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Bolt Prospects 2011 NHL Entry Draft Preview: Defensemen

The scouting community's general consensus for the whole draft class is that it is not top heavy, but it is incredibly deep. Nowhere is that more evident than on the blueline, where Skelleftea's Adam Larsson, Kitchener's Ryan Murphy, and Niagara's Dougie Hamilton look like the only locks to go in the lottery picks. However, beyond those three blue chippers, the list of quality defenseman prospects is long enough that teams picking in the 3rd round may still have access to some quality talent. Most interestingly, there's not a draft in the last decade that's had as many quality, mobile, puck-moving defensemen as this one, which may be a particular benefit for the Lightning.

As we discussed in yesterday's Introduction and Goaltenders posting, the Tampa Bay Lightning's biggest hole, prospect-wise, is probably on defense. And, there's probably a little more urgency to fill that hole given there are some aging veterans on defense on the big club like Pavel Kubina, Mattias Ohlund, and Brett Clark. There's also the matter of the Lightning's switch to the 1-3-1, which is predicated on having mobile puck moving blueliners and doesn't have as much use for the big redwoods like Andy Rogers or Vladimir Mihalik that the Lightning used to pick. The organization does boast a couple of quality defenseman prospects in heady two-way defender Mark Barberio and rough-and-tumble Radko Gudas, both of whom had very respectable rookie seasons with Norfolk in the AHL this year. Behind them, the Lightning have already started to add to their depth by adding mobile puck movers Adam Janosik, Charles Landry, Geoffrey Schemitsch. But there are no blue chippers in the organization that seem like locks for the NHL, and the team could definitely use prospects of that nature for future salary cap purposes. Toward that end, here are 10 prospects that might be viable alternatives for the Lightning at pick 27 on Friday night:

Bolt Prospects 2011 NHL Entry Draft Preview: Introduction and Goaltenders

The 2011 NHL Entry Draft is going to bring several changes for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Success on the ice means sitting a long way from the front row at the NHL Entry Draft. With the team advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals this season, the Lightning moved from picking 6th overall last year to picking 27th overall this year. That means the Lightning won't have the top talent in the draft available to them in 2011 the same way it was in the past 3 drafts when the team selected Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, and Brett Connolly. That's not to say that the Lightning won't have the opportunity to draft some very good players, though. Since 1980, the 27th overall pick has yielded many high caliber players like Scott Mellanby, Joe Nieuwendyk, Tie Domi, Boris Mironov, Rhett Warrener, and Scott Gomez, as well as former Lightning fan favorites Ben Clymer and Cory Sarich. Picking in the 20's sometimes allows playoff caliber teams to have access to lottery pick caliber talent that slips either due to being small in stature, late bloomers, or having other issues that make other teams leery to take a chance on them (see: Downie, Steve).

BoltProspects 2010-2011 Final Rankings

With the 2010-2011 season happily lasting much longer than the last few seasons, we find ourselves in the month of June before releasing our 2010-2011 Final Rankings. This season brought a new word into the Lightning prospect fans' vocabulary: "patience." With only Dana Tyrell graduating this season, the Lightning made sure their top prospects had a little more time on the vine to ripen. At the same time, though, attrition cost the Lightning some of its better prospects, as was the case with Mitch Fadden who allowed off-the-ice issues to cost him a spot in the organization. And, other prospects had lackluster seasons that led us to believe that perhaps the chances of their NHL futures were limited. Towards that end, we made the editorial decision to trim our rankings down from their typical 25 to 20 for this Final Rankings. We will be raising the list back to 25 after the NHL Entry Draft in a few weeks when we release a supplement to these rankings.

The rules are simple: any skater prospect who was under 24 years of age on opening night of the Lightning's season and has played less than 41 NHL games in any single season and less than 82 career NHL games is eligible for the rankings. This excludes, for instance, Blair Jones. For goaltenders, any netminder who has earned less than 30 NHL decisions in any single season and less than 41 career NHL decisions and was under 24 years of age on opening night is eligible for the rankings. That excludes Cedrick Desjardins, for instance, who turned 25 in September. The exception to these basic rules are NCAA based players, who are considered eligible prospects for the duration of their college careers regardless of age.

BoltProspects 2010-2011 Midterm Prospect Rankings

As we start the stretch run of the 2010-2011 hockey season, BoltProspects is proud to announce its midterm rankings for the prospects of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization.

As is tradition, we will begin by reciting the rules of the rankings. Any skater prospect who was under 24 years of age on opening night of the Lightning's season and has played less than 41 NHL games in any single season and less than 82 career NHL games is eligible for the rankings. This excludes, for instance, winger Johan Harju, who turned 24 last May and is now considered an overage prospect, and Dana Tyrell, who has already played 52 games this season and is considered to be graduated from prospect status. For goaltenders, any netminder who has earned less than 30 NHL decisions in any single season and less than 41 career NHL decisions and was under 24 years of age on opening night is eligible for the rankings. That excludes Cedrick Desjardins, for instance, who turned 25 in September. The exception to these basic rules are NCAA based players, who are considered eligible prospects for the duration of their college careers regardless of age.

With the typical legal disclaimers out of the way, here are our 2010-2011 Midterm Rankings:

BoltProspects 2010-2011 Preliminary Rankings

Now that the 2010-2011 NHL season is underway it is time for BoltProspects' 2010-2011 Preliminary Rankings of the Lightning's top twenty-five prospects. This year's installment reflects a talent pool that has both high-end prospects and depth for perhaps the first time in the club's history, a fact that was celebrated by both GM Steve Yzerman and Head Coach Guy Boucher during training camp this fall. The Lightning is still looking for high end talent at the defenseman position, but at forward and between the pipes there's no doubting the potential.

Before we proceed, I am required to recite the BoltProspects prospect criteria rules. As always, any player 24 years of age or older on opening night of the Lightning's season (10/9/10) is not eligible for inclusion on the list and will be considered an overage prospect. The prime example of this rule is versatile forward Johan Harju, who turned 24 in May, and therefore is not eligible for this year's list. The same is true for forward Blair Jones, who turned 24 in September. The exception to this rule is NCAA-based players, who remain eligible for the list until the completion of their college careers. Prospects under 24 will be considered graduated to the NHL level when they meet the appropriate criteria for games played or decisions. For skaters, any player who appears in 41 or more NHL games in a single season or 82 or more career NHL games is no longer considered a prospect. For goaltenders, any netminder who has 30 or more decisions in a single NHL season or 41 or more career NHL decisions will be considered graduated.

Now that that's out of the way, Guy Boucher says no more d-to-d passes. Let's go:

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