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BoltProspects 2008-2009 Preliminary Rankings Report

Today, Bolt Prospects is releasing its Preliminary Prospect Rankings for the 2008-2009 season. Eight prospects make their debut in the Top 25 since the end of the 2007-2008 season. Half of the debutantes enter the list via the 2008 NHL Entry Draft including the #1 overall pick. The other half enter the list via various trades and acquisitions made by the new Lightning ownership.

Just a reminder of the rules: a prospect is any player under the age of 24 on opening night of the Lightning’s NHL season that has not played 41 or more games in an NHL season or more than 82 games in their NHL career. For goaltenders, the games thresholds are slightly different. Netminders will be considered prospects if they have not achieved 30 or more decisions in an NHL season or 41 decisions in their NHL careers. In addition, all college players will be considered prospects, regardless of their age, until they graduate. Players over the age of 24 on opening night that have not graduated are considered overage prospects.

With all the legal disclaimers out of the way, lets begin:

1. C Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay (NHL)

Despite a slow start to his rookie campaign, Stamkos remains the clear consensus choice as the Lightning's top prospect. It's only a matter of time before Stamkos, with his world class speed and shot, becomes one of the game's elite forwards. We just hope the Lightning can finally figure out the right linemates and role to put Stamkos in a position to succeed.

Downie Makes His Debut

By Corine Gatti
Either they loved him or they hated winger/bruiser Steve Downie in Philadelphia. According to several postings and reactions of both Flyer fans and the American Hockey League Phantoms’ bloggers – most fans adored the 5-foot, 10-inch Newmarket, Ontario native. Some posted that they feared him on the opposing side after he was traded from Philadelphia to the Tampa Bay Lightning on November 7. At only 21-years of age, Downie has already amassed quite a reputation for seeing the penalty box and taking lengthy suspensions. The National Hockey League benched him for 20-games for his hit on Ottawa’s Dean McAmmond during a preseason game with the Flyers last September. Downie's past has not eluded him. The American Hockey League suspended the winger for three games Wednesday after smashing Worchester’s defenseman Kyle McLaren from behind during the second period. Downie has only played six games with Norfolk.

The Downie package does have an upside. The right wing can play both sides of the rink. He is a strong skater and has the agility to put offensive numbers on the board, despite his frame. After the trade from the Philadelphia organization, Downie joined the Norfolk Admirals on their two-week road trip. He was paired with Zenon Konopka and notched three points during his first week.

Finding the answer

By Corine Gatti
NORFOLK, Va. – It is part of the life of an athlete. Being traded and packing up the suitcase to start over in an unfamiliar city is nothing new. Norfolk center Paul Szczechura experienced that last winter after being informed that the Iowa Stars traded him to the Norfolk Admirals. Shocked and disappointed, Szczechura turned his thinking around and his game around. “It was a little rough in the beginning when I found out and left Iowa [Stars],” Szczechura said. “It was around Christmas time and I knew I had to work harder.” Iowa had initially signed Szczechura to an Amateur Tryout Contract in March 2007 after finishing his collegiate career at Western Michigan University [CCHA]. He was signed to an American Hockey League Standard Player’s contract the following season. With that all behind him, Szczechura joined Norfolk undrafted and without an NHL contract.

But that didn’t last.

Szczechura’s destiny and career took a turn for the better. The Brantford, Ontario native tuned into his own offensive rhythm and adapted instantly to an Admirals jersey. The Southeast seemed to smile down on the rookie, notching seven goals in his first 10 games with Norfolk. The center tied the Admirals for third on the team with 14 goals, and finished the 2007-2008 campaign by scintillating fans with 26 points in 24 games.A two-year NHL contract with the Lightning soon followed in April. What deemed to be a setback, the trade paid dividends for both Tampa and Szczechura.

Change was good.

Barberio Breaking Out

Lightning 2008 sixth round pick Mark Barberio was featured today in the Moncton paper:

When the Moncton Wildcats acquired Mark Barberio in a trade midway through 2006-07, he was known as a defensive defenceman. But it seems his identity has changed since then.

He began to take on a new look last season when he was the surprise runnerup in team scoring with 46 points, including 11 goals, in 70 games. That made him the ninth-highest scoring defenceman in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Barring injury, he will likely surpass those statistics this season and move into the top five in Wildcats career scoring for a defenceman. He has 11 points, including four goals, in 11 games.

"I don't want to be branded as somebody who's only a defensive defenceman or only an offensive defenceman,'' said Barberio. "I like to consider myself an all-around defenceman.

For the rest of this feature, please see the Moncton Times-Transcript by clicking here.

Tyrell Back in PG and Ready to Lead

(PG Citizen) Dana Tyrell believes he belongs at a higher level, but that's not going to keep him from doing the best he can at this one.

Tyrell, the captain of the Prince George Cougars, will see his first home action of the WHL season when the Chilliwack Bruins arrive for a doubleheader -- games Friday and Saturday at CN Centre. Tyrell, now a 19-year-old and the longest-tenured player on the team, was on the ice last weekend as the Cats lost in Vancouver but rebounded with an overtime victory in Chilliwack.

"I definitely feel I can play there, and I could've played there this year," said Tyrell, who had a lengthy stay at the main camp of the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning.

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