Bolt Prospects 2012 NHL Entry Draft Coverage: Forwards
The strength of the Lightning organization remains at the forward positions, where the team still boasts an impressive mix of star veterans like Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, and Ryan Malone, and the game's best young star, Steven Stamkos. The team will spend some of its offseason tweaking its third line, and they made overtures to Swiss star Damien Brunner to try to improve their scoring depth on the wings. But, ultimately, the team should feel pretty solid offensively. Keeping the puck out of the back of their own net has always been the bigger challenge.
Around their core of stars, the Lightning already have former first round pick Brett Connolly, who despite his rookie struggles has star potential, and creative speedster J.T. Brown, who checks in as Bolt Prospects' number one ranked prospect and may be a legitimate Calder Trophy threat next season. Down on the farm, and into the junior ranks, the situation looks even rosier. Expect AHL MVP Cory Conacher to push for an NHL job in camp, as might prototypical NHL second liner Alex Killorn, speedster Tyler Johnson, and the prospect that may have the organization's highest ceiling, supremely skilled and multi-dimensional Richard Panik. Last, but not least, the Lightning's pro ranks include Ondrej Palat, who went from late-round long shot to legitimate NHL prospect in the second half of the season and playoffs. Of the "about 7" players from Norfolk the team believes have NHL futures, at least 4 come at the forward position, if not all 5.
The next wave beyond the pro ranks is strong as well. Center Vladislav Namestnikov may move into the AHL next season while Russian junior juggernaut Nikita Kucherov will likely be one of the stars of his country's U20 team as they take home ice in Ufa next year for the World Junior Championships. Lurking underneath the radar, as Alex Killorn did for so many years with Harvard, are college players James Mullin and Matthew Peca. Both are Bolt Prospects favorites who pack considerable pound-for-pound offensive punch.
With all that in mind, the Lightning certainly don't need to draft a forward. Even if we split hairs between the forward and wing positions, the shallower pool of talent at the pivot still looks excellent with Namestnikov and Johnson headlining the list. When you couple that with the fact the forward talent in this draft class is seen to be shallow, especially when it comes to skill, it certainly seems the odds of the Lightning using a pick up front are diminished. But, you never know who the best player available will be, and with that in mind:
C Alex Galchenyuk, 6'0" 198 lbs, Sarnia (OHL), Shoots: Left
CSS #4 North American Skater, ISS #14 Skater, RLR #5 Overall, THN #7 Overall, TSN #5 Overall
Were it not for an early season knee injury, Alex Galchenyuk likely would be competing to be the top pick in this year's draft. Although his father was a Russian, Galchenyuk considers himself American after growing up in Milwaukee where his father played for the AHL's other Admirals. Two years ago, Galchenyuk broke many of Steven Stamkos' records at Sarnia, which is no small feat for a player many consider to be more of a two-way centerman. He has great hockey sense and work ethic at both ends of the rink, and while his tendencies lean toward being a playmaker first, he does have an NHL shot. The chances he slips to the Lightning's pick at 10 may be slim, but someone is getting a real franchise cornerstone when they take this young prospect.
LW Teuvo Teravainen, 5'11" 165 lbs, Jokerit (FIN), Shoots: Left
CSS #2 European Skater, ISS #9 Skater, RLR #7 Overall, THN #12 Overall, TSN #7 Overall
Beyond expected top pick Nail Yakupov, the most offensive sizzle in this draft may belong to Finnish star Teuvo Teravainen of Jokerit. And yes, in Finland he's already a star after beating out Minnesota first rounder Mikael Granlund and Lightning prospect Riku Helenius for SM-liiga Rookie of the Year this season. He doesn't necessarily look the part, at a very skinny and small 5'11" and 165 lbs, but Teravainen is blindingly quick, has perhaps the best set of hands in this draft, and has off-the-charts hockey sense in the offensive third. He was arguably Jokerit's best player in the playoffs, which ultimately may have proved to the scouts that despite his size he has the ability to excel against grown men. As we said, the Lightning aren't necessarily looking for a forward in this draft, but a player like Teravainen may be too good to pass on if he gets to 10.
C Mikhail Grigorenko, 6'3" 200 lbs, Quebec (QMJHL), Shoots: Left
CSS #3 North American Skater, ISS #4 Skater, RLR #8 Overall, THN #3 Overall, TSN #12 Overall
Heading the opposite direction of Teravainen is Remparts center Mikhail Grigorenko, who two months ago was challenging Yakupov for the top spot in the draft and may now fall out of the top 10 altogether. It's a tale as old as time, really. The young Russian has good size, good skating ability, and all the puck skills you could ever want. But an absolutely disastrous playoffs also revealed a side of Grigorenko that lacked passion, intensity, and will to win. Forget taking shifts off, he took entire games off by refusing to drive the net or fight for loose pucks. And with that, Grigorenko's draft stock went into a sudden, catastrophic free fall. Could he be a top 10 scorer in the NHL on talent alone someday? Perhaps. Are the Lightning willing to take a bite of the apple to find out? We shall see. They might very well face that decision soon.
LW Pontus Aberg, 5'11" 194 lbs, Durgardens (SWE), Shoots: Right
CSS #6 European Skater, ISS #20 Overall, RLR #14 Overall, THN #22 Overall, TSN #37 Overall
Those looking for some value in the mid-to-late first round might consider Swedish prospect Pontus Aberg of Djurgardens. Although only 5'11", Aberg is pound-for-pound strong and difficult to knock off the puck, while still possessing all the speed you'd want from a smaller player. He's also willing to pay the price in high traffic areas and doesn't shirk his responsibilities defensively. Just a good hockey player. Flat out.
C Radek Faksa, 6'3" 202 lbs, Kitchener (OHL), Shoots: Left
CSS #7 North American Skater, ISS #16 Skater, RLR #16 Overall, THN #11 Overall, TSN #11 Overall
Czech born Radek Faksa of Kitchener may well be the proverbial "dry toast" of the lottery picks in this draft. Faksa doesn't blow you away with his talent, and he doesn't have great acceleration, but he's big and strong and looks every bit the solid, two-way, second line NHL center. Hard worker. Good hands, although he can't necessarily create his own chances. He's a very safe pick that you might consider the anti-Grigorenko. But, where's the sizzle?
C Scott Laughton, 6'0" 177 lbs, Oshawa (OHL), Shoots: Left
CSS #28 North American Skater, ISS #23 Skater, RLR #17 Overall, THN #42 Overall, TSN #28 Overall
Another late mover in this draft is Oshawa's Scott Laughton, who was arguably Canada's best player at the U18 World Junior Championships. He's a heart and souler, a la Mike Richards, who plays bigger than he is and will compete his socks off. He's a good skater and a good all-around player with excellent leadership intangibles. He may never be a top 10 or 20 scorer in the NHL, but you win with players like Laughton on your side.
C Zemgus Girgensons, 6'2" 198 lbs, Dubuque (USHL), Shoots: Left
CSS #18 North American Skater, ISS #24 Skater, RLR #20 Overall, THN #16 Overall, TSN #13 Overall
Like Laughton, teams are finding interest in Latvian Zemgus Girgensons, who overcomes any lacking in talent with brute force of will. You'll be hard pressed to find a harder worker in this draft than Girgensons who loves to finish his checks on the forecheck, and is all over attackers like a cheap suit in the defensive third. Pretty has nothing to do with this young man, who is committed to the University of Vermont. He's not the quickest. He doesn't have the greatest hands, although he does have a hard shot. He's just a bull in a china shop that may get better with an injury-free year,his tireless work ethic, and his love for practice.
RW Henrik Samuelsson, 6'2" 195 lbs, Edmonton (WHL), Shoots: Right
CSS #75 North American Skater, ISS #27 Skater, RLR #22 Skater, THN #50 Skater, TSN #36 Overall
Son of Ulf, and he plays like it. His draft stock was damaged after he left MODO Jr. at mid season to join the WHL. But, with the WHL suiting his style of play, he's repaired a lot of the damage and could sneak into the first round. He's a big, strong, nasty power forward who often blurs the line between physical and dirty. A real chip off the old block. Potentially a very valuable role player with just enough ability to score.
RW Sebastien Collberg, 5'11" 176 lbs, Frolunda (SWE), Shoots: Right
CSS #3 European Skater, ISS #13 Overall, RLR #24 Overall, THN #14 Overall, TSN #27 Overall
Opinion differs wildly on Swedish forward Sebastien Collberg, who played 41 games in the Elitserien this season and had exactly 0 points. That's puzzling for a player who does possess good passing and stick handling skills. Much of the confusion may be that Collberg plays a style that may not fit his body and skill set. He will play chippy and get his nose dirty, but doesn't have the speed you'd like from such a small guy. He plays terrific in international tournaments, though, which may be enough to make him the second Swedish forward off the board behind Filip Forsberg.
C Mark Jankowski, 6'2" 170 lbs, Stanstead College (MPHL), Shoots: Left
CSS #43 North American Skater, ISS #55 Skater, RLR #28 Overall, THN #37 Overall, TSN #41 Overall
Are you feeling lucky? From Canadian prep school comes center Mark Jankowski, who may have one of the highest ceilings of any player in this draft but plays against a nearly non-existent level of competition. He's a good skater already with room to get even better and terrific vision and playmaking skills. He's also the youngest player in the draft with a very projectable frame. He's going to be a strong, powerful player when he fills out. He's committed to Providence College, but may make a one year stop off in the USHL with Dubuque first. Then again, Saginaw holds his OHL rights. Either way, it would take a GM with cast iron insides to take a player out of the MPHL in the first round. But, with so few good forwards available, are you feeling lucky? Well, are you?