Pete's Rankings: Honorable Mentions
We're closing in on the Memorial Cup tournament in which four Lightning junior prospects will compete for the CHL's junior prize. The tournament not only represents the highest stakes in all of Canadian junior hockey, but it will also represent the end of another Lightning prospect season. With that in mind I began over the weekend to blog my rankings of the Lightning's best prospects beginning with the team's Top-5 Overage Prospects. When the Memorial Cup concludes I will begin, 5 prospects at a time, to count down my Lightning Top-25 prospects, but today I want to focus on five players who didn't quite make the cut but who are still worthy of mention. Without further adieu, and in no particular order, here are the Honorable Mentions for the Lightning's Top-25 Prospects:
C/LW J.F. Soucy, Springfield Falcons (AHL)
Ht/Wt: 6'3" 205 lbs. Drafted: 8th Round 2001
55GP 1-4-5 203PIMs (-15) (AHL)
14GP 1-2-3 49PIMs (-4) (ECHL)
You'll be hard pressed to find anyone who will question the bravery or tenacity of JF Soucy. "Jeff" as he likes to be called, is an agitating forechecker who loves to take the body and is capable of drawing plenty of attention for his bone jarring checks. His physical courage to do so is especially impressive given his slight frame, which still needs another 10 pounds or so of bulk. A good skater who showed decent skills in his final season of junior, Soucy has struggled to cast himself as much more than a one dimensional agitator at the AHL level to this point in his career. Moreover, Soucy struggles to keep discipline on the ice which is especially problemmatic in an era where his one dimension isn't exactly at a premium to begin with. To make the NHL, Soucy has to prove that he isn't a liability both defensively and in terms of discipline, while at the same time he must also prove himself capable of occassionally chipping in a point or two from the lower lines.
G Vasily Koshechkin, Lada Togliatti (RUS)
Ht/Wt: 6'6" 204 lbs. Drafted: 8th Round 2002
4GP, 2.47 GAA
Koshechkin is a real wild card in the Lightning's future goaltending picture, particularly because of the limited amount of action he has received at the Superleague level in the last two seasons. Impressively for a netminder his age, Koshechkin has played backup the past two season's for Lada Togliatti in Russia's top men's league. However, starts have been sparse for Vasily and this season saw him only get into 4 games behind starter Jussi Markkanen. At 6'6", Koshechkin is the biggest goaltending prospect in the Lightning organization and goaltending coach Jeff Reese has interest in working with Koshechkin to utilize his size in Reese's simplified positional style. With the emergence of four quality prospects ahead of Vasily in Eklund, Ramo, Boutin and Coleman, there is likely no rush to sign Koshechkin and bring him to North America. Instead, view Koshechkin more as a long term investment who, in 2-3 years time, may cement himself as a Superleague starter before the Lightning take a harder look at bringing him into the fold.
D Brady Greco, Colorado College Tigers (WCHA)
Ht/Wt: 6'3" 190 lbs. Drafted: 8th Round 2003
26GP 4-2-6 36PIMs
Much was expected of Greco this season after a very successful sophomore season with Colorado College in which he proved himself to be a reliable two-way performer for the Tigers. However, after a decent start, a mid-season hip pointer injury seemed to knock Greco off stride and he disappointingly finished his junior campaign with just half of the 12 points he posted the previous season. Greco has good size and showed a propensity to use it in posting over 200 PIMs in the USHL while sitting out his transfer year from Michigan Tech. But what sets Greco apart, despite his mediocre skating, is that he shows a willingness to jump into the play and has shown with the Tigers he can contribute on the power play. Entering into his senior year it is crucial for Greco to regain his sophomore season form for a team which will once again be expected to make a serious push for the NCAA Frozen Four. Greco needs to be a prominent part of that push to earn a contract. Greco, the prospect affectionately known as "The Mayor" here at Boltprospects, does have one advantage working for him in his quest to be signed. Despite the Lightning's burgeoning depth at the defenseman position in the system, it is weighted heavily towards stay-at-home blueliners. A good offensive campaign could tip the scales in Brady's favor next summer.
D Jay Rosehill, Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (WCHA)
Ht/Wt: 6'3" 195 lbs. Drafted: 7th Round 2003
34GP 0-5-5 103PIMs
If anyone ever asks you the question, "What was the final piece of return from the Ruslan Fedotenko draft day deals?" the answer is Jay Rosehill, who was selected with a 7th round pick acquired from Dallas in the Brad Lukowich trade. Trivia aside though, Rosehill is a big, physical defenseman out of Olds of the AJHL who was counted on heavily by UM-D coach Scott Sandelin as a freshman and by the end of the season he had earned co-ownership of the team's Most Improved Player Award. No one will ever confuse this stay-at-homer with Bobby Orr, but Rosehill has three years left of college elligibility which is plenty of time to further develop himself as a steady, hard nosed defender.
D PJ Atherton, Minnesota Golden Gophers (WCHA)
Ht/Wt: 6'2" 190 lbs. Drafted: 6th Round 2002
17GP 2-2-4 22PIMs (+8)
Rounding out the list is the compelling story of prospect PJ Atherton. Sometimes both personally and professionally adversity has a way of (re)sharpening one's focus on their goals in life. Such a catharsis might well have been occured this past season in the life of PJ Atherton. In the Spring of 2004 Atherton's mother was facing a life or death struggle with cancer, leaving Atherton with a heavy decision to make. Atherton decided to leave campus to tend to his family, in the process making him academically inelligible to play the first semester of the season. At one point Atherton even seriously considered quitting the sport altogether. However, with the departure of a couple of key players to the pros the Gophers called upon Atherton to come back to the ice. When he returned in December, Gopher fans witnessed the transformation of PJ into a far more poised and steady defender than he had been at any time as an underclassman. Atherton took the role of of a steady, physical stay-at-homer for Minnesota and became a key member of a Gophers team which advanced all the way to the NCAA Frozen Four. For Atherton's senior season, the impetus must be on continuing his poised physical defensive play while at the same time showing some of the offensive upside the Lightning thought he had when they drafted him almost three years ago.
Coming soon: Lightning Prospects 21-25!!!