (AHL) (2018-19 Fall Ranking: 1)
Age: 20
Vitals: 6-4, 221 lbs
Shoots: R
Acquired: 1st round, 2017 (14 overall)
Season Totals: 76 GP, 10-21-31, +16, 53 PIM
Trending (stock/development rising, holding, or falling?): Up
Season Projection: Syracuse, Tampa Bay

Righty defenseman Cal Foote maintains his top spot in our rankings for the third straight time, which tells a few different stories: 1) He’s good at this whole hockey thing 2) He’s still progressing 3) The fact that he’s a righty defenseman does indeed play into things and 4) No one’s taken it from him. Nolan’s older brother had a solid first year for AHL Syracuse, posting 31 points and looking more comfortable as the year went on. If you’re worried about offensive output, don’t. Tampa Bay/Syracuse focuses its young D on the defensive side of the puck first, second, and third. When they learn that, the light gets greener. Foote is all but assured to start the year in the top-4 in Syracuse, but should make his NHL debut sometime this year if a spot on the right side opens up or he plays his way on. He’s about a year away from full-time duty.

2.) C Alex Barré-Boulet, Syracuse (AHL) (7)
Age: 22
Vitals: 5-9, 170 lbs
Shoots: L
Acquired: Free agent, 2018
Season Totals: 74 GP, 34-34-68, +16, 18 PIM
Trending: Up
Season Projection: Syracuse, Tampa Bay

The Lightning’s latest “bonus prospect” in a long line of undersized and undrafted French free agent stars is Alex Barre-Boulet, who was a driver for AHL Syracuse all season. The skilled forward’s plus-plus IQ, shot, and vision helped him to the AHL’s Rookie of the Year award after he led the AHL in goals and AHL rookies in goals and points. Barre-Boulet projects as a top-6 forward at the NHL level in the mold of Yanni Gourde, Jonathan Marchessault, and others, but a spot will have to open up first. It’s possible the exit of JT Miller could open that spot, but with “ABB” still having a waiver pass and others like Carter Verhaeghe subject to waivers, he’s likely to start the year on Syracuse’s first line again until a spot opens up. He should make his NHL debut later this season and be in line for a full-time spot next year. He’s a frequent subject of other teams in trade talks, reportedly, so the Lightning will have to fight off suitors.

3.) W Alexander Volkov, Syracuse (AHL) (5)
Age: 21
Vitals: 6-1, 192 lbs
Shoots: L
Acquired: 2nd round, 2017 (48 overall)
Season Totals: 74 GP, 23-25-48, +26, 61 PIM
Trending: Holding
Season Projection: Syracuse, Tampa Bay

Volkov stays in the top-3 this summer thanks to another solid year with Syracuse. He led the Crunch in goals as a rookie the season before last and matched his 23-goal output this past season. He actually finished fourth (Barre-Boulet, Verhaeghe, Andreoff) on the team in goals with the same total, which speaks to Syracuse’s overall improvement offensively. The organization loves Volkov because he is smart, skilled, has some size, and plays both sides of the puck. The Russian will flirt with an NHL roster spot in camp again this fall as he’s done the past two years, but we predict he’ll eventually go back to New York with the hope of taking a bigger step forward this year. He’s been good the past two seasons, but does he have “great” in him? That could be the difference in being a current Ondrej Palat type role player in the NHL or the early version of Palat who excelled in the top-6. Volkov should see at least a cup of coffee with the Lightning at some point this season and may even be ahead of Barre-Boulet for a recall because he can play on any line.

4.) W Nolan Foote, Kelowna (WHL) (N/A)
Age: 18
Vitals: 6-4, 195 lbs
Shoots: L
Acquired: 1st round, 2019 (27 overall)
Season Totals: 66 GP, 36-27-63, -1, 62 PIM
Trending: Up, with skating work
Season Projection: Kelowna, WHL

The younger Foote, fresh off signing his first NHL contract, debuts at No. 4 on our list after the Lightning grabbed him at No. 27 overall in this month’s draft. The wart on Foote’s game is his skating, though Kelowna’s GM said Nolan’s skating is better than Cal’s was at the same point in their junior careers and Cal’s skating is not a hindrance today. The Lightning have had success fixing skating issues in prospects in recent year and Nolan should be no different. Assuming his skating is fixed, the Lightning have a prospect who brings size, aggressiveness, and an NHL-ready shot to its organization. Last year Nolan played in every game situation and put up 36 goals with a broken wrist. He will have a better team around him this year as the Rockets will host the Memorial Cup next spring. Expect Nolan’s numbers to rise significantly. He could flirt with 50 goals if he can stay healthy. A bonus to his year would be playing his way into consideration for Canada’s WJC team.

5.) C/W Mitchell Stephens, Syracuse (AHL) (4)
Age: 22
Vitals: 6-0, 194 lbs
Shoots: R
Acquired: 2nd round, 2015 (33 overall)
Season Totals: 32 GP, 11-13-24, +13, 6 PIM
Trending: Holding
Season Projection: Syracuse, Tampa Bay

After being one of the final cuts from Tampa last fall, a lot was expected of Stephens as he returned to Syracuse. The former Saginaw Spirit captain was hampered by injuries all season but was effective when he was in the lineup. Stephens may settle into a fourth line role at the NHL level as his player comparison, Ryan Callahan, ended up, but Stephens still has the overall game and grit factor to be more of a younger Callahan in time. This next year will go a long way in determining how high Stephens can go. He may be an early call-up because his game fits on the bottom lines, but he still has underrated skill. He’s a team-first guy all the way so he’ll work his tail off in whatever role he’s given, just like Callahan.

6.) W Taylor Raddysh, Syracuse (AHL) (6)
Age: 21
Vitals: 6-3, 216 lbs
Shoots: R
Acquired: 2nd round, 2016 (58 overall)
Season Totals: 70 GP, 18-28-46, +14, 34 PIM
Trending: Up
Season Projection: Syracuse

Raddysh had a projectable rookie pro season for the Crunch, putting up a decent amount of points and finding a role in the top-6. He didn’t set the world on fire like Barre-Boulet, but he didn’t struggle behind the rookie pro boulder that some freshmen professionals do. The former OHL assist and plus/minus champ who has ridden shotgun with the likes of Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome in his day, should see a jump in production in his second year if things play out as expected. His size is needed in the organization, though is game is more finesse that brute strength. Raddysh is definitely ascending as a prospect and should be in the NHL by the time his ELC runs out in two more seasons.

7.) C Carter Verhaeghe, Syracuse (AHL) (14)
Age: 23
Vitals: 6-1, 181 lbs
Shoots: L
Drafted: 3rd round, 2013 by Toronto (82 overall)
Acquired: Trade with New York Islanders (Kristers Gudlevskis)
Season Totals: 76 GP, 34-48-82, +26, 34 PIM
Trending: Up
Season Projection: Tampa Bay

Few made as big of a jump in developmental hockey as Verhaeghe last year, and we speculate skating coach Barb Underhill got a pretty big Christmas card from Carter as a result. Verhaeghe has always had the skills and smarts to be an impact player, but he dedicated himself to improving as a skater and paying attention to the details coaches were demanding and the result was Verhaeghe leading the AHL in scoring, tying for the lead league in goals, and earning a First All-Star Team nod. He’s the new record-holder for points in a season for the Crunch as well. To top it off, he had six points in four playoff games to lead the team. Not too shabby, team playoff result notwithstanding. He’s now in a Tampa Bay or bust situation as he’s subject to waivers to be returned to Syracuse. We think he’s got enough mobility, smarts, grit, and versatility to stick with the Lightning in the fall. Whether he sticks all year is another story, but he’s earned the chance thanks to the hard work that is the foundation for every developmental hockey success story.

8.) W Boris Katchouk, Syracuse (AHL) (2)
Age: 21
Vitals: 6-2, 198 lbs
Shoots: L
Acquired: 2nd round, 2016 (44 overall)
Season Totals: 75 GP, 11-12-23, +7, 58 PIM
Trending: Holding
Season Projection: Syracuse

Prior to the season, we wrote “The big winger has the potential to be a scoring line winger in the NHL, but will likely need at least a season of adjustment in the AHL before he starts to live in the nightmares of NHL defenders.” Nothing about that has changed, but the word “adjustment” really stands out for the former high second rounder. Katchouk played on the first line in the Soo (OHL), scoring 42 goals his last season then leading the OHL playoffs in goals and points. The former OHL First Team All-Star was put in more of a checking role with Syracuse, which could be an indication of where they see him ultimately fitting. The Lightning like their NHL bottom-6ers to have had experience as producers in the development journey. Katchouk would certainly check that box, though he still has the shot and hands to do damage in the middle-6 in time. Next year Katchouk could see a promotion in lines and we suspect he’ll finish the year higher in our rankings now that this adjustment year is over. The upside is still high for the PKer-extraordinaire, but his role may determine if he reaches it.

9.) D Dominik Masin, Syracuse (AHL) (5)
Age: 23
Vitals: 6-2, 198 lbs
Shoots: L
Acquired: 2nd round, 2014 (35 overall)
Season Totals: 69 GP, 2-10-12, +36, 72 PIM
Trending: Holding
Season Projection: Tampa Bay

Masin started last season one spot behind Erik Cernak in the rankings and if he was a righty like Cernak and not a lefty he may have received the recall Cernak did that set his career rocketing toward stay-at-home-stardom. Masin not be on the same track as Cernak, but he has a lot of the same qualities: he can play physical, skates well, and can adequately move the puck. Cernak is more physical and moves the puck better, but Masin should slowly wade into the NHL waters this year as a 6/7/8 defenseman. Part of that is his progression - though his offensive production went down (24 to 12 points), his minutes were up and he was arguably the best defensive-defenseman on the Crunch last year, and the other part is he’s waiver eligible. While he wouldn’t stand out as a sure-fire waiver pick should he be sent down, we’ve seen in recent drafts the priority teams put on smart defensemen with good size who can skate well and be responsible in a stay-at-home role. Masin, who led the Crunch (by plus-7) and tied for second in the league in plus/minus, doesn’t hit as recklessly as he used to coming out of Peterborough, but Syracuse has done its job with him turning into a reliable, mobile defender who can excel the growing priority of puck retrieval. We think the fact he’s an underrated player type, plus due to asset-managing a former 35th overall pick, he’ll stick with the Lightning and not be subject to waivers. As of right now he projects as the seventh defenseman, which is not ideal for a developing defenseman, but it keeps him in an organization that is stingy about defensive depth.

10.) W Gabriel Fortier, Baie-Comeau (QMJHL) (8)
Age: 19
Vitals: 5-10, 177 lbs
Shoots: L
Acquired: Second round, 2018 (59 overall)
Season Totals: 68 GP, 35-48-83, +41, 27 PIM
Trending: Up
Season Projection: Baie-Comeau, QMJHL

The Lightning’s top pick in 2018 had a great year for the Drakkar, being named captain and upping his career highs for goals, assists, points, and plus/minus. After 159 games in the QMJHL he’s sitting at 159 points and could hit 100 points next season if he has skillful linemates. The only reasons Fortier dropped in these rankings are the inclusion of Nolan Foote and the emergence of Carter Verhaeghe. Fortier, a versatile forward who can play center or wing and anywhere in the lineup, got in four games for Syracuse after his Drakkar were upset in the first round of the Q playoffs by Moncton. Fortier didn’t register a point in those four games, but he was around for the Crunch’s first-round playoff exit. Not an overly big player, Fortier plays a gritty, energetic game, and like many Bolt prospects in the Yzerman-Murray draft era, he can play both sides of the puck, is smart, has skill, and his compete-level is sky-high. Fortier will return to Quebec for his final year of juniors then likely spend at least one season in AHL Syracuse before knocking on Tampa’s door.

11.) C Sammy Walker, Minnesota (Big 10) (10)
Age: 20
Vitals: 5-10, 142 lbs
Shoots: R
Acquired: 7th round, 2017 (200 overall)
Season Totals: 37 GP, 10-16-26, +6, 16 PIM
Trending: Up
Season Projection: University of Minnesota

Last season as a true freshman at the University of Minnesota, Walker led all Big Ten conference freshmen in points (26) en route to claiming the Big Ten Rookie of the Year award and Big Ten All-Rookie Team honors. He was the key playmaker and anchor on the Gopher's much-heralded Freshman Line that featured Blake McLaughlin (ANA) and Nathan Burke. Looking forward to the 2019-20 season, no doubt Walker inherits the leadership of this young team in the midst of rebuilding a once-storied program due to key graduations. There will be much expectation placed on the shoulders of Walker, and our ranking of him just outside of our Top-10 shows we feel he is ready for the challenge. There's no shortage of skill, compete, hockey IQ, and speed with Walker, but the challenge will be to continue to physically grow and mature. He has been listed at 5-9 or 5-10 and the Lightning put him at just 142 pounds entering this summer’s development camp. He’s been listed elsewhere as much as 178, and Sammy told Lightninginsider.com's Erik Erlendsson he's up to 5-11. The 2018 Minnesota Mr. Hockey Award winner collects trophies, a by-product of intangibles this diminutive forward possesses that translates to success at each level he's played. In the locker room, Walker is credited with creating a tight-knit group of teammates as the ringleader of the now infamous Gopher's locker room shower sing-a-long crew -- a group that even sports their own Spotify playlist. As the #200 pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Walker is also the ringleader of a crew of 3rd generation BP "stealth prospects," the product of the Lightning's recent and emerging "draft-and-stash" strategy of spending late round picks on skilled high school and USHL players bound for top NCAA programs. Walker is a special player and we wouldn't bat an eye to see an "A" on his sweater when the puck drops October 6 at 3M Arena.

12.) W Max Cajkovic, Saint John (QMJHL) (N/A)
Age: 18
Vitals: 5-11, 185 lbs
Shoots: R
Acquired: 3rd round, 2019 (89 overall)
Season Totals: 60 GP, 22-24-46, -33, 40 PIM
Trending: Up
Season Projection: Saint John

The Lightning’s biggest “steal” in the draft could be the former No. 1 overall CHL Import pick who was so good he was taken with the top pick… but it meant he played for the worst team. The Sea Dogs were a young team - one of only two to not make the participation-trophy Q playoffs - and it meant Cajkovic didn’t have much around him. It wasn’t like he was leading the charge every game as he had a couple healthy scratches to think about what was expected of him, but there’s a lot of upside here individually and team-wise. Cajkovic led Saint John in scoring by 12 points and his minus-33 rating was plus-27 better than the worst plus/minus player on the team. All that to say, he still has the skills and skating that made him highly regarded last year, but his tough season caused him to slide to the end of the third round. Cajkovic could take the bull by the horns next year and lead the team in tangibles and intangibles… but could also stagnate in his development and never become the sum of his parts. We’re banking on the former as a player like this is too good to not at least succeed in juniors. What he does after that is something to worry about later. If signed, he can play in the AHL in fall 2020, but should get some time with Syracuse after the Sea Dogs are done this coming season.

13.) C Ross Colton, Syracuse (AHL) (11)
Age: 22
Vitals: 6-0, 209 lbs
Shoots: L
Acquired: 4th round, 2016 (118 overall)
Season Totals: 66 GP, 14-17-31, +9, 36 PIM
Trending: Up
Season Projection: Syracuse

Colton made his pro debut for the Crunch last year and after a slow start started to contribute more consistently at the end of the season (11 points after March 1). The former Vermont Catamount played a solid 2-way role for Syracuse, which may be his ticket to the NHL. Colton stood out last summer at development camp for his skill in the open ice of 3v3 play, but the adjustment period lasted a little longer than expected. He left Vermont after his sophomore year, but was still a year older than most juniors making their pro debuts. This season we expect Colton to hit the ground running and be among the production leaders for Syracuse in a possible second-line role.

14.) G Hugo Alnefelt, HV71 J20 (SuperElit, Sweden) (N/A)
Age: 18
Vitals: 6-2, 176 lbs
Catches: L
Acquired: 3rd round, 2019 (71 overall)
Season Totals: 24 GP, 2.75 GAA, .905 sv%
Trending: Up
Season Projection: HV71 J20, HV71 SHL

The Lightning filled one of the farm’s goaltending prospect holes when it drafted U18 gold medalist Hugo Alnefelt out of Sweden. Tampa Bay recently traded Connor Ingram to Nashville after a drama-filled winter, opening the door for a high-end goaltending prospect in the system. Enter Alnefelt, who at 71, was taken 17 spots ahead of Ingram (comparatively), and the highest for a Lightning goaltender since they took some Russian who liked kittens in the first round. Alnefelt is coming off the aforementioned gold medal at the U18s, where he was named a top-3 player for Team Sweden. He also won a silver for Sweden at the Gretzky-Hlinka tournament last summer. He was not invited to Sweden’s WJC camp this summer, however. Alnefelt has good size, mental toughness, and the athletic ability and compete level to steal a few saves. Like all goalie prospects, he will need to stockpile games played before sniffing the NHL, and this will give him the time and training to work on what’s underdeveloped: positioning, consistency, and tracking the puck. Hopefully he can get some SHL time next year as a start. There’s lots to build on here.

15.) W Mikhail Shalagin, MHK Spartak Moskva (MHL) (4)
Age: 19
Vitals: 6-4, 185 lbs
Shoots: L
Acquired: 7th round, 2019 (198 overall)
Season Totals: 43 GP, 48-27-75, +31, 77 PIM
Trending: Up
Season Projection: Khimik Voskresensk (VHL), Spartak Moskva (KHL)

Undrafted last year, Shalagin was nabbed by the Lightning in the seventh round this year with the definition of a flier pick. If Shalagin, a 6-4 goal scorer who just set the MHL record for goals in a season and won league MVP, works out - fantastic. If he doesn’t, they didn’t “waste” a high pick on him. The 19-year-old Russian scored twice in seven VHL (comparable to AHL) games this year and even got in four KHL games. He’ll likely start in the VHL next year, though even Lightning Head Scout Al Murray didn’t know where he was going to end up next season. It’s possible he could come over to North America via the import draft or an AHL spot, though if that was the predominant thought Murray would have likely said it was a possibility, which he has in the past for draftees. We’re hoping he at least gets a third of the season in the KHL next year, but a lot will depend on his skating. He’s not the fleetest of foot, but can set up in space and use his laser to fill the net. We’d feel better about his NHL chances if he was in North America closer to Her Skating Majesty, Ms. Underhill, but they obviously have skating coaches in Russia - just look at Putin fly around the ice (not really). Back to Shalagin’s assault on the scoresheet, for comparison’s sake, Nikita Kucherov scored 24 goals in 23 games his final year of the MHL (albeit as an 18-year-old). At the least, Tampa Bay has one of the more exciting late-round prospects its had since Nikita Gusev, and at most, they have a big future scoring liner with a love of putting biscuits in baskets.

16.) W Jimmy Huntington, Rimouski (QMJHL) (N/A)
Age: 20
Vitals: 6-0, 194 lbs
Shoots: L
Acquired: Free agent, 2019
Season Totals: 66 GP, 40-52-92, +41, 52 PIM
Trending: Up
Season Projection: Syracuse

Huntington is likely way too low on this list, but we'll explain why. First, he is another bonus prospect out of the Q, but bigger than the ones who preceded him. At 6-0 and over 200 pounds, Huntington has a little meat to his game, but soft hands. He jumped from 58 points to 92 last season as an overager playing next to 2020 Draft top prospect Alexis Lafreniere. The last two factors give us some pause on Huntington, but watching Rimouski’s highlights last year following Radim Salda, we saw the ability to play with pace and enough skill to think he’s going to be a good pro. That starts next year in Syracuse for Huntington, and if he is able to have a season even close to Barre-Boulet, he’ll elevate up these rankings considerably. There was a lot of discussion where to put him, and the name of Danick Gauthier, another bigger QMJHL free agent signed by the Lightning a few years ago, was brought up. From Q followers, Huntington is much more likely to succeed in the AHL than Gauthier. A native of Laval, Huntington finished sixth in league scoring behind, among others, Lafreniere (105) and leader Peter Abbandonato (111). Huntington and Abbandonato would be pretty good together… or so the Lightning thought when signing Abbandonato to a 2-year AHL contract to play in Syracuse with Jimmy.

17.) C Cole Guttman, Denver (NCHC) (18)
Age: 20
Vitals: 5-9, 172 lbs
Shoots: R
Acquired: 6th round, 2017 (180 overall)
Season Totals: 41 GP, 14-12-26, +16, 18 PIM
Trending: Up
Season Projection: University of Denver

Guttman rebounded nicely from an injury-marred 2017-18 season that limited him to just 17 games as the captain of Dubuque (USHL), playing an impact role as a freshman for the 2019 Frozen Four semifinalist Denver Pioneers. Guttman starred in Denver's heartbreaker OT loss in the semis to UMass-Amherst, scoring two goals and adding an assist in a valiant effort to carry the Pioneers to the championship game. The Los Angeles-native spent much of the 2018-19 NCAA campaign at the top of the Division-I collegiate goal-scoring list for freshmen, finishing the season T-4th nationwide with 14 goals. He led all NCHC freshmen in goals, goals/game (0.34), and face-off wins (247), and he matched Sammy Walker's 26-point freshman output. Guttman finished third in goals and fifth in points on the Pioneers, and like Walker, will be expected to step into a larger role next season. At 5'9" and 172, Guttman faces the same challenges as Walker in building up and filling out a frame that will give him a fighting chance in the NHL. Luckily, he possesses speed, a great shot, and a sizable hockey IQ that gives him an opportunity to contribute in an organization that is adept at facilitating success for undersized but skilled players. Selected 20 picks ahead of Walker in 2017 at #180, Guttman is also a member of BP's third generation of stealth prospects.

18.) D Nick Perbix, St. Cloud State (NCHC) (HM)
Age: 21
Vitals: 6-2, 192 lbs
Shoots: R
Acquired: 6th round, 2017 (169 overall)
Season Totals: 39 GP, 5-15-20, +24, 16 PIM
Trending: Up
Season Projection: St. Cloud State University

Joining Walker and Guttman, Perbix is the third member of that 2017 Lightning "stealth prospects" draft class, now a sophomore with the St. Cloud State Huskies. Perbix finished the season with 20 points, good for T-8 in the nation among Division-I freshmen defensemen, and 3rd in plus-minus (+24), and making the NCHC All-Rookie Team. Perbix has good size at 6'2" and 192, an accurate shot, and the kind of mobility you want from an NHL rearguard in today's game. For some perspective on Perbix's first collegiate season, he has already statistically equaled Mike Lundin's (arguably Tampa Bay's all-time top collegiate defensive prospect) senior season output. And with Jimmy Schuldt graduating and heading off to join the Vegas Golden Knights, Perbix has a shot at a top-pair role and some significant power-play time next season for the Huskies. Keep your eye on this righty puck-moving defenseman.

19.) W Dennis Yan, Syracuse (AHL) (14)
Age: 22
Vitals: 6-2, 188 lbs
Shoots: L
Acquired: 3rd round, 2015 (64 overall)
Season Totals: 53 GP, 11-11-22, +12, 46 PIM
Trending: Down
Season Projection: Syracuse, ECHL Orlando

As we’ve said, all Dennis Yan does is score goals… but can he score a little more and find a way to stay in the lineup? Yes, Yan has a great shot, but as a second-year pro he still struggled to stay in the Syracuse lineup and is at risk of being passed by incoming rookies. If Yan can play a bigger and more well-rounded game, perhaps following the mold of the immortal Dmitry Afanasenkov, he can earn a contract extension after his ELC runs out next year. It’s a tall task, but that movie has been made before.

20.) C Ryan Lohin, UMass-Lowell (Hockey East) (17)
Age: 23
Vitals: 6-0, 194 lbs
Shoots: L
Acquired: 7th round, 2016 (208 overall)
Season Totals: 33 GP, 12-15-27, +7, 12 PIM
Trending: Holding
Season Projection: Syracuse

While Colton left school to start his pro career, Lohin returned to college and began the season with 5 goals and 8 points in 8 games, but then a minor mid-season injury slowed him down and cost him 4 games. Nonetheless, UML's captain led his team in points (27) and equaled his career best in goals (12). But that true breakout year we hoped for back in November once again eluded Lohin. In fact, not since Alex Killorn's 46-point senior year at Harvard has a Lightning collegian broke 30 points in a single season. Nevertheless, Lohin makes the 5-hour trek due west on I-90 from Lowell to Syracuse for his pro rookie season with a contract and resume sporting 33 goals and 81 points in 110 NCAA games folded and stashed above the passenger side sun visor. Center ice at War Memorial will be crowded come training camp, and Lohin may have to shift to wing or evolve into more of a checking liner. But at 23 years old, 6'0 and 194, he'll be one of the older and bigger prospect pivots and there's no doubt the Lightning organization needs to play bigger at times. Perhaps that’s how Lohin can find his place.

21.) D Max Crozier, Sioux Falls (USHL) (N/A)
Age: 19
Vitals: 6-1, 194 lbs
Shoots: R
Acquired: 4th round, 2019 (120 overall)
Season Totals: 60 GP, 10-33-43, +5, 132 PIM
Trending: Holding
Season Projection: Providence College
Let's be honest, Max Crozier is a project. But he's a project that was named a USHL Third All-Star after potting 10 goals and 43 points in his rookie USHL campaign -- with 8 of his 10 goals and more than half of his points coming on the power play. Understand that doubles what any Lightning USHL blueline prospect in memory has accomplished in that league, Nick Perbix included. At the end of the day scoring the most goals still wins hockey games. Yes, he needs to work on his skating, needs to get stronger, needs to improve the accuracy of his passes, but he loves to shoot the puck and he can quarterback the hell out of a power play. Yes, he's sometimes out of position, and makes poor defensive decisions and looks like a duck out of water in his own end, reportedly, but he also gets under the skin of the opposition and with 132 penalty minutes, he's not afraid of any after the whistle altercations. And did we mention he was the only Lightning prospect to hoist a Cup this spring after Sioux Falls won the USHL Clark Cup. He needs a lot of work, but Crozier is taking his 6'1" and 194 lb. frame east to a top NCAA program at Providence to join Theresa Feaster, the daughter of former Lightning GM Jay Feaster, in her newly promoted role of Director of Hockey Operations for the Friars. Could the little girl we used to see learning the trade from her father around the Lightning draft table in the early '00's have put a bug in the ear of the Bolt scouting team about a diamond in the rough she had recruited? The great thing about NCAA projects is NHL clubs can be patient with them as they develop. There’s a lot of upside for Crozier and a lot of time to reach it.

22.) D Ben Thomas, Syracuse (AHL) (NR)
Age: 23
Vitals: 6-1, 187 lbs
Shoots: R
Acquired: 4th round, 2014 (119 overall)
Season Totals: 67 GP, 2-14-16, +18, 24 PIM
Trending: Holding
Season Projection: Syracuse

Like Masin, Thomas took a step back in production this past season, and like Masin it was the final year of his ELC, and like Masin, Thomas received a qualifying offer from the Lightning to extend his time with the club. However, unlike Masin (potentially), it’s unlikely Thomas would be kept with the Lightning and instead would be sent through waivers back to Syracuse. Thomas had a strong and somewhat surprising start to his pro career, but by most accounts wasn’t as strong last season. The Lightning, always a proponent of an abundance of capable defensive depth, saw enough to keep him in the fold. Our guess is the righty blueliner goes back to Syracuse with the chance to be a leader with the Crunch and earn another contract in 2020.

23.)D Dmitri Semykin, SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL) (N/A)
Age:19
Vitals: 6-3, 201 lbs
Shoots: L
Acquired: 3rd round, 2018 (90 overall)
Season Totals (SKA-1946 St. Petersburg): 38 GP, 5-11-16, -1, 75 PIM
Trending: Holding
Season Projection: SKA-Neva St. Petersburg (VHL)

Taken with a top-90 pick last summer was big lefty defenseman Dmitry Semykin, who spent the majority of his season between two SKA MHL teams. He also got in 10 VHL games, however, which is a good sign of what’s to come next season. Semykin did not attend the Lightning’s development camp this month due to contract obligations in Russia with SKA. Perhaps the Lightning can get him to come over after next year and jump into the AHL where they can monitor his progress a little more closely. It’s happened recently (MacLeod), but it’s rare the Lightning doesn’t sign a top-90 pick and get him into the system at some point. Semykin is a 2-way blueliner with some size and a bit of nastiness. Syracuse fans would be fine with an addition like that.

24.) C/W Otto Somppi, Syracuse (AHL) and Orlando (ECHL) (12)
Age: 21
Vitals: 6-2, 192 lbs
Shoots: L
Acquired: 7th round, 2016 (206 overall)
Season Totals, SYR: 27 GP, 2-2-4, -1, 10 PIM
Season Totals, ORL: 21 GP, 12-12-24, +9, 8 PIM
Trending: Holding
Season Projection: Syracuse, Orlando

We’re putting Somppi in the hold category on the trend list because he spent the first half of the year trying to recover from a serious injury. Somppi is capable of highlight reel goals, which he showed in Orlando, but has to learn to play both sides of the puck to gain ice time in the AHL. He struggled to do so this year and with new players coming into Syracuse next year it won’t get any easier. The Lightning drafted the Finn after he fell in the draft due to a shoulder injury, but they haven’t seen what he’s truly capable of yet. Next year could be the year he takes a big jump in the system or stays near the bottom of the ladder. Time will tell. Step one is earning a scoring line spot and making them keep him there.

25.) D Oleg Sosunov, Syracuse (AHL) and Orlando (ECHL) (15)
Age: 21
Vitals: 6-8, 230 lbs
Shoots: L
Acquired: 6th round, 2016 (178 overall)
Season Totals, SYR: 20 GP, 1-0-1, E, 8 PIM
Season Totals, ORL: 17 GP, 1-4-5, -4, 16 PIM
Trending: Down
Season Projection: Syracuse, Orlando

The project of projects, Sosunov made his pro debut this past season for AHL Syracuse and scored in his third game. He went the next 17 games without a point, eventually alternating spots with Matt Spencer between Syracuse and ECHL Florida. Sosunov is known for being a huge human and skating well for a huge human. He obviously has strength and reach, but his hockey IQ has to come up and he has to learn to play at an increased speed of play if he is to earn more minutes or a permanent role in Syracuse. He has the ability to be the sum of his parts and he’s got another two seasons to go before the Lightning have to make a decision on him. Eventually the novelty of having a nimble giant will subside and he’ll have to be an effective player in his own zone. He’s a longshot to make the NHL but the Lightning will give him every chance to get there.

Honorable Mentions:

26.) C Alexey Lipanov, Kitchener (OHL) Trending: Down
27.) D Ryan Zuhlsdorf, Minnesota (Big10) Trending: Holding
28.) D Radim Salda, Rimouski (QMJHL) Trending: Holding
29.) W Cole Koepke, Minnesota-Duluth (WCHA) Trending: Up
30.) D Alex Green, Cornell (ECAC) (N/A) Trending: Holding

Watch List:
D Matthew Spencer, Orlando (ECHL)
G Magnus Chrona, Skelleftea Jr. (SWE Jr.)
D Quinn Schmiemann, Kamloops (WHL)
G Ty Taylor, New Hampshire (HEAST)
F McKade Webster, Green Bay (USHL)
G Kris Oldham, Clarkson (ECAC)

Graduated:
W Mathieu Joseph, TB
C Anthony Cirelli, TB
W Adam Erne, TB
D Erik Cernak, TB
W Danick Martel, TB

Dropping Out:
G Connor Ingram, NAS (traded)
W Jonne Tammela, Finland (contract terminated)
W Mitch Hults, FA (RFA not retained)

Contributors: Chad Schnarr, Timothy Bennett, Pete Choquette