Features

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Crunch Begin New Season with Excitement, Expectations

By Jeremy Houghtaling

For many of the Syracuse Crunch players, the beginning of the new hockey season comes with high expectations.

A previous season that included a record-breaking 28-game win streak and was capped with a sweep of the Toronto Marlies in the Calder Cup finals will tend to do that. But the 15 former Norfolk Admirals moving to Syracuse with the Tampa Bay Lightning affiliation welcome the pressure.

Lightning North American Juniors Preview

North American Juniors Preview

For the second year in a row, the Lightning won’t have any drafted prospects in the Western Hockey League. This is odd, considering the physical WHL is regarded as one of, if not the best junior league for developing NHL talent. While Guy Boucher may favor the QMJHL and Steve Yzerman the OHL, the Lightning’s Head Scout, Al Murray, is based in Saskatchewan – WHL territory. Also, for the first time in a while, the club doesn't have a prospect in the United States Hockey League.

The Bolts have seven prospects in Canadian juniors this season:

Lightning Minor Pro Preview: Centers

The Syracuse Crunch will open training camp on September 28 with more talent than they originally expected. The NHL lockout forced the postponement of the Lightning’s training camp and subsequently meant all prospects and young NHLers expected to start the year in Tampa will now start the year in the AHL.

Lost in this situation is the opportunity to have out-of-nowhere stories like Cory Conacher or Brett Connolly last year or perhaps most famously, Dmitri Afanasenkov in 2003.

While that’s bad news for the Tampa Bay media and fans, it’s good news for the Syracuse fan base, who at this point is like a kid with a birthday the day after Christmas. Not only does a championship team show up at their arena’s front door, now they get a significant upgrade in talent to a team that was already expected to compete for a championship.

This is also good news for the Florida Everblades – another team coming off a championship – as they’ll get the players pushed down from Syracuse.

The question is who?

Here’s a look at the latest minor pro organizational roster of the Tampa Bay Lightning and some notes and predictions for each player, broken down by position.

Today: Centers

Lightning Minor Pro Preview: Defensemen

The Syracuse Crunch will open training camp on September 28 with more talent than they originally expected. The NHL lockout forced the postponement of the Lightning’s training camp and subsequently meant all prospects and young NHLers expected to start the year in Tampa will now start the year in the AHL.

Lost in this situation is the opportunity to have out-of-nowhere stories like Cory Conacher or Brett Connolly last year or perhaps most famously, Dmitri Afanasenkov in 2003.

While that’s bad news for the Tampa Bay media and fans, it’s good news for the Syracuse fan base, who at this point is like a kid with a birthday the day after Christmas. Not only does a championship team show up at their arena’s front door, now they get a significant upgrade in talent to a team that was already expected to compete for a championship.

This is also good news for the Florida Everblades – another team coming off a championship – as they’ll get the players pushed down from Syracuse.

The question is who?

Here’s a look at the latest minor pro organizational roster of the Tampa Bay Lightning and some notes and predictions for each player, broken down by position.

Today: Defensemen

Lightning Minor Pro Preview: Goaltenders

The Syracuse Crunch will open training camp on September 28 with more talent than they originally expected. The NHL lockout forced the postponement of the Lightning’s training camp and subsequently meant all prospects and young NHLers expected to start the year in Tampa will now start the year in the AHL.

Lost in this situation is the opportunity to have out-of-nowhere stories like Cory Conacher or Brett Connolly last year or perhaps most famously, Dmitri Afanasenkov in 2003.

While that’s bad news for the Tampa Bay media and fans, it’s good news for the Syracuse fanbase, who at this point is like a kid with a birthday the day after Christmas. Not only does a championship team show up at their arena’s front door, now they get a significant upgrade in talent to that team - a team that was already expected to compete for a championship.

This is also good news for the Florida Everblades – another team coming off a championship – as they’ll get the players pushed down from Syracuse.

The question is who?

Here’s a look at the latest minor pro organizational roster of the Tampa Bay Lightning and some notes and predictions for each player, broken down by position.

Complete 2011-2012 Lightning Player Usage Charts

For many, including myself, the 2011-2012 Player Usage Charts [PDF] released by Robert Vollman (and friends) have proven invaluable, as the foreword suggests, for putting "last year’s player production into context". Based on zone start and quality of competition data, these charts help us to see how a team's players were utilized by their coach in relation to each other.

The following graphic helps interpret the significance of a player's bubble (the size of which reflects his Relative Corsi, blue being a positive value and white a negative value) on a team's chart:

Again, Clare Austin of Raw Charge has already done an excellent job assessing the Lightning's player usage last season under coach Guy Boucher based on the Hockey Abstract charts. However, these excluded all players with less than 10 games played which meant that Mike Angelidis (6 games), J.T. Brown (5 games) and Evan Oberg (3 games) were not shown on the Lightning's chart.

Regardless of the extremely small sample sizes, it seemed worthwhile to generate usage charts that included them, even if only for the sake of a little extra discussion:

2011-12 Supplemental Rankings

Now that the 2012 NHL Entry Draft is complete along with the Lightning's Prospect Developmental Camp, Bolt Prospects is proud to release our 2011-2012 Supplemental Rankings, our final rankings of the season. We'll begin again in the Fall shortly after training camp with the 2012-2013 Preliminary Rankings. With the Lightning adding several good prospects through the draft and a banner season on the ice for the prospects the team already had, we have expanded our list from the traditional 20 to 25 which reflects the unprecedented depth the organization has developed this year.

A quick review of the rules, as always: skaters who play 41 or more NHL games in a single season or 82 or more career NHL games are considered graduated, and are no longer eligible for the rankings. As a consequence, Brett Connolly is no longer eligible for inclusion in the rankings. Goaltenders who earn 30 or more NHL decisions in a single season or 41 or more career NHL decisions are considered graduated, and are no longer eligible for the rankings. Players 24 years of age or over on opening night of the Lightning's season are considered overage prospects and are not eligible for inclusion in the rankings. NCAA players are exempt from the 24-year-old rule and are eligible for the rankings for the duration of their college careers.

With the disclaimers aside, here are our 2011-2012 Supplemental Rankings:

The Future is Already Here: Advanced Stats and BoltProspects

The revolution in hockey analysis, late-developing and centered around the increased reliance on statistical information, has been underway for some time now. A small and marginalized movement in the past for various reasons, advanced analysis has gained such widespread traction that its relevance and influence is no longer deniable. That isn't to say that advanced stats are close to or ever will be the panacea for evaluating hockey players and teams. As Robert Vollman, one of the leading hockey statisticians out there, explained in the foreword to his recently-released 2011-2012 Player Usage Charts:

"...objective hockey analysis acts a useful supplement to everybody’s own experience-based understanding of the game..."

Part of a larger sports trend, this shift, predictably, has faced some well-reasoned skepticism (for example, Daniel Wagner's Kierkegaard, Choice and the Limitations of Advanced Statistics) and, from traditionalists, prolonged resistance and outright disavowals (here's looking at you, Brian Burke and Mike Milbrury). At present, there's a very charged discourse surrounding the merits of advanced statistics but, no matter one's take, clearly a new era in professional hockey has dawned when the powers that be are attending conferences on sports analysis, teams (including the Lightning) are adding analysts to their operational staff and mainstream sources are catching on. For these reasons alone, it's worth keeping up with the times.

Observations from Day 5 of Tampa Bay’s prospect development camp

The final day of camp was comprised entirely of half-ice, 3-on-3 tournament action between six groups:

Team Brewer - Devos, Milan, Mullin, Witkowski

Team Hedman - Koekkoek, Namestnikov, Nesterov, Paquette

Team Lecavalier - Bradley, Brown, Gotovets, Landry

Team Malone - Clarke, Gauthier, McNally, Peca

Team St. Louis - Blujus, Czarnik, Dotchin, Richard

Team Stamkos - Hart, Langelier-Parent, Sergeev, Sustr

Following are the takeaways from watching as much as Day 5's scrimmages as I could individually focus on:

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:

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