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Blair Jones

The Lightning have completed a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers for pick 102 in the 4th round. With it, they have selected C [url=http://www.hockeysfuture.com/prospect/blair_jones]Blair Jones[/url] of Moose Jaw in the WHL. Jones split his season between Red Deer and Moose Jaw in the WHL finishing with a combined 14 goals and 50 points in 68 games. Following the Lightning formula, Jones has good size at 6'2" 193 lbs. Jones is considered an above average talent offensively with average skating ability and was ranked the third best prospect in the WHL in Central Scouting's preliminary rankings but has been knocked for his practice habits, which may have forced coach Brent Sutter trading him from the Rebels at mid season.

Marek Bartanus

With the 91st pick the Lightning selected RW [url=http://www.hockeysfuture.com/prospect/marek_bartanus]Marek Bartanus[/url] of Kosice Jr. in the Slovakian league. Much like Smolenak, Bartanus has good size at 6'3" 194 lbs. and skates very well. He also has a ton of skill. At the urging of his father, who is an NHL agent, Bartanus will play for Owen Sound of the OHL next season. [url=http://www.eurohockey.net/players/show_player.cgi?serial=80822]Bartanus notched 14 goals and 28 points along with 99 PIMs and a +35 rating in 34 games for Kosice's J-20 team last season[/url] before being promoted to the Slovak Extraliga. There, he notched just 2 goals and 3 points in 24 games in the men's league.

Radek Smolenak

The Lightning have completed a trade with the San Jose Sharks to get into the 3rd round and have selected LW [url=http://www.hockeysfuture.com/prospect/radek_smolenak]Radek Smolenak[/url] of Kingston of the OHL. At 6'3" 180 lbs. Smolenak fits the Lightning mold of players with good size who skate well. He played all season on Kingston's top line putting up 32 goals and 60 points in 68 regular season games. Smolenak is painfully streaky but he is considered to have some of the best goalscoring ability in this draft, a much needed component for the Lightning.

Vladimir Mihalik

The Lightning threw a major curveball with their 30th pick and selected Slovakian defenseman [url=http://www.hockeysfuture.com/prospect.php?pid=4441]Vladimir Mihalik[/url] despite indications the team was looking for a forward. Mihalik is considered a "Zdeno Chara" type defenseman standing at 6'7" 222 lbs. He is expected to play for Red Deer of the WHL next season where head coach and former Lightning player [url=http://www.reddeerrebels.com/display_story.php?story_id=738]Brent Sutter gives glowing reviews of the blueliner. [/url] McKeen's hockey [url=http://mckeenshockey.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=428608]gives mixed reviews to Mihalik's U-18 performance.[/url]

Feaster Confirms Lightning After Forwards

I hope this puts into perspective a lot of the mock drafts I've seen floating around with the Lightning taking goaltenders or defensemen. [url=http://bolts.tbo.com/lightning/MGBGZA7BRBE.html]Jay Feaster confirms in tomorrow's Tampa Tribune column by Erik Erlendsson that the team is looking for scoring forward help.[/url] He says: [i]"As we have assessed where we are in the minors and in the organization, again, the goal-scorers and skilled forwards are the guys we don't have enough of," Feaster said. "We really need to try to focus on some snipers and some guys who can make some plays."[/i]

Commentary: Veteran Mentorship

Let me start this commentary by throwing out some Lightning trivia. Did you know the maximum number of appearances made in an NHL season by a goaltender the Lightning drafted is 16 by Zac Bierk? Did you know that in total goaltenders drafted by the Lightning have made 94 total appearances, 382 less than Nikolai Khabibulin alone? In fact, did you know John Grahame has played in more NHL games (122) than every goaltender drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning combined? This week the Lightning signed goaltenders Jonathan Boutin and Gerald Coleman to entry-level deals in hopes of turning the tide on 13 seasons worth of draft futility between the pipes. Both could have talented careers as pros, but something troubled me this week that I want to talk about. The team has been floating the trial balloon that both goaltenders may split time in the team's ECHL affiliate in Johnstown. Let me explain why I think that trial ballon should be shot down, flogged, lit on fire and then buried.

Draft Order Settled

The NHL has announced that [url=http://www.bostonbruins.com/pressbox/pressreleases.asp?id=1473]the Tampa Bay Lightning will receive an additional 5th round pick as compensation for losing unrestricted free agent Jassen Cullimore to the Chicago Blackhawks[/url]. With that settled, the Lightning hold six picks going into tomorrow's draft which will commence at 12 pm Eastern:

Lightning Acquire Jaspers

The Lightning have announced [url=http://bolts.tbo.com/lightning/MGBVPG9TPBE.html]the team has traded veteran center Jarrod Skalde to the Phoenix Coyotes for center Jason Jaspers.[/url] Skalde was one of the free agent flops for the Falcons last season and played just 15 games in a Falcons jersey before being loaned to Phoenix's farm team the Utah Grizzlies in echange for Jason Jaspers being loaned to the Falcons. Yesterday's trade now formalizes each players' place in their respective organizations.

Boutin/Hrdel Sign

As expected, [url=http://www.tampabaylightning.com/prdetail.cfm?pressreleaseID=1099&category=3]the Lightning have announced the signing of G Jonathan Boutin and LW/C Zbynek Hrdel to three year standard entry level deals.[/url] Boutin will now battle with [url=http://www.boltprospects.com/node/145]yesterday's signee Gerald Coleman[/url] to see which prospect be next in line behind Brian Eklund. Hrdel adds some desperately needed potential scoring punch to a Lightning organization which is extremely threadbare for skill at the forward position at the minor and junior level.

McKeen's Mock and Small Player Slippage

[url=http://mckeenshockey.rivals.com/draft.asp?Draft=52]McKeen's hockey has released their mock draft[/url] and has Swedish winger [url=http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=2045] Nicklas Bergfors[/url] falling to the Lightning's pick at #30. A tip of the hat to Johan Nilsson of [url=http://www.eliteprospects.com/]Eliteprospects.com[/url]. Bergfors, the brother of Lightning prospect Henrik Bergfors, is slated to come to North America as an import to play in the QMJHL next season. While I don't necessarily see Bergfors, the top Swedish born prospect in this draft, falling all the way to 30 this mock is far more realistic with regard to the Lightning's pick than [url=http://msn.foxsports.com/nhl/story/3821944]FoxSport's[/url], [url=http://www.hockeysfuture.com/article.php?sid=7795]Hockeysfuture's[/url] and even [url=http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/draft/feature.asp?fid=7065]TSN's [/url]which have the Lightning selecting D Risto Korhonen, G Alexandre Vincent and G Ondrej Pavelec respectively.
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