Written by Pete Choquette (@jollymeangiant)
The dog days of summer find us in a rare lull on the calendar here on Bolt Prospects between the ending of Lightning rookie camp and the start of annual prospect tournaments and training camp. What better opportunity to take the time to examine how the Lightning's 2014 draft class figures into our rankings? With that in mind, here's our 2013-2014 Supplemental Prospect Rankings, the final round of rankings before the 2014-2015 season.
The 2014 NHL Entry Draft offered a tremendous opportunity for the Tampa Bay Lightning to replenish a prospect system that has been depleted by the mass graduation of well over a half a dozen prospects that moved up from the AHL to NHL level last season. Some of the finest prospects in the land still held down the top spots in the rankings, but there was a considerable vacuum behind the top half dozen or so spots. With three picks in the coveted top-60 of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, the team held three golden tickets to begin to restock and reload. The Lightning used those picks to select three defensemen, addressing the most obvious deficiency in their prospect pipeline. Will the needs-based approach to drafting pay off, or will the shift in philosophy this year backfire on the club? Time will tell.
Before we start with the rankings, it's time to once again review the rules of the rankings. Players under 24 years of age on opening night of the 2013-2014 NHL season were eligible for the rankings. Older prospects are considered overage prospects for the purposes of the website (sorry, J.P. Cote). Any skater prospect with 41 or more NHL games in a single season or 82 or more career NHL games is considered graduated on the website. Any goaltender with 30 or more decisions in a single NHL season or 41 career NHL decisions is also considered graduated. Lastly, NCAA prospects are exempt from the 24 year-old cutoff for the duration of their college careers.
Got it? There will be a quiz later. With that out of the way, let's begin...
Tampa Bay Lightning 50-man Organizational Roster for 2014-2015 (contract status via @capgeek):
Prior to the draft I took a stab at what the Lightning roster would have to look like to be a conference contender. In the write up, the generic “acquisition” player was slotted in both the second and third pairs of the defensive six, and Paquette and Callahan were in the top-11 forwards (Jon Cooper frequently dresses 11/7 rather than the traditional 12/6), adding grit, character, and physicality. The latter two were part of Cooper’s wish to balance out the size of the forward group while becoming a harder team to play against. I had a third acquisition on defense in the 7/8 spot, as well as the obvious No. 2 goalie slot.
Now a week after the free agent frenzy, Yzerman has done – in my opinion – exactly what was needed to become a conference contender. While he added two defensemen and not three, he added two to the top-4 instead of one to the top-4 and two to the bottom-3 on the blueline. Big ups to Stevie-Y for that. I also had Sustr slotting down to Syracuse – barely – in order for him to get more developmental minutes. That’s exactly what’s happened, too. Purcell also moved as expected, though that one was fairly obvious due to contract status and player type.
Before I bruise myself with pats on the back, I had Brett Connolly going to Syracuse due to the glut of forwards blocking him. This was a stroke of derpius since Connolly is waiver eligible and therefore a demotion to the AHL has a near zero chance of happening. Nice going, genius.
At any rate, here’s how I see the roster playing out come October. Lines are speculative, of course, as they’ll change five minutes into the first game. This is more of a who-ends-up-where list:
I finally had the chance to make it out to the Ice Sports Forum to catch up with some of the attendees and observe a good chunk of the 3v3 action. Following are some brief impressions and takeaways from my time at the rink:
Name: Anthony DeAngelo
Weight: 175 lbs
Club: Sarnia (OHL)
Wow, here's a definitive swing for the fences.
With DeAngelo, the talent is unquestionable. The Philadelphia native ripped up the OHL with 15 goals and 71 points in 51 games this season. Nobody questions that, on talent alone, DeAngelo was one of the 10-15 best players in this year's class. His skating and puckhandling skills allow him to dismantle opposing defenses and gain the offensive zone with ease when he chooses to carry it. He's also got excellent vision and passing ability, and runs a power play with ruthless efficiency and a heavy righty shot. Indeed, Red Line Report ranked DeAngelo the 7th best pure skater and 13th best pure goal scorer in this draft, the latter of which is surely worth a double take given that DeAngelo is a defenseman.
The negatives, athletically, center on DeAngelo's stature, which leads to his being overwhelmed down low in the defensive zone, and his tendency to surrender neutral zone turnovers at bad times while pushing the pace. As a consequence, he posted a cringe-worthy -34 rating this season with the Sting. And yet, as cringe-worthy as that is, it pales in comparison to the red flags that surround DeAngelo off the ice. DeAngelo hasn't exactly mastered the team concept, as evidenced by his verbal abuse of a teammate with slurs that led to a suspension by the OHL. This is a young man who has been branded by many as a me-first player who the Lightning are gambling they can reorient into a productive member of the organization. If they can, Red Line Report projects him as a tremendously skilled offensive d-man and power play quarterback with comparisons to a lite version of Paul Coffey. If they can't get DeAngelo to coexist within the team concept, he'll be a bust, and one you have to worry will drag down teammates with him. Hey coaches: this is why they pay you the big bucks.
Highly skilled offensive defenseman and power-play QB
Same kind of game as Paul Coffey but, you know, not Paul Coffey
Pete Choquette contributed to this article