Ranking the Top 5 Under-the-Radar Prospects for Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning boast the second-best prospect system (via ESPN Insider Corey Pronman) in the league despite having two Calder Trophy finalists last season. With so many big names in the system, it's easy for talented players to fly under the radar.
Jonathan Drouin enters this season as the team's best prospect, but every step of his journey has been well-documented. After dominating Juniors for another season, Drouin will have the attention of the entire Lightning community and arguably a good part of the rest of the NHL world.
But Drouin isn't the only talented player in Tampa Bay's system. Fortunately for the rest of the group, the large amount of attention on the Lightning's best prospect has allowed for other prospects to quietly progress and might even sneak into the lineup.
As we prepare for the upcoming training camp, here are the five Lightning prospects that are flying under the radar the most.
5. Slater Koekkoek
Slater Koekkoek is one of the most talented defensemen in the Lightning system. He drew some attention in 2012 when the Lightning selected him No. 10 overall. It was a risky selection after his season was cut short due to a shoulder injury.
Two more seasons of development have passed, and both have been cut short by shoulder injuries. His health questions are the only things that bring him to mind unfortunately. Despite his talent, Koekkoek has been relatively quiet for Tampa Bay.
He will likely be battling for the No. 7 defenseman role this training camp. It shouldn't surprise many people if he does make some noise. It would be a welcomed change from the injury noise that has followed him for years.
The injuries have helped him fly under the radar, but he was still a first-round selection. Koekkoek is one of the best two-way defensemen in the Lightning system, which will help him draw attention when the time comes.
4. Henri Ikonen
Henri Ikonen is a prospect that is far from a household name. The Finnish forward is already a hockey journeyman. He has played in three of the top Finnish leagues, two World Junior championships, the Ontario Hockey League and the American Hockey League since 2011-12.
Ikonen is just a solid all-around player. He doesn't excel in any one area, but has good size (6'0", 200 lbs) and has no glaring deficiencies.
Drafted in the sixth round of the 2013 draft, Ikonen didn't garner the attention of some of the other European talent. Regardless, he adjusted to the North American game well with a 70-point season in the OHL last year.
Ikonen earned a promotion to the AHL late last year and had two points in six games. With so many other big-name forwards in the system, Ikonen has what it takes to fly under the radar and be a solid role player in the next few years.
3. Adam Wilcox
Surprisingly, Adam Wilcox was a part of the Lightning organization before the situation in the crease got so crowded. Drafted in 2011 out of the USHL, Wilcox was a bit of a project, and that won't stop.
Wilcox has been one of the country's most dominating goaltenders for the University of Minnesota. He was a finalist for the Mike Richter and Hobey Baker Awards last season. If he returns to UM next year, he can change his destiny again.
With Kristers Gudlevskis, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Ben Bishop looking to lock down the crease for years, Wilcox may have to look elsewhere. He will have the opportunity to become an unrestricted free agent after next season, which would probably garner more league-wide interest for the talented young goaltender.
If Wilcox does stay within the organization, he will be one of the most under-the-radar prospects.
2. Dominik Masin
Dominik Masin was one of the more intriguing picks of the 2014 NHL Draft. He didn't draw the attention of first-round selection Anthony DeAngelo, which could help Masin in the long run.
Masin will draw a ton of attention this offseason. He could play for Slavia Prague's Junior team, in the Ontario Hockey League, the American Hockey League or as a long shot in the NHL.
At 6'2" and 195 pounds, Masin has a strong NHL frame. He has never played against NHL-type players so some years in development would benefit him. He already boasts a fairly complete defensive game and brings a good amount of physicality to his shifts.
As a second-round selection in the same draft as DeAngelo, Masin won't garner as much attention. Keep an eye on this solid prospect that was ranked 10th among European skaters. He's a smart player, but because he isn't anything flashy Masin, he will fly under the radar in a big way.
1. Adam Erne
Adam Erne drew a ton of attention after his illegal check to fellow prospect Jonathan Drouin in a QMJHL game last season. Things have smoothed over between the two as they prepare for the Lightning training camp this season.
With all eyes on Drouin, it has been easy to forget about Erne's prowess. Consider the departure of players like Ryan Malone, B.J. Crombeen and Pierre-Cedric Labrie, the Bolts might be looking for the big body of Erne to make an impact.
Think of Ryan Callahan's style of play on a bigger frame, and that's what Erne can bring to the table. Sounds interesting, right? It's surprising that he hasn't garnered more attention, but he should have a strong shot to get playing time on the right side.
Richard Panik and J.T. Brown haven't taken big leaps at the NHL level. Nikita Kucherov is still finding his NHL legs, which may be just enough room for the big-bodied Erne to subtly crash his way into the lineup.
With the opportunity in front of him and the attention focused on fellow draft-classmate Drouin, Erne is the prospect that can fly under the radar the most.