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Prospect Camp Observations - Day 3

By Mike Gallimore

The third day of camp opened Thursday with goalies-only instruction followed by a mixture of power skating sessions, passing and shooting drills, which I saw the bulk of but could not stay to see in their entirety.

Following are just a few takeaways from watching Day 3's on-ice action:

Prospect Camp Observations - Days 1 & 2

By Mike Gallimore

Day 1

With a national holiday Wednesday, promising a lighter workload and an afternoon excursion to see the Rays looming, the Lightning's prospects and invitees took to the ice for several sessions Tuesday morning and afternoon. As GM Steve Yzerman took the time to stress, this camp is strictly a tool for presenting the culture of professional hockey, getting a feel for each player's conditioning, abilities and, in the case of returning participants, progression and provide some structured learning opportunities.

Lightning Free Agency and Trade Season Preview

The NHL free agency period starts July 1 and while the Lightning were active in past years, the shallow pool of players available this year may mean they spend more time observing than participating.

It’s no secret the Lightning need a defenseman and Assistant General Manager Julien Brisebois recently told the Syracuse Post-Standard the team plans to add two blueliners before the fall. A look at the numbers says that’s true.

Lightning Head Coach Guy Boucher frequently dresses seven defensemen and the team could easily carry eight on the roster throughout the year.

Expected to start the season on the Tampa Bay defense are Victor Hedman, Eric Brewer, Brian Lee, Brendan Mikkelson, Marc-Andre Bergeron, and Keith Aulie. The first hole is in the top-4, where someone like free agent Ryan Suter of Nashville would fit perfectly. Of course, he’d fit “perfectly” on to 29 other NHL rosters, too.

The Lightning were bombarded with injuries on the backline last year, led by veteran Mattias Ohlund missing the entire year with knee problems. While Ohlund is trying to make a comeback, that may not happen until next year – if at all. The bottom line is Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman likely isn’t counting on any contribution from the veteran Swede.

Speaking of Yzerman, he recently told the Tampa Bay Times that if he can’t get defensive additions through free agency or trade, he could look to the AHL for help. The options there include frequent flier Evan Oberg, reigning AHL Defenseman of the Year Mark Barberio, or hard-hitting Radko Gudas, who was arguably Norfolk’s best defenseman in their Calder Cup run last season. Gudas is also a right-handed shot, which is craved by Tampa Bay.

Lightning's List of 15

Lightning Director of Amateur Scouting Al Murray said repeatedly this week that the club has about 15 players it views as a tier above the rest of the 2012 draft class. He’s gone as far as saying they are comfortable with their top-15, there are no ties in the rankings, and his staff is confident they will get a great player with pick 10 and one of their top-15 will be available with their second first rounder, No.19.

With as unpredictable and dividing as this draft is, Murray and the Lightning appear set to let their list do the deciding for them.

It’s Murray’s job to take the philosophy and wishes of the NHL general manager, in this case Steve Yzerman, and formulate his list. A few weeks ago, Murray said Yzerman requested the list be made of players who will make an impact at the NHL level someday with an emphasis on skill, hockey sense, and compete level.

Yzerman has to assume his coach, Guy Boucher, will be his coach in a few years when these teenagers are ready for the NHL, which means they have to be fast enough to fit into Boucher’s up-tempo style. He’s also not scared to take an injured player if it means he’s going to end up with an NHLer in a few years. We’re not convinced Yzerman likes to swing for the fences, as former GM Jay Feaster used to say, by taking a player who while having a high ceiling, doesn’t also have an NHL floor.

Unfortunately, Bolt Prospects has been unable to scrape together the funds to a reputable hacker (oxymoron?) or Jason Bourne (Matt Damon, not Jeremy Renner) to obtain “the list,” so we’re going to have to guess.

Based on Yzerman’s criteria, we feel the Lightning may be targeting the following 15 prospects as their “best available for the Lightning.” It does not mean best overall for everyone.

Bolt Prospects 2011-2012 Final Rankings

Best. Prospect. Season. Ever.

After each of the previous six seasons in which we've posted Final Rankings for the Tampa Bay Lightning's prospects, we've had the opportunity to look back on the year and celebrate the progress the organization has made in cultivating and developing its youth. Steady improvement has been made year-to-year as we've tracked the achievements of the team's young players around the world.

This year, the team reached heights we never imagined 6-1/2 years ago, with 9 of our top 10 prospects winning championships in their respective leagues this season. The Lightning's depth has our rankings bursting at the seams, with a few prospects that could make it to Tampa Bay next season surprisingly finding themselves on the outside of the top 10. Bottom line: we have no idea how the Lightning's developmental organization is ever going to top what they did this season.

Then again, with a large bag full of top-60 picks in this year's NHL Entry Draft, perhaps the seeds of the Lightning's next great prospect season are less than two weeks away from being planted.

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