Latest Updates on the Top Prospects for the Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning have developed a significant amount of organizational depth over the last few seasons. Even with the arrival of a handful of top prospects to the NHL level, the Lightning have only scratched the surface of their organizational depth.
As evidenced by the Bolts making up-and-coming star Jonathan Drouin a healthy scratch Nov. 15 against the New York Islanders, the team has a significant amount of flexibility. Tampa Bay has a nice group of early-round draft picks that have yet to make their NHL debuts.
With another wave of talented prospects waiting to make an impact in the NHL, here's an update on some of the top prospects in the Lightning system.
The Lightning have players that win on just about every level. Adam Wilcox, goaltender for the University of Minnesota, is one of those players. After strong showings in the USHL, Wilcox has excelled in the NCAA ranks.
Last April, Wilcox led his team to the NCAA Championship Game against Union College and was a finalist for both the Hobey Baker and the Mike Richter Awards. A sixth-round draft pick in the 2011 draft, Wilcox is one of the Lightning's best goaltending prospects.
Wilcox is 7-3-0 with two shutouts already this season. He has a 2.20 goals-against average, and he anchored the Golden Gophers to the top of the NCAA rankings.
Unfortunately for the Bolts, he may never appear in the Lightning crease. With Ben Bishop, Kristers Gudlevskis and Andrei Vasilevskiy all fighting for spots, we could see Wilcox in an NHL crease soon. Odds are it won't be in Tampa Bay though.
A strong goaltender on the international circuits, Vasilevskiy has been adjusting to the North American game. He won his NHL (preseason) debut against Nashville this season in his only appearance before being assigned to the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League.
Since being assigned to Syracuse, Vasilevskiy has been surprisingly average. He is 2-2 with three overtime losses in seven appearances. Additionally, his 2.94 goals-against average and .897 save percentage are less than stellar.
Before we start sounding the alarm and rearranging the organizational depth chart in goal, consider the fact that Vasilevskiy still has yet to play in 10 regular-season games in North America. Give him some time to adjust, but he will have stiff competition from others in the organization.
Speaking of stiff competition in the crease, enter Gudlevskis to the conversation in the blue paint. Gudlevskis won the hockey world's attention after a strong performance in the 2014 Olympics for Latvia against Canada.
He was forced into NHL duty last season with the unfortunate injuries to Bishop. He faced a red-hot Montreal team in the first round of the playoffs and didn't fare well (though some might say he should have received more minutes).
Currently with Syracuse, Gudlevskis is the clear-cut No. 1. He is 6-2 with a 2.69 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage. Neither one of those numbers are eye-popping, but he has fared better than his counterpart Vasilevskiy and has been good enough for the Crunch to win games.
Keep an eye on this situation as the season progresses.
Adam Erne didn't garner as much attention as Drouin after being sent back to juniors for another year of development, but that hasn't stopped Erne from excelling. The physical winger is putting up career numbers with the Quebec Remparts in the QMJHL this year.
Erne scored 62 points in 48 games last season with 65 penalty minutes. This year, he already has 30 points (15 goals, 15 assists) and 22 penalty minutes in just 18 games. He's on pace to shatter his career high in goals (28) and is currently a career-best plus-14 rating.
He is 15th in the Q in points despite playing in less games than anyone else in the top 20. He will be another strong prospect that will be eyeing playing time in the next few years.
Anthony DeAngelo is another strong puck-moving defenseman that will be a great addition to the Lightning blue line when he is ready. He could be eyeing the spot of Andrej Sustr or even Eric Brewer in the next few seasons.
DeAngelo was a first-round selection in the 2014 draft and as expected was returned to the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League. He has put together a strong start to the 2014-15 season.
The 19-year-old blueliner is tied for fifth among defensemen with 17 points in the OHL after 15 games. His 40 penalty minutes shouldn't be a surprise to many as he leads the top 20 in that category.
Sarnia is off to a rough start with a 7-10-1-1 record. DeAngelo will be hoping for better results to avoid repeating a minus-34 rating from last season.