Articles that are feature stories.

2014-2015 Preliminary Rankings

By Pete Choquette

Last season the Lightning had unprecedented success in establishing a rookie class at the NHL level, the likes of which may never be seen again. While that group continues on up top in Tampa Bay, the rest of the Lightning organization is left with the charge to reload rather than rebuild. With extra picks in the top-60 in the June draft this past summer, and more on the way next summer, the team has the ammunition to accomplish that goal. Plus, the results of this fall's camp showed the team may have had underrated strength in their remaining prospects with unexpected players making the club in the exhibition season. With all these factors put together, Bolt Prospects' staff has completed its fall tradition: the Preliminary Rankings for the 2014-2015 season.

Crunch Counting on Kunyk for Offense

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Realizing it was his last chance, Cody Kunyk made a case for a contract.

Looking to continue his career past the collegiate level, Kunyk registered more than a point per game in his senior season at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Kunyk earned a deal in March, but now the 24-year-old is the oldest rookie on the Syracuse Crunch roster and is out to prove himself again.

"My last year was definitely my best year," Kunyk said. "Being an older guy, I had to play with a chip on my shoulder. I knew that there wasn't going to be a tomorrow. I had to make my own path. I gave it everything I had every game, and I was fortunate enough to sign a contract."

"I think it adds a little more grit to my game," he added. "I feel like I have a little bit more to prove since I'm an older guy."

The BoltProspects Podcast, Volume 4

This week's edition of the BoltProspects Podcast (now on Lightning Radio's iHeart station) includes the following topics:

· No Hedman. Now what?
· Drouin's debut
· What to expect from Witkowski (when he's recalled again)
· DeAngelo in trouble?
· BP Mailbag (Trade or more call-ups? JP Cote, Vladdy's future, projections for Vermin & Peca)
· Weekly prospect review

Click here to listen

Crunch Rookie Koekkoek Eyes NHL

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Slater Koekkoek is confident about his path to the National Hockey League.

Despite a shoulder injury prematurely ending his final junior season, Koekkoek led the Windsor Spitfires' blueline in goals, assists, and points last season. But the Tampa Bay Lightning 2012 first-rounder is focused on rounding out his defensive game as he begins his professional career with the Syracuse Crunch.

"There's always pressure being a first round pick. It's a label and people are going to talk about it," Koekkoek said. "But everybody has their own road to the NHL. There's a lot of guys in the NHL that went after me, and there's some guys still not in the NHL that went before me. There's no timetable. I'll develop as fast as I can, and hopefully get called up whenever they need me."

Prospect of the Week: 10-21-14

We continue our Bolt Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for his recent contributions on and off the ice.

The Bolt Prospect of the Week for October 21, 2014 is … Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL – USA).

#Soon became #Now this week when the long-awaited arrival of Jonathan Drouin finally happened. The Lightning’s top-rated prospect made his NHL debut on Monday night in Edmonton, creating several scoring chances in what was an overall sloppy team loss for the Bolts.

Ikonen Focused on Making More Memories

By Jeremy Houghtaling

It was a feeling Henri Ikonen couldn’t describe.

Representing Finland in the 2014 World Junior Championships and winning his homeland’s first gold medal since 1998 was a memory he will never forget.

To top it off, the Finns beat host (and rival) Sweden in overtime.

“It was an unbelievable experience,” Ikonen said. “The best two weeks of my life.”

With his professional career just getting started, Ikonen is hoping to make many more memories like the one he had in Sweden. But the Syracuse Crunch forward is taking it one step at a time.

“I just go to the rink every morning and do my best there,” Ikonen said.

The BoltProspects Podcast, Volume 3

This week's edition of the BoltProspects Podcast (now on Lightning Radio's iHeart station) includes the following topics:

· Lightning early season review
· Jonathan Drouin, Coming #Soon?
· BP Mailbag (Connolly vs Vladdy, Morrow vs Panik, Zettler's hot seat, Next prospect star?)
· Weekly prospect review

Click here to listen

Prospect of the Week: 10-15-14

We begin another season of our Bolt Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for his recent contributions on and off the ice.

The Bolt Prospect of the Week for October 15, 2014 is … Vladislav Namestnikov, Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL – USA).

When Vladdy Namestnikov was drafted in the first round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, he was a pencil-thin kamikaze forward with the London Knights with a sweet set of hands. It’s said every draft, and every draft it’s ignored – teams don’t draft for now, they draft for five years from now.

Blujus Settling In On Syracuse Blueline

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Two games into his professional career, Dylan Blujus is showing he belongs in the AHL.

The 20-year-old defenseman made his pro debut with the Syracuse Crunch Saturday against Springfield, and over two games last weekend had an even plus-minus rating with six shots.

"It went pretty well, just getting that first pro game under my belt felt nice," Blujus said. "Get the nerves out early, now I can start playing my game and start making plays."

Despite a few expected hiccups, Crunch coach Rob Zettler was impressed with the puck movement by each of his rookie defensemen.

Crunch Moving Forward, Expect to Win in 2014-15

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Nearly six months have passed since the last Syracuse Crunch regular season game.

One season removed from a Calder Cup playoff run that lasted well into June, the offseason began after the final horn at the Onondaga County War Memorial April 19. For Crunch coach Rob Zettler, who coached in the 2013 finals and spent the bulk of the ensuing offseason hiring a new coaching staff, the extended summer gave him time to reflect.

"This year it was too much time," Zettler said. "A lot of time to think about it."

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