As promised, today Bolt Prospects is beginning its release of its Final Rankings for the 2005-2006. To kick off the process we will announce our Top Five Overage Prospects. But first, a brief note about the criteria that defines an "overage prospect". According to Bolt Prospects rules, any Lightning property 24 or older on opening night 2005-2006 who has less than 82 total NHL games player and less than 41 NHL games played in any sinle season is considered an overage prospect. Ryan Vesce, for instance, is inelligible for consideration because he is not a Lightning property. Also, Jimmie Olvestad
is inelligble for consideration because he has already cleared the thresholds for graduation by our standards. So, with the legal disclaimer out of the way, here are Bolt Prospects 2005-2006 Final Rankings: Top Five Overage Prospects, in alphabetical order:
[b]LW [url=zdenek-blatny]Zdenek Blatny[/url], 25 years old, 6'1" 195 lbs, Springfield (AHL)[/b]
[i]Springfield/Providence (AHL) 66 GP, 22-37-59, 41 PIM, +4
Boston (NHL) 5 GP, 0-0-0, 2 PIM, -2[/i]
Blatny came to the Lightning organization in a trade from the Bruins organization for faltering goaltender Brian Eklund
and immediately established himself as one of the most dynamic forwards on the Springfield Falcons in the second half of the season. In 31 games with Springfield, Blatny notched 14 goals and 29 points and was the key cog in the exciting Blatny/Jaspers/Kvapil line combination. The former Atlanta Thrashers 2nd round draft pick had 22 goals and 59 points in 66 AHL games this season and also saw 5 games in the NHL with the Bruins. Blatny's skating, defensive play and his lack of grit have been the common knocks that have kept him out of the NHL, but if he stays in North America and continues to produce the way he did with the Falcons last season, the Lightning will have to give him an opportunity.
[b]G [url=johan-holmqvist]Johan Holmqvist
[/url], 28 years old, 6'3" 185 lbs, Brynas (SWE)[/b]
[i]26 GP, 1.95 GAA, 3 SO, .928 sv%[/i]
One way or the other, someone named Holmqvist was going to make this list. Johan Holmqvist comes to the Lightning after winning gold with Sweden in the 2006 World Championships. He also finished 1st in the Swedish Elitserien in GAA and second in save percentage this season with club team Brynas where he split starts with Markus Korhonen. Holmqvist has been a big money goaltender throughout his career, winning an Elitserien championship prior to his first stint in North America and an AHL championship with the Houston Aeros during his time in the Minnesota Wild organization. The former 1997 7th round pick of the New York Rangers was given a one-way contract by the Lightning to return to North America and will be given every opportunity to earn a job in Tampa at training camp in the Fall.
[b]C [url=jason-jaspers]Jason Jaspers[/url], 25 years old, 5'11" 207 lbs, Springfield (AHL)[/b]
[i]Springfield (AHL) 77 GP, 29-37-66, 86 PIM, -21[/i]
Jaspers started the season on a line with Ryan Craig
and Evgeny Artyukhin
and ended it with Zdenek Blatny and Marek Kvapil
and was consistently strong from beginning to end. His 29 goals and 66 points in 77 games left him second on the Falcons in scoring behind only Ryan Vesce and he was just a marker short of his first 30 goal season since junior with Sudbury. He received two callups to Tampa Bay due to injuries but never got the opportunity to suit up. Next year will likely be different. Jaspers has good speed and a surprising amount of jam for his small stature. He's not a naturally gifted playmaker, but he will drive the net and outwork people night in and night out. He also is defensively reliable, although his defensive coverage slipped in the second half as he began to focus more on his offense in a lost season. Parts of his game remind Bolt Prospects of Tim Taylor, and if injuries on the lower lines dictate, Jaspers could be one of the first callups to Tampa next season.
[b]RW [url=norm-milley]Norm Milley[/url], 26 years old, 6'0" 195 lbs, Springfield (AHL)[/b]
[i]Springfield (AHL) 53 GP, 19-29-48, 34 PIM, -18
Tampa Bay (NHL) 14 GP, 2-1-3, 4 PIM, -2[/i]
Arguably the worst day of Springfield's season was January 3rd, the day that Milley was recalled to Tampa. The club had already absorbed the losses of Evgeny Artyukhin, Ryan Craig and Paul Ranger
with some modest success, but losing Milley put the death knell in their season. Milley is a smart, crafty player who has a knack for quietly finding holes in opponents' defensive zone coverage and can be a complete pest at the defensive end of the ice. Milley was instrumental to the All-Star season his center, Ryan Vesce, had in his rookie season and was arguably the Falcons only credible power play threat all season. Milley's skating may prohibit him from success at the next level, but he will be a critical element to any successes the Falcons have next season.
[b]G [url=fredrik-norrena]Fredrik Norrena
[/url], 32 years old, 6'0" 195 lbs, Linkopings (SWE)[/b]
[i]36 GP, 2.16 GAA, 4 SO, .914 GAA[/i]
At 32, Norrena is the oldest overage prospect on this list and after years of failing to reach agreement with the Lightning to come to North America he finally signed with the team this summer. The Finnish born netminder has long been considered one of the finest goaltenders in Europe and has been a fixture on Finland's Euro Tour teams. He also has appeared in the last two World Championships for Finland, including defeating Canada with a 37 save shutout in this year's bronze medal match, and was backup on Finland's silver medal winning Olympic team. He had a down year statistically this season in the Elitserien, but if you look at past performance he has easily been one of the most dominant goaltenders in Sweden over the past 4 seasons including his 2003-2004 campaign in which he set the league record with 9 shutouts in a season. He, like Holmqvist, comes to Tampa with well burnished championship credentials after winning 4 SM-liiga championships in Finland with TPS Turku, two as a starter, and 1 Elitserien title with Vastra Frolunda. He also will come to camp with every opportunity to win a spot in Tampa and an opportunity to prove if his game really does translate to the best league in the world.