Each preseason, hockey fans are gripped by a story of an underdog roster candidate forcing his way onto an NHL club. Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Brett Connolly and college free agent Cory Conacher have dominated headlines early this fall at the Lightning's training camp in that respect. While Conacher was eventually moved to the AHL, Connolly's chances to stick with the Lightning continue to increase.
He's this year's preseason story.
Neil Hodge, Moncton Times & Transcript
It's really a remarkable story when you look at the big picture.
Daniel Milan cracked the Moncton Wildcats' roster on a free agent tryout and was named to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League All-Rookie Team last season. That earned him a free agent invitation to a National Hockey League training camp this season.
The 19-year-old defenceman impressed the Tampa Bay Lightning so much that last week they signed him to a three-year contract. He's back in Moncton now, but if he continues to develop as expected look for him to begin his professional career next season.
(Week ending September 25)
This season Bolt Prospects will be introducing our Prospect of the Week award. The award is (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their on-ice contributions. There are no trophies or plaques or women jumping out of a cake involved (unfortunately), but weâ€™re fairly certain this will carry heavy weight among players in the global hockey community and with agents negotiating contracts (were this Twitter, weâ€™d use #sarcasm here).
Quite simply, we wanted to highlight prospects throughout the year to help fans get better acquainted with the next round of Lightning stars while recognizing the prospectâ€™s achievement on the ice.
The Tampa Bay Lightning cut 27 players from its training camp roster Sunday, including 12 of the clubâ€™s prospects. Only prospects Mattias Ritola, Brett Connolly, and Scott Jackson remained with the club after the weekend.
â€œIâ€™ve got to pay my dues to get up here and be a producing player,â€ Ritola said before cut-down day. â€œI've got to do the work first. I feel really excited to be here right now.â€
Ritola spent time in Grand Rapids of the AHL two years ago and passed through waivers to get to AHL Norfolk last season. Heâ€™s still paying his dues and putting in the work to get to and stay in the NHL.
Other prospects are beginning that process, which starts with training camp.
The Lightning make its NHL training camp as beneficial as possible for prospects and does its best to keep in contact with them after cut-down day.
Dustin Tokarski spent the first weekend of the Tampa Bay Lightning's 2011 training camp in a nice new Lightning cap and standard-issue Lightning shorts and t-shirt, standing at the glass watching his teammates make their impressions on Lightning management. An abdominal injury kept Tokarski out of the Coral Springs rookie tournament, and now the highly competitive start of training camp.
Things started looking up for the former Memorial Cup MVP Wednesday as the Tampa Tribune reported the two MRIs done on Tokarski revealed no damage. He was back on the ice Wednesday morning.
And just in time.
Last week we looked at which defensemen and goaltenders could see time with the Lightning this year. Today, we take a look at the forwards.
Unlike the defensemen and goalies, figuring out which forward prospects could make the team out of camp and which ones could earn a call-up is far from simple. Therefore, weâ€™ll break down the candidates individually.
These 10 forwards, combined with the eight defensemen Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman expects to keep, as well as two goaltenders, leaves three roster spots open. Head Coach Guy Boucher will likely switch between dressing six and seven defensemen, meaning of the three forward spots open only one is guaranteed to play. It is also possible the team could carry only 12 forwards as they did last season in spurts.
While Yzerman, Boucher, and management say roster spots will be earned in a meritocracy system - and that is what the players need to hear - in todayâ€™s NHL, contract status (not necessarily salary in this case) plays a huge part in roster management. Also high on the list is the opportunity for development-rich playing time.
The Lightning currently have 44 players under contract on their 50-man organizational roster, including Brett Connolly, who only counts if he plays more than nine games at the NHL level.
Hereâ€™s a look at the candidates to fill the three open forward positions with the 2011-2012 Tampa Bay Lightning.
Now that the 2011 NHL Entry Draft is over, Bolt Prospects is issuing its 2011 Supplemental Rankings. The rankings add the 2011 draft picks, subtract prospects who did not receive qualifying offers from the club, and reflect some slight adjustments in the rankings based on changes in the depth chart. The remainder of this story includes the placement of the 2011 draft picks. For a full look at our Top-25 Rankings, please take a look at our Prospects page.
The fact that Luke Witkowski finds time during hockey season for some regular ice fishing says something about his passion for the outdoors.
But Matt Tennyson says the more telling sign is the live bass his Western Michigan University hockey teammate keeps in his room.
â€œHe has a fish tank in his room with a bass in it,â€ said Tennyson, who paused and shook his head with a smile. â€œI guess thatâ€™s pretty hardcore. I donâ€™t know of anyone else who has that. Heâ€™s pretty outdoorsy.â€
As we start the stretch run of the 2010-2011 hockey season, BoltProspects is proud to announce its midterm rankings for the prospects of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization.
As is tradition, we will begin by reciting the rules of the rankings. Any skater prospect who was under 24 years of age on opening night of the Lightning's season and has played less than 41 NHL games in any single season and less than 82 career NHL games is eligible for the rankings. This excludes, for instance, winger Johan Harju, who turned 24 last May and is now considered an overage prospect, and Dana Tyrell, who has already played 52 games this season and is considered to be graduated from prospect status. For goaltenders, any netminder who has earned less than 30 NHL decisions in any single season and less than 41 career NHL decisions and was under 24 years of age on opening night is eligible for the rankings. That excludes Cedrick Desjardins, for instance, who turned 25 in September. The exception to these basic rules are NCAA based players, who are considered eligible prospects for the duration of their college careers regardless of age.
With the typical legal disclaimers out of the way, here are our 2010-2011 Midterm Rankings:
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 2 @ Niagara IceDogs 6
D Brock Beukeboom, SSM: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM
Season Totals: 43 GP, 1-7-8, -11, 54 PIM
Niagara scored the gameâ€™s final four goals after the Soo had taken a 3-2 lead 18 seconds into the third period. Brett Beukeboom was scoreless for the Greyhounds.
Owen Sound Attack 5 @ Peterborough Petes 1
D Geoffrey Schemitsch, OS: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM
Season totals: 42 GP, 1-16-17, +15, 12 PIM
G Michael Zador, OS: Win, 24 saves on 25 shots
With Attack: 9 GP, 6-1-0-0, 3.11 GAA, .897 sv%, 0 SO
With Oshawa: 18 GP, 10-3-1-1, 3.36 GAA, .879 sv%, 1 SO
Season Totals: 27 GP, 16-4-1-1, 3.28 GAA, .885 sv%, 1 SO
Zador (pictured) extended his personal winning streak to four games. He has just one loss in his last 14 appearances, and saw his save percentage with the Attack inch closer to the .900 mark. Schemitsch, who had 40 points as a rookie last year, has just four points - all assists - in his last 15 games.