Draft

Bolt Prospects 2011 NHL Entry Draft Preview: Centers

When your team has Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier up the middle on your roster at the NHL level, it's hard to classify the center position as a dire need. Indeed, should Steve Yzerman succeed in locking Stamkos up to a long-term deal, the Lightning should have their scoring line centerman spots well taken care of for the next half a decade. However, the Lightning need depth, particularly for future postseason campaigns when lower-liners can often be the difference between advancing and going home, and right now the Lightning organization doesn't possess that depth.

The Lightning do have some prospects of note in Harvard pivotman Alex Killorn, who can play both left wing and center, WHL scoring title runner-up Tyler Johnson, and Miami of Ohio incoming freshman Jimmy Mullin, who can play both right wing and center. But, like the Lightning's defense, there are no blue chippers in the crop that appear to be sure-fire NHLers. For that reason, we rate center as the third most pressing need for the Lightning organization going into the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Here are 7 players we feel might be available and attractive to the Lightning at their 1st round pick on draft night:

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).

Thoughts on Day Two

Let me start by saying, the 2010 NHL Entry Draft afterglow really puts into focus just how amazing a job Jim Hammett and Darryl Plandowski did in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. To put it bluntly, they spoiled us. When you walk out of a draft with four guys who were probably among the top forty or fifty picks in the draft, it's exhilerating. But, not every year can be like 2009 or even like the 2006 draft when the Lightning used their first four picks on four pretty solidly touted prospects.

By the time the Lightning got to their second pick at sixty-third overall, the large majority of the quality known talent was off the board. That's the difference between a draft where you have three top sixty picks and another where you have just one, I suppose. So, the Lightning were going off the beaten path for much of day two to try to find potential NHLers and fill organizational needs. As a consequence, the quality of this draft class isn't going to be as immediately apparent, and right now it feels like the draft will live and die on the shoulders, or hips, of Brett Connolly.

Seventh Round, One-Hundred and Eighty-Sixth Overall

Name: Teigan Zahn
Position: Defenseman
Shoots: Left
Height: 6.01
Weight: 218 lbs
Born: 1/4/1990, Regina, SK
Last Team: Saskatoon (WHL)
Rankings: CSS NR (North American Skaters), RLR NR (Overall), THN NR (Overall)

2009-2010 Statistics:
Saskatoon (WHL), 44 GP, 0-3-3, -3, 83 PIM
Saskatoon (WHL Playoffs), 10 GP, 0-2-2, +1, 8 PIM

Scouting Comments:
The Lightning get a tough guy and some immediate help on the blueline for Norfolk in the form of ex-2008 fifth round Blackhawks pick, Teigan Zahn.

Strengths:
A former first round pick in the WHL Bantam Draft, Zahn has good athleticism and has shown a willingness to contribute physically, including dropping the gloves. Also was an assistant captain for Saskatoon and has some decent leadership ability. Makes a suprisingly decent first pass out of the zone.

Weaknesses:
Skating was a knock on Zahn in his draft season and he brings very limited offense to the table. Injuries have also hampered Zahn along the way in his junior career, including a broken leg this season.

Projection:
The Lightning will, presumably, sign Zahn to bolster their blueline depth in Norfolk. The question is whether Zahn can grow beyond being a scrapper for the team. You don't get to be a first round pick in the WHL Bantam Draft if you don't have ability, but it's never translated into anything so far.

Sixth Round, One-Hundred and Fifty-Sixth Overall

Name: Brendan O'Donnell
Position: Center
Shoots: Left
Height: 6.00
Weight: 185 lbs
Born: 6/25/1992, Winnipeg, MN
Last Team: Winnipeg South (MJHL)
Rankings: CSS NR (North American Skaters), RLR NR (Overall), THN NR (Overall)

2009-2010 Statistics:
Winnipeg (MJHL), 53 GP, 29-32-61, 55 PIM

Scouting Comments:
The Lightning take a penny stock in the form of O'Donnell, who is a skilled player committed to North Dakota of the WCHA.

Strengths:
O'Donnell was one of the top twenty scorers in the MJHL as a rookie and has a solid skating stride and good vision. He's also shown a well-rounded two-way game.

Weaknesses:
Level of competition. O'Donnell hasn't played at nearly the level of many of his draft day contemporaries. He'll really need to elevate his game to make an impact with North Dakota.

Projection:
The Lightning will have a good four or five years, depending on when O'Donnell enrolls at North Dakota, to allow the centerman to develop and improve. He's a prime example of a sixth round flier the team hopes pays off.

Fourth Round, Ninety-Sixth Overall

Name: Geoffery Schemitsch
Position: Defenseman
Shoots: Right
Height: 6.01
Weight: 169 lbs
Born: 4/1/1992, Toronto, ON
Last Team: Owen Sound (OHL)
Rankings: CSS 123 (North American Skaters), RLR 150 (Overall), THN 49 (Overall)

2009-2010 Statistics:
Owen Sound (OHL), 62 GP, 4-36-40, +1, 24 PIM

Scouting Comments:
"Fine offensive skills. Next body contact will be his first." -Red Line Report

Strengths:
Schemitsch has come out of nowhere as an undrafted player in the OHL to put up 40 points last season for the Owen Sound Attack. He's a solid, although not explosive, skater who is an outstanding passer of the puck. He's a cerebral, finesse style player. Should be a good fit for Guy Boucher's 1-3-1 system.

Weaknesses:
Schemitsch is very slightly built and that shows up in his reluctance in the physical game. Seems allergic to to taking the body.

Projection:
Like Janosik and Beukeboom, the Lightning will allow Schemitsch to spend the next two seasons in junior trying to fill the holes in his game before making a signing decision. He's got a long enough frame that he should be able to put on some weight. The question is whether he'll use it to actually hit anyone once he puts it on.

Third Round, Seventy-Second Overall

Name: Adam Janosik
Position: Defenseman
Shoots: Left
Height: 5.11
Weight: 170 lbs
Born: 9/7/1992, Spiska Nova Ves, Slovakia
Last Team: Sault Ste Marie (OHL)
Rankings: CSS 176 (North American Skaters), RLR 105 (Overall), THN 49 (Overall)

2009-2010 Statistics:
Gatineau (QMJHL), 63 GP, 9-26-35, +14, 45 PIM
Gatineau (QMJHL Playoffs), 10 GP, 5-2-7, -6, 4 PIM

Scouting Comments:
"Smallish d-man has the tools to become a power play specialist." -Red Line Report

Strengths:
The young Slovakian may be a perfect fit for Guy Boucher's 1-3-1 system. He's a good skater and loves to handle the puck and handles it well. Excellent puck rusher who also is fantastic puck distributor on the power play. For a small player, he makes good decisions in his own end and moves the puck out of danger decisively. He doesn't turn 18 until September, so he has plenty of time to grow up, and in an ideal world he might grow another one to two inches in height and put on another fifteen to twenty pounds.

Weaknesses:
He's very small and not physically able to compete in one-on-one battles, even though he tries hard. Positioning in his defensive third requires further refinement.

Projection:
Because he's so young, the Lightning can take their time with Janosik. Ideally, he'd spend another couple of seasons with Gatineau getting bigger and stronger and developing his game. Red Line Report projects Janosik has a number seven defenseman and power play specialist with a skill set like Mark Streit.

Third Round, Sixty-Sixth Overall

Name: Radko Gudas
Position: Defenseman
Shoots: Right
Height: 6.00
Weight: 189 lbs
Born: 6/5/1990, Prague, Czech Republic
Last Team: Everett (WHL)
Rankings: CSS 91 (North American Skaters), RLR 147 (Overall), THN NR (Overall)

2009-2010 Statistics:
Everett (WHL), 65 GP, 7-30-37, +45, 151 PIM
Everett (WHL Playoffs), 3 GP, 0-2-2, E, 4 PIM

Scouting Comments:
"Ultra competitive prick to play against." -Red Line Report

Strengths:
An older prospect who turned 20 in June, Gudas has earned a reputation as one of the biggest hitters in this draft class. He competes hard, and despite his small frame he loves to take the body. Red Line rates Gudas the third biggest pest in this draft class and compares his demeanor to that of a pit bull. Was named a Western Conference Second Team All-Star this season, partly because he also has the ability to move the puck resonably well and he has decent mobility.

Weaknesses:
Stickhandling is considered poor and his decision-making with the puck needs refinement. Because he's two years older than most of the prospects in this draft, what you see is what you get, to an extent. He's not going to get much bigger than his current size, although his tenacity compensates for his stature.

Projection:
Because of his age, the Lightning could sign him immediately and send him to Norfolk of the AHL. He's got a lot of experience, having played 14 games for Kladno in the Czech Extraliga two years ago and 65 games in the Czech second tier league with Beroun between 2006 and 2009. He also was a training camp invitee of the Kings last Fall, so he won't be entering his first NHL training camp. With one or two seasons of refinement, he could make it to the NHL as an energetic third pairing blueliner and world class pest.

Third Round, Sixty-Third Overall

Name: Brock Beukeboom
Position: Defenseman
Shoots: Right
Height: 6.01
Weight: 202 lbs
Born: 4/1/1992, Greenwich, CT
Last Team: Sault Ste Marie (OHL)
Rankings: CSS 41 (North American Skaters), RLR 68 (Overall), THN 49 (Overall)

2009-2010 Statistics:
Sault Ste Marie (OHL), 66 GP, 7-19-26, -9, 64 PIM
SaulT Ste Marie (OHL Playoffs), 1 GP, 0-0-0, -3, 0 PIM

Scouting Comments:
"Even though he plays a physical, competitive game, he has less grit tha his father, but more talent." -THN

Strengths:
Buekeboom has good bloodlines, with his father being the son of former Rangers defenseman Jeff Beukeboom. He's got good straight line mobility, likes to take the body, and has a cannon shot that he's deployed on the power play for Sault this season. Cleans up the front of his net.

Weaknesses:
Beukeboom is coachable and a quick learner, but he still needs to refine his decision making. Prone to move the puck blindly or hold onto it too long. His shot takes a long time to release, as well, and he sometimes struggles with accuracy. Needs to work on his pivots.

Projections:
Beukeboom likely will need a couple of years in junior to develop before the Lightning sign him and bring him into the pro ranks. He has offensive upside, but it remains to be seen if it develops over the next couple of years. Red Line Report projects Beukeboom to be a solid number five defenseman who plays a style like Francois Beauchemin.

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