Fifth Round, One-Hundred Twenty-Second Overall
G Dustin Tokarski, 5'11" 185 lbs, Spokane (WHL)
Rankings: #9 North American Goalie CSS, #129 Overall Red Line Report, THN #NR, McKeen's #90 Overall
45 GP, 30-10-3, 2.05 GAA, .922 sv%, 6 shutouts
Tokarski stole the show at the 2008 Memorial Cup, winning MVP honors for the Spokane Chiefs. A bit undersized, the positionally sound, mentally tough goaltender stopped 53 shots in the Finals to defeat the Kitchener Rangers. "The Tick" split duties in the regular season. The Watson, Saskatchewan, native finished among the top goalies through the regular Western Hockey League season and was named the Western Conference championship series MVP after the Chiefs beat the Tri-City Americans in a memorable seven-game series that included five total overtime and three double-overtime games. He missed being eligible for the 2007 draft by one day. He went undrafted in the WHL Bantam Draft. He led his midget club to a championship, and considering Spokane has a young roster, he could put up huge numbers on his way to another Memorial Cup experience next year in Rimouski.
Fourth Round, One-Hundred Seventeenth Overall
C James Wright, 6'3" 185 lbs, Vancouver (WHL)
Rankings: CSS 35 North America, Red Line #76 Overall, THN #48 Overall
60 GP, 13-23-36, 21 PIM
Wright had an up and down year battling mono for part of the season before finishing strong with a good playoff run. The consensus on Wright appears to be that he is a long term project. He has good size and strength, a good long stride, and decent hands. However, he doesn't have much burst and he's reluctant to use his size to his advantage. This is a boom or bust pick. Red Line projects him as a "2nd liner or never develops" and compares him to Kris Beech. THN pegs him as a "checking forward" with the potential to become a third or fourth line shut down center.
Through 45 picks, here are the top-10 remaining players on the board according to Red Line:
#8 RW Kirill Petrov, Kazan (RUS)
#21, D Brandon Burlon, St. Mike's (OPJHL)
#24, D Colby Robak, Brandon (WHL)
#26, LW Andre Petersson, HV 71 Jr (SWE)
#30, C Maxime Sauve, Val-d'Or (QMJHL)
#33, RW Mikhail Stefanovich, Quebec (QMJHL)
#34, RW Evgeni Grachev, Yaroslavl (RUS)
#36, D Mark Barbero, Moncton (QMJHL)
#38, D Jordan Southorn, PEI (QMJHL)
#39, LW Patrice Cormier, Rimouski (QMJHL)
There were no surprises for the Lightning in the first round as they made the no-brainer selection of C Steven Stamkos from the Sarnia Sting with their number one overall selection. For the league in general, however, there was a record amount of movement as teams maneuvered up and down throughout the first round. Now with 30 picks complete, the Lightning can begin to take a peek at who might be available to them at their next selection at #62.
Here are the top ten remaining players on the board from THN and Red Line:
First Round, First Overall
C Steven Stamkos, 6'1" 180 lbs, Sarnia (OHL)
Stamkos, who has been compared to former Red Wing great Steve Yzerman by multiple scouting outfits, scored 58 goals and 105 points in 61 games last season for Sarnia of the OHL to go along with 88 penalty minutes.
We've been very quiet here at Bolt Prospects lately. It's not for a lack of interest in the team, mind you, or excitement about the impending draft. However, it's hard to post commentary at this time with so much up in the air. After years of having the same ownership and hockey operations team in place, it was easy to predict what the Lightning were going to do and what kind of players they would pursue. However, with new owner Oren Koules coming in with an ownership group suspected of also including former NHLers Len Barrie and Luc Robitaille and Head Coach John Tortorella cut loose with rumors of ESPN analyst Barry Melrose taking over, it's difficult to know what kind of players the Lightning will pursue. If Melrose does indeed take over, what will his system look like after 13 years out of coaching? How will he handle the new rules? No red line? It's impossible to say.
And so, my personal draft preview has to begin with this admission: I'm apprehensive about the ownership situation, and as the weeks go on I continue to wait for the next shoe to drop, and then the next, and then the next. Having a new ownership group which is more enthusiastic about hockey and willing to put more money into the on ice product is potentially exciting. But the idea of a cast of amateurs and/or people who have been away from the game for many, many years swooping in and hiring their cronies and giving them key positions of leadership in the hockey operations is frightening. I worry about the level of professionalism this new group is going to have, and without saying much of a word in the media Koules and his people have already managed to project the image of a traveling circus that is coming to town. Friday and Saturday's draft will be their first opportunity to show to the hockey world that they bring organizational discipline and rigor to the table, and not just the flash of a Hollywood production.
From a personnel standpoint, there's no secrets going into this draft. The biggest hole in the organization is at the second line center position, and Steve Stamkos will fill that hole immediately. Barring the Stamkos family car driving off a cliff on the way to Ottawa, the talented Sarnia pivot will be the number one pick Friday night, as evidenced by the fact the Lightning have been marketing the young man through their "Seen Stamkos?" campaign for the last two months. Having read the scouting reports from three independent organizations and having watched several of his World Junior Championships games, I have come to one conclusion: Steven Stamkos will be the most complete and most NHL ready player the Tampa Bay Lightning have ever selected in their history, including Vincent Lecavalier. He has been universally compared to former Red Wings great Steve Yzerman, and I have to say the comparisons are apt. On tape, like Yzerman, there's no one thing about Stamkos' game that makes me say, "Wow, he's going to be one of the best two or three in the game at that!" A guy like Mikkel Boedker, for instance, is a better skater than Stamkos, while heralded 2009 eligible John Tavares struck me as a better natural finisher. However, if you look across the board, there really are no weaknesses in Stamkos' game. He may not be the best at any one thing, but like Yzerman I suspect that when Stamkos matures he will be one of the best 10-15 players in the game at pretty much everything. Skating. Finishing. Passing the puck. Moving away from the puck. Back checking. Faceoffs. Battle level. Leadership intangibles. You have to put a check by every single one of these when looking at Stamkos.
At the end of one period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals, Pittsburgh has Philadelphia on the brink of elimination leading 2-0 in the game and 3-1 in the series. If this is the Flyers' final game of the season, Bolt Prospects would like to take this opportunity to thank the Lightning's long time rivals. Part of the Vaclav Prospal for Alexandre Picard swap made at the deadline was a conditional pick with the Lightning receiving a 2nd round pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft if the Flyers made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. So Flyers fans, don't look at the beat down you're catching from the Pens as a total loss. At least you're helping the Lightning's cause. Tampa Bay will have multiple second round picks for the first time since the 2003 NHL Entry Draft with the very real possibility of having three top-60 picks for the first time since the 1995 NHL Entry Draft (when there were only 26 teams in the league). So, while Steve Stamkos' impending selection at #1 overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft may be the Lightning's most important single draft pick in a decade, next year's 2009 NHL Entry Draft is shaping up to potentially be its most important draft overall since 1998 in terms of organizational depth and strength.
Note that, as Bolt Prospects pointed out at the All-Star Break, about 7 in 10 NHL players who have made the league from the 2002 NHL Entry Draft forward came from the top-60 picks. The Lightning had the third least top-60 picks over the same time period with just 7. So, for the Lightning, 2009 appears to be a golden opportunity to replenish the system and augment the successes the Lightning have already had in the later rounds of the draft beyond pick 100.
For those pundits in hockey land who were suggesting that perhaps the Lightning should trade their number one pick to pursue a defenseman, or a goaltender, or some other patently stupid idea that would neglect the giant, gaping hole the team has at the second line center position, the Lightning have launched seenstamkos.com as part of an overall marketing campaign heading into next season.
Hmmmm, I wonder what Tampa Bay is going to do on draft day?
It's the most suspenseful #1 pick in a major sport since Jake Long.
[acidfree:3279 size=400 align=right]
The Tampa Bay Lightning have won the draft lottery for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and secured the #1 pick in the draft.
Dave Andreychuk, who sat in as the Lightning's representative for the draft drawing, has the magic mojo.
Steven Stamkos is a Bolt.
Can you say, "skill?"
Welcome to Tampa Bay, young man.
One thing the Lightning need to do (or not) at the draft- stay away from Nikita Filatov. It would kill me to see another Russian first round flop, like Alexeev and Svitov, and too many questions surround him to be drafted in the top 5.