Cleaning Up Hockey's Future

Dear Hockey's Future,

Some thoughts about your new prospect rankings for the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the overall shape of your coverage:

There are things we can have subjective differences about, and those are OK. Time will bear out the quality of a writer's subjective opinions. But then there are things that are objective facts, like who an organization still holds the rights to, that aren't up for debate.

For instance, Johan Harju is playing for Lulea in the Elitserien this season. He doesn't have an NHL contract and he won't be knocking on the door of cracking the Lightning out of camp. Mitch Fadden has been completely cut loose by the organization since his "automobile incident," shall we say? Martins Karsums isn't playing in the NCAA, although we do hear that Dynamo Riga of the KHL does have an excellent Latvian Studies program. And, Levi Nelson did not receive a qualifying offer from the Lightning this summer and will not be back with the team.

These are objective facts, and when you can't get basic objective details correct, you undermine your credibility from the beginning when the time comes to shift gears to subjective evaluations.

Speaking of which, we also have subjective points of disagreement with those rankings, which we would argue are the worst Hockey's Future has put out in about 5-6 years when you guys were leaving prospects like Karri Ramo out of your top-20 altogether.

Is Dustin Tokarski a worse prospect than Harju, after his return to Europe, or an undrafted free agent signee like Tyler Johnson? Erm, no. That's not to say it's a total stretch to put Johnson in the top-10 (we have him at 11 right now), given his junior and Team USA plaudits, but anyone who saw Tokarski in the second half of last season after Cedrick Desjardins went down saw a young, workhorse goaltender who had even better plaudits in junior hockey and with Team Canada. This young man's a heartbeat away from being on the Lightning roster should anything happen to Dwayne Roloson or Mathieu Garon, and it seems bizarre to have him at just 13th in the organization behind a player like Harju who statistically is unlikely to come back to North America now that he's gone back to Lulea.

Should Adam Janosik and Geoffrey Schemitsch really have been held out of the top-20 of their list in favor of a marginal checking line prospect like Brendan O'Donnell, a guy who was a USHL backup last season in Adam Wilcox, and an overage draftee like Ondrej Palat? That's not to say these three prospects don't have the opportunity to be more, particularly Wilcox, in the future. But, Janosik's been a top pairing fixture for Slovakia in recent junior tournaments and played well in those tournaments and in the QMJHL and Head Amateur Scout Darryl Plandowski called Schemitsch one of the Lightning's 10 best prospects in THN's last Future Watch issue despite his injury-plagued 2010-2011 campaign. As with most things we have subjective disagreements about, you don't have to take our word for it. There are scouts and scouting services who have the same opinions.

We'd also make the argument that Matthew Peca is a better prospect in his sleep than O'Donnell is awake after 3 cups of coffee (hence why multiple OHL and QMJHL teams fought for the right to add him to their rosters), but I understand the appeal of O'Donnell's situation at North Dakota over Peca going to a marginal ECAC program at Quinnipiac. Still, Peca falls into the same category of guys with Tokarski and Janosik who were rated around 100 in their draft seasons by, for instance, Red Line Report who HockeysFuture seem to discount because they went in the 5th round or after. These prospects clearly have more upside than the typical late round draft pick, though, and deserve a more critical eye in evaluation, and, again, you don't have to take our word for it because at least one scouting service also says so.

Bottom line, you guys need to step up your game. Part of the reason BoltProspects was founded was that we felt fans were getting poor information from Hockey's Future and there needed to be some other outlet to keep you accountable. At the risk of giving you something that could be interpreted as praise, which we're loathe to do, there's been improvement over the years. But, this last round of rankings is the worst I've seen since about 2005 and is a huge step backwards and the team page on Hockey's Future just continues to get worse with its lack of updates and corrected information. When people Google the name of a Lightning prospect, the links to both our websites come up toward the top in the search, and we're never pleased if your link has incorrect information. We want Lightning fans to be the best informed fans in the NHL about their prospects, and because we can't force everyone who hops on the internet to come here, we have to push other major websites like Hockey's Future to improve their quality, too, if we're going to meet that goal.

Take this as an honest critique and not a personal attack, and make it right.

Sincerely,
Your Pals at BoltProspects.com