Pete's Rankings: 15-11
Two young goaltenders, two tough as nails former WHLers and a former teammate of phenom Sidney Crosby comprise prospects 15-11. Check them out:
15.) G Jonathan Boutin, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
Ht/Wt: 6'2" 210 lbs. Drafted: 3rd Round 2003
42GP 19-19-2 3.27GAA .899sv%
You might say Boutin's weaknesses are the opposite of fellow prospect Gerald Coleman's. Where Coleman's defficiencies currently lay in a lack of physical skills, Boutin's inconsistencies as a player can be traced directly to the space between his ears. Like every other year in his junior career, 2004-2005 was a roller coaster season for Jonathan Boutin. After playing well for coach Alain Vigneault in the playoffs in 2003-2004, Boutin came into the year with momentum for the PEI Rocket and translated it into a dominating opening month of the season where he earned leaguewide honors. However, an inexperienced PEI blueline that featured 4 rookie defensemen playing front of Jonathan on a nightly basis soon took a toll on the former 2003 3rd round pick and he soon found himself treading water with a record hovering around .500. On the day of the QMJHL trade deadline Quebec Remparts GM Patrick Roy, yes that Patrick Roy, acquired Boutin from the Rocket and gave him the starting role over rookie sensation Maxime Joyal. Things were looking up for Boutin, but it was short lived. Less than a month after being acquired by Quebec, Boutin had to have an emergency appendectomy costing him a month of playing time down the stretch. When he returned Boutin only started 2 regular season games for the Remparts going into the playoffs, and in the playoffs he sat 3 of the first 4 games against Victoriaville, watching his club fall behind 3 games to 1 to a far inferior team. With his back against the wall Boutin swept the remaining three games of the series and earned 3 star selections in the first three games of the subsequent series against Chicoutimi before he and the Remparts finally ran out of gas against a more talented Sangueneens club. When he's on his game and focused, Boutin shows that he is possibly the most talented and technically sound goaltender the organization has ever drafted. With excellent quickness and sound fundamentals that include a proficiency at controlling rebounds well beyond his years, Boutin can look every bit the part of the prototypical French Canadian butterfly goalie when he wants to. At other times though he is prone to lapses of concentration and to giving up soft goals that snowball into blowout losses. Having just turned 20 years of age in the last week, Boutin is more than a half decade from his prime and has plenty of time to mature mentally to bring consistency to his game. He'd do well to learn the mental lessons of his fellow 2003 draftee Coleman though if he is ever to reach his NHL upside.
14.) G Karri Ramo, Lahti Pelicans (FIN)
Ht/Wt: 6'2" 192 lbs. Drafted: 6th Round 2004
26GP 3.98GAA .898sv% (SM-liiga)
21GP 1.70GAA .945sv% (Junior A)
Psst. I'm going to let you in on something: one of the best kept secrets in the Lightning organization. His name is Karri Ramo, and you might be hearing a lot more about him over the next few years. Ramo, a rather anonymous 6th round pick in last year's Entry Draft, made his first blip on the Lightning's radar screen last summer in the opening game of the Traverse City prospect tournament. There, less than 24 hours after hopping off a plan from Finland and stepping on North American soil for the first time, Ramo gave a masterful 37 saves on 38 shots faced performance beating an offensively dynamic Blues prospect team which would eventually win the tournament. Having made a strong first impression, Ramo returned to Finland where he dominated the Junior A ranks, eventually finishing the season ranked first in both save percentage and GAA ahead of even highly touted 2005 draft prospect Tuukka Rask. At midseason though, the Pelicans' sad sack SM-liiga level team saw the departure of Atlanta Thrashers netminder Pasi Nurminen leading to Ramo's call up to the men's division. Subsequent injuries soon forced Ramo into the starting job for the last place Lahti team, a daunting task for any 18 year old even on a good club. He responded to the challenge though, posting more wins in a month than Nurminen did the entire first half of the season including a victory over last year's Calder Trophy winner, Andrew Raycroft. Then, at the end of the year, with Pelicans A's hopes of making the playoffs dwindling, Ramo returned to the junior ranks and posted an incredible three straight shutouts in the final three games of the regular season to will his team over the finish line and into the postseason. The Lightning's European scouts are raving about Ramo's maturity and a seemingly unflappable disposition, both of which are well beyond the young man's years. Skillwise, Ramo has a good sized frame and plays a butterfly style which denies his opponents down low. He also has a quick glove and solid blocker and has improved a great deal positionally in the last year although his mechanics and foot speed still need work and, with Jeff Reese as goaltending coach emphasizing it, puckhandling is another area Ramo will need to work on as well. Still, Ramo is quietly rising through the ranks and within the last month secured a transfer to HPK, which is perennially amongst the SM-liiga's best teams. There it looks as if Ramo will tandem with Miika Wiikman in the same organization which cultivated top flight Bruins prospect Hannu Toivonen.
13.) C/LW Nick Tarnasky, Springfield Falcons (AHL)
Ht/Wt: 6'2" 233 lbs. Drafted: 9th Round 2003
80GP 7-10-17 176PIMs (-29)
To say the Lightning are in love with prospect Nick Tarnasky would probably be an understatement. In the final round of the 2003 Entry Draft the team took a flyer on the former Lethbridge Hurricane with the hopes his work ethic would spur his development in the pro ranks. Two years later it certainly appears he's on his way. Despite being the youngest player on the team, not turning 20 until November of the campaign, Nick was one of only two players on the Falcons to play in all 80 regular season games. By the end of the year his toughness had earned him the team's True Grit Award and he had established himself as a fixture on the team's checking line. At 6'3" 233 lbs. Tarnasky is a load, with a low center of gravity and the strength and nasty demeanor to dominate opponents in the corners and along the wall. Despite posting just 17 points in his rookie year, Tarnasky does have above average hands for a checking liner as evidenced by the fact he led Lethbridge in scoring his final year of junior hockey. As he continues to develop his offensive game in the AHL over the next few seasons his skating will also have to improve if he is to be successful at the NHL level. Despite his poor burst and average speed though, the Lightning truly believe they've struck gold with Tarnasky who may very well be a poor man's Dave Scatchard when all is said and done.
12.) RW Darren Reid, Springfield Falcons (AHL)
Ht/Wt: 6'2" 205 lbs. Drafted: 8th Round 2002
56GP 3-16-19 99PIMs (-10)
There were some tough adjustments for Darren Reid to make in his rookie season of professional hockey. After signing out of Medicine Hat of the WHL where he posted 81 points in 67 games during his overage year of junior, Reid was expected to be a solid two-way contributor for his fledgling Falcons team. Injuries limited the Lac La Biche, Alberta native to just 56 games though and he only managed a mere 3 goals in his innagural AHL campaign. Expect Reid, who is a tireless worker and bona fide rink rat to rebound in his sophomore season with the Falcons. To go with his tremendous work ethic Reid also posseses decent hands and is a surprisingly good skater although he lacks burst. Expect Reid, who was timid at times as a rookie, to assert himself more on the forecheck next season now that he understands what is expected of him at the pro level. Reid's toughness and all-around game make him a sound checking line prospect down the road for the Lightning, but next year he'll be counted on in the locker room and on the ice as one of the young men who will need to elevate their play if the Falcons are to escape the basement of their division.
11.) D Matt Smaby, North Dakota Fighting Sioux (WCHA)
Ht/Wt: 6'5" 200 lbs. Drafted: 2nd Round 2003
44GP 1-2-3 86PIMs (+6)
The Lightning hope they have a pillar of strength for the future in towering defenseman Matt Smaby. A former teammate of phenom Sidney Crosby at Shattuck-St. Mary's, the Minneapolis born defenseman has spent two years now with the Fighting Sioux of North Dakota in the WCHA. While with UND, Smaby has cemented his reputation as a quiet but effective stay at home defenseman. Despite a run of bad luck in the NCAA championship game against Denver which saw two pucks accidentally deflect off Smaby into his own net, Matt was instrumental in North Dakota's run to the title game filling key minutes in the tournament on the team's second pairing. From a skill standpoint no one will ever confuse Smaby with Bobby Orr. He skates well for a big man but his puck skills are rudimentary at best and he will almost certainly have to work on making better first passes out of the zone at the next level. He prefers to play a simple game, hanging back on the rush and keeping the play in front of him at all times. In his own end of the rink, what attracted the Lightning to Smaby when they drafted him in the 2nd round in 2003 was his ability to punish opposing forwards even though he played half of his final season at Shattuck with his hand in a cast. Since moving to North Dakota though, Smaby has played a more timid NCAA style choosing to rely on his poke check rather than his 6'5" 200 lb. frame to separate opposing forwards from the puck. Rumors abound the Lightning will attempt to sign Smaby this summer and place him in the ultra-physical AHL ranks, hoping to reignite the mean streak in the young defenseman's game. Expect Smaby to take quite a few years to develop as the big man tries to smooth down some of the many rough edges in his game. When fully developed though, the team may very well have a Jassen Cullimore clone ready to plug in on their shutdown pairing at the NHL level.
Pete's Lightning Prospect Rankings
11.) D Matt Smaby, North Dakota (WCHA)
12.) RW Darren Reid, Springfield (AHL)
13.) C/LW Nick Tarnasky, Springfield (AHL)
14.) G Karri Ramo, Lahti (FIN)
15.) G Jonathan Boutin, Quebec (QMJHL)
16.) G Gerald Coleman, London (OHL)
17.) C/LW Dimitri Kazionov, Togliatti (RUS)
18.) C/LW Zbynek Hrdel, Rimouski (QMJHL)
19.) LW Mark Tobin, Rimouski (QMJHL)
20.) D Andreas Holmqvist, Springfield (AHL)
21.) D Mike Lundin, Maine (HEast)
22.) LW Justin Keller, Kelowna (WHL)
23.) LW Dennis Packard, Springfield (AHL)
24.) C Andre Deveaux, Springfield (AHL)
25.) LW Alexei Glukhov, Victoria (ECHL)
Note:Rankings take into consideration future upside AND NHL readiness in comparing players. The team the player is listed with is the last franchise in the league the player spent the largest part of the year with. Height/weight metrics were compiled from the player's team or league where available. These rankings are my personal rankings and not representative of the opinions of the Boltprospects staff as a whole.