Stock Watch for Tampa Bay Lightning's Top Prospects

Eric Steitz@esteitz16Analyst IIIJanuary 16, 2014

Stock Watch for Tampa Bay Lightning's Top Prospects

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    The Tampa Bay Lightning have played nine rookies this year, which should leave very few talented prospects left in the system. Fortunately for the Bolts, that isn't the case, as they have another wave of talented players who have seen their stock rise in the last few weeks.

    With the World Junior Championships completed and the Olympics coming up, Tampa Bay prospects have been at the center of the hockey world's attention for the last few weeks. With only a few weeks left until the Olympics, Lightning fans should enjoy high-quality hockey even without the NHL on the ice.

    The young talent for the Bolts has catapulted them to the top of the Atlantic Division. Keep an eye on this next wave of young talent to climb the ranks to the NHL.

Jonathan Drouin

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    Stock Watch: Up

    There is no doubt in any Lightning fan's mind that Jonathan Drouin will be NHL ready next season. He has 52 points in 24 games for Halifax in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He plays in all situations and dominates in just about all situations as well.

    He has nine points for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships—second only to Anthony Mantha. Drouin was impressive in all zones during the tournament against the rest of the world's best young talent.

    Drouin's stock continues to climb as he gets closer to his NHL debut. 

Vladislav Namestnikov

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    Stock Watch: Up

    The Tampa Bay Lightning need another high-scoring forward, don't they? Vladislav Namestnikov is having an impressive season with Syracuse in the AHL. He adds to an already jam-packed group of centers for the Bolts.

    In his first year at Syracuse, Namestnikov had 22 points in 44 games with the Crunch. This year, he has already bested his point total (25) in just 22 games. He has improved his defensive positioning as well, dropping his penalty minutes in the process to just two PIMs this season.

    Namestnikov joins a group that includes Steven Stamkos, Valtteri Filppula and Tyler Johnson, among others.

Slater Koekkoek

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    Stock Watch: Even

    Slater Koekkoek is a solid offensive defenseman who has tremendous upside. His biggest issue doesn't have much to do with production, ability or skill. That issue is his health.

    Koekkoek fell on some tough times before his draft year, but was still able to impress the Lightning scouts. He continues to do so with the Windsor Spitfires in the Ontario Hockey League. He is a plus-36 with 35 points in 42 games. Again, he is a defenseman.

    Numbers like that will have him back at training camp for the Bolts next season.

Andrey Vasilevskiy

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    Stock Watch: Up

    Andrey Vasilevskiy was a huge part of Team Russia's bronze medal-winning campaign at this year's World Juniors. He held the high-scoring Canadians to one goal in that medal game.

    He went 4-2 with a 1.83 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage in the tournament. Those are the kind of big-game numbers the Bolts can use as they hope to maintain a perennial playoff squad.

    The 6'3" goaltender is done with his Kontinental Hockey League contract and should be heading to North America next season.

Kristers Gudlevskis

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    Stock Watch: Up

    If you noticed a trend for the Lightning's top prospects, you know they are almost all meeting and exceeding expectations. Lightning fans remember the last few years of trials and tribulations, wondering when the team would return to the playoffs.

    One of the biggest weaknesses during that time was in the crease. Strong trades and drafting have solidified the Bolts' goaltending for years. Bishop is the No. 1 goaltender now. Andrey Vasilevskiy and Kristers Gudlevskis certainly won't be far behind in competing for time in the NHL rotation.

    Gudlevskis was named to the Latvian Olympic team earlier this month and has been solid in the AHL with a 9-5-2 record with four shutouts.

    Tampa Bay should be solid in net for the foreseeable future.