It's roughly the midpoint of the NHL season, and with the graduations of prospects James Wright and Victor Hedman, and the conclusion of the U20 World Junior Championships, it's time for Bolt Prospects to release its 2009-2010 Midterm Rankings. The Midterm Rankings reflect a significant amount of change for the club, as it has been a year where the team's prospects haven't stuck to the script. Some players have failed to live up to expectations. Other have come out of nowhere to raise their stock. The end result is one of the widest shifts in rankings we've ever had.
Now that the 2009-2010 season is fully underway, it's time for Bolt Prospects to engage in the annual ritual of submitting its October Preliminary Rankings. This is going to be a fascinating season for the Lightning's prospects, as Norfolk looks like it has the most depth its had since the Lightning affiliated itself with the Admirals franchise and a deep 2009 NHL Entry Draft has given Lightning fans much to look forward to in the junior ranks. But, before we proceed, lets go over the ground rules again.
Bolt Prospects considers a prospect skater to be any player under the age of 24 on opening night of the season who has played less than 41 NHL games in any given season and who has not played more than 82 career NHL games. For goaltenders, any player who has less than 30 NHL decisions in a single season and less than 41 career NHL decisions is still considered a prospect. The exception to these rules is an NCAA player, who is considered a prospect for however long they remain in school. Clear as mud? Wonderful. Let's begin...
With two weeks now passed since a very successful 2009 NHL Entry Draft and an equally successful Young Guns prospect camp, Bolt Prospects has released a supplemental update to its 2008-2009 Final Rankings. The rankings primarily reflect the addition of the team's recent draftees, as well as recent contractual moves by the team and its prospects.
With the elimination of Rimouski in the Memorial Cup tournament, the 2008-2009 season has finally come to a close for all of the prospects of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. While the Lightning's record in 2008-2009 at the NHL was disappointing with the team finishing second to last in the league, the play of the team's youth was a bright spot. The team graduated three prospects this season: star center Steven Stamkos, physical defenseman Matt Smaby, and athletic netminder Karri Ramo. In addition, several other prospects made their NHL debuts this season, and most did not look out of place at hockey's top level. As a result, even with the graduation of three prospects, our Final Rankings for 2008-2009 reflect a solid roster of talent among the team's top prospects, which will only be added to in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft where the Lightning will hold three picks in the top sixty of the draft including the second overall pick.
As is customary, for those who have never read our rankings reports before, Bolt Prospects' rules are fairly simple. For skaters, a player is considered a prospect if they are less than 24 years of age on opening night of the Lightning's season and if they have not played 41 or more NHL games in a single season or 82 or more career NHL games. The same age standard applies to goaltenders, but their thresholds for graduation from prospect status are different: 30 or more NHL decisions in a single season, or 41 or more career NHL decisions. NCAA players are still considered prospects at the age of 24 or older for as long as they remain in school. Bolt Prospects will issue a Supplementary Rankings Update in late June after the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
Without further ado, here are Bolt Prospects' 2008-2009 Final Rankings:
Tonight is a pretty special night for the staff here at Bolt Prospects. Tonight marked the 41st decision of the NHL career of Karri Ramo. It was also the 41st game of the season for Matt Smaby. Both are milestones for graduation from prospect status here at Bolt Prospects. Both young men are now considered NHLers in our eyes.
It's somewhat fitting that these two players should graduate on the same night. There have only been four players who have ever held the title of top rated prospect on this site. Smaby was the first when we debuted the rankings at the start of the 2005-2006 season. He held the title shortly for half a season before giving way to his teammate Ramo, who was standing on his head as a rookie for Springfield in the AHL. Ramo held the top spot before giving way to top draft pick Steven Stamkos, who graduated from prospect status earlier this season. Steve Downie earned the top spot in our Midterm Rankings shortly after Stamkos' graduation.