Tampa Bay Lightning: Update on the Bolts' Top 10 Prospects

Eric SteitzAnalyst IIIDecember 8, 2012

Tampa Bay Lightning: Update on the Bolts' Top 10 Prospects

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    The extended NHL lockout can’t touch the growth of some of the young players developing in the prospect system. The Tampa Bay Lightning’s American Hockey League affiliate won last season’s Calder Cup and currently sits atop the Eastern Conference standings after 21 games, which can only mean one thing—prospects. 

    The young prospects may be the only group embracing the NHL lockout. These players are still on the ice playing on a daily basis and improving by doing so. They won’t lose a season and may even gain a competitive edge when they do finally get called up to the big club. 

    With just over a quarter of the AHL season gone and the European Leagues in full swing, here is an update of the top 10 Lightning prospects from across the globe.

    Rankings provided by boltsprospects.com and hockeysfuture.com.

10. Richard Panik (AHL)

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    Richard Panik is a Slovakian right wing for the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL. He was drafted in the second round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. 

    Panik spent time in the Ontario Hockey League over the last few seasons before being moved to the AHL in 2011 with the Norfolk Admirals. 

    He is an offensive-minded forward with size and skill, which he has demonstrated in the early part of the season. 

     

    Current stats: 

    21 Games Played

    11 Goals

    9 Assists

    28 Penalty Minutes

     

    He is tied for 15th in the AHL in scoring (and tied for second on the team).

9. Tyler Johnson (AHL)

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    Tyler Johnson attended the Minnesota Wild camp two years ago, but the Wild didn’t sign him to a contract. Tampa Bay jumped at the opportunity and signed him to an entry-level deal in 2011. 

    Hockeysfuture.com lists him as the Bolts’ second-best center, but doesn’t give him much of a shot at NHL success (D-rating). Johnson must have taken notice.

    Earning the Western Hockey League’s Most Sportsmanlike Player award in 2011, Johnson didn’t play nice against his opponents in the AHL. Last season, he put up 68 points in 75 regular season games and netted 14 in the Admirals’ Calder Cup run. 

    He is off to an impressive clip this season. 

     

    Current stats: 

    21 Games Played

    15 Goals

    10 Assists

    16 Penalty Minutes

     

    He is third in the AHL in scoring (and the team's leader).

8. Dustin Tokarski (AHL)

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    No one was more important to the Calder Cup run than goaltender Dustin Tokarski. Tokarski went 12-2 with a 1.46 goals-against average and solidified his name as one of the Bolts’ top goaltending prospects at the time. 

    Tokarski’s start to the 2012 campaign with Syracuse has been average. He is the team’s top goaltender, and one of the league’s best, but he hasn’t continued the momentum from his last postseason. 

    The Canadian goaltender was drafted in 2008 and is in the final season of his entry-level deal after two years of entry-level slide in 2008 and 2009. 

     

    Current stats: 

    13 Games Played

    8-4-1 Record

    2.31 Goals-Against Average

    .908 Save Percentage

     

    He is eighth in the AHL in GAA.

7. Mark Barberio (AHL)

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    Mark Barberio is in the same contract situation as Dustin Tokarski. He was 2008 draft pick who is in his final season of his three-year, entry-level deal. 

    Barberio is the second-rated defenseman for the Lightning, according to hockeysfuture.com. He projects well with his frame (6’2”, 202 pounds) and two-way play. 

    The defenseman should be an asset to the Lightning’s style of play in the next few seasons. Until then, he will enjoy his success at the AHL level. 

     

    Current stats: 

    21 Games Played

    4 Goals

    12 Assists

    Plus-One Rating

    16 Penalty Minutes

6. Vladislav Namestnikov (AHL)

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    Bolts prospects seem to land on great teams no matter what league they are in. Vladislav Namestnikov was a part of the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League last season. 

    The Knights won the OHL Cup. This year, he joins the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL. 

    Namestnikov suffered a shoulder injury in late October, which sidelined him for nearly six weeks. He is Tampa’s top-rated center in the minors. His health will be closely watched. 

     

    Current stats: 

    5 Games Played

    0 Goals

    2 Assists

    4 Penalty Minutes

5. Alex Killorn (AHL)

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    In keeping with tradition, Alex Killorn mans the left side of the Syracuse Crunch’s attack. He is the third-rated left wing in the Bolts system and is earning his time at the AHL level. 

    Last season, Killorn joined the Admirals for just 10 regular-season games and 17 playoff contests. He recorded 18 points in those games.

    This season, Killorn has played in 21 Crunch games. He isn’t off to the hot start that some of his teammates have had, but that can be attributed to the rawness of his game. 

    Upside is huge for this Bolts prospect. 

     

    Current stats: 

    21 Games Played

    4 Goals

    10 Assists

    16 Penalty Minutes

4. Cory Conacher (AHL)

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    From Tampa’s third-best left wing to the top-rated, Cory Conacher is one of the team’s highest scorers. 

    Named to the 2012 AHL All-Star game, Conacher had an impressive year with Norfolk last season. The Canadian netted 80 points in the regular season, including 31 goals. He continued that production in the postseason with 15 points in 18 games. 

    Conacher is third on the team in scoring this season and is under contract until 2014. 

     

    Current stats: 

    21 Games Played

    9 Goals

    11 Assists

    26 Penalty Minutes

     

    Tied for second on team in points

3. J.T. Brown (AHL)

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    The trend doesn’t stop with this Bolts prospect. J.T. Brown is the fourth-rated right wing in the Tampa Bay system—but he is a member of the Syracuse Crunch. 

    Undrafted, Brown signed with the Lightning last season and has seen significant time with the Crunch. Brown is built a bit like current superstar Martin St. Louis and has good upside. 

    He is a good skater who is learning on both ends of the ice. 

     

    Current stats: 

    17 Games Played

    4 Goals

    8 Assists

    4 Penalty Minutes

2. Slater Koekkoek (OHL)

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    Slater Koekkoek finally breaks the trend of the top Bolts prospects in the AHL. Koekkoek is a part of the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League—not the Syracuse Crunch. 

    He is the top-rated defenseman in the Lightning system and could be ready for the NHL soon. His 2012 campaign was cut short due to shoulder surgery, but that didn’t stop the Lightning from drafting him in the first round of last season’s entry draft. 

    Koekkoek is a puck-moving, offensive-minded defenseman that can be a valuable asset to the Lightning on special teams.

     

    Current stats: 

    31 Games Played

    4 Goals

    18 Points

    Minus-22 rating

1. Andrei Vasilevski (MHL/KHL)

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    Andrei Vasilevski is the Lightning’s top prospect—and he also doesn’t play for the Syracuse Crunch. Vasilevski is currently playing for Tolpar in Russia’s Minor Hockey League. 

    The Russian goaltender was the top-rated European goaltender after the 2012 NHL combine last season, according to hockeysfuture.com. He has found an NHL home in Tampa. 

    At 6’3” and 190 pounds, he has a solid frame for a goaltender. The 18-year-old will have to emerge from a now-deep group of goaltenders fighting for the top spot in Tampa. 

     

    Current Stats: 

    27 Games Played

    17-6 Record (3 shutouts)

    1.93 Goals-Against Average

    .930 Save Percentage

     

    He leads the MHL in GAA.