The Tampa Bay Lightning have 11 prospects playing in juniors — five in the WHL, three in the QMJHL, one in the OHL, one in the BCHL, and one in USHL. Six of the prospects are forwards, three are defensemen and two are goaltenders.
Dana Tyrell and Dustin Tokarski are garnering the most attention with their excellent starts. Mitch Fadden, Torrie Jung, and Kyle DeCoste, on the other hand, have dealt with some struggles up to this point in their seasons.
Dana Tyrell, C – Prince George Cougars
Acquired: 2nd round, 47th overall, 2007
April 23, 1989, 5’10, 185
Tyrell continues to be a dominant force for the Prince George Cougars. He has put up 17 goals and 17 assists in 25 games, leading the Cougars in all three of those categories. The fiery youngster has shown improvement and consistency in the 2008-09 season. He has been rewarded with his strong play by being selected to Team WHL for the 2008 ADT Canada/Russia Challenge.
A cause of concern is Tyrell’s -20 rating in the 2008-09 season, but that statistic should not take focus away from the many positives he brings to the Cougars. His speed, hard-working mentality, and leadership are showcased on a nightly basis. These are the qualities that make Tyrell an excellent prospect.
Mitch Fadden, C – Tri-City Americans
Acquired: 4th round, 107th overall, 2007
April 3, 1988, 6’0, 174
Fadden has had a tough start to the 2008-09 season. He has not been able to follow up his 2007-08 season thus far. Fadden was only able to put up two goals and five points in his nine games for the Lethbridge Hurricanes. He was dealt to the Tri-City Americans on Nov. 5, and his game has begun to spark. Since the trade, Fadden has put together 10 points in his eight games for the Americans.
He possesses superb finishing ability, and is also a very creative playmaker. Perhaps the change of scenery can continue to light a fire under Fadden for the remainder of the 2008-09 season.
Dustin Tokarski, G – Spokane Chiefs
Acquired: 5th round, 122nd overall, 2008
September 16, 1989, 5’11, 185
Tokarski was the only goaltender the Lightning selected in the 2008 draft. He has been playing very well so far this season. Through 22 games for the Spokane Chiefs, Tokarski has a 13-7-2 record with a 1.80 GAA and a .944 save percentage and three shutouts. He leads the WHL in save percentage, goals against average and shutouts.
Tokarski continues to show remarkable consistency. He is currently following up his dominant 2007-08 season with even more spectacular performances. The young goaltender is very poised and has a knack for coming up huge with the game on the line. Tokarski has also been selected to be a part of Team WHL in the 2008 ADT Canada/Russia Challenge.
Torrie Jung, G – Edmonton Oil Kings
Acquired: 7th round, 183rd overall, 2007
January 21, 1989, 6’1, 170
Jung’s season has been quite a circus, to say the least. He began the 2008-09 season with Kelowna, and was traded to the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Oct. 16. Six days later he was traded once again, this time to the Edmonton Oil Kings. Jung started the season on fire putting up a 3-0-1 record with a 1.47 GAA and a .952 save percentage in his first four games for the Oil Kings. He has fallen back down to earth since that time. He currently stands at a 5-4-3 record with a 2.89 GAA and a .909 save percentage in 12 games.
Jung will get a majority of the starts while playing with the Oil Kings. With this opportunity he can have a chance to develop further, instead of splitting time or having to be a backup.
James Wright, C – Vancouver Giants
Acquired: 4th round, 117th overall, 2008
March 24, 1990, 6’3, 175
Wright is having an excellent 2008-09 season so far for the Vancouver Giants, with 12 goals and 24 points in 24 games. He is only one behind his career high of 13 goals that he had for the Giants in 60 games for them in the 2007-08 season. He has been skating on a line with Garry Nunn and Slovakian Andrej Kudrna.
Luca Cunti, LW – Rimouski Oceanic
Acquired: 3rd round, 75th overall, 2007
July 4, 1989, 6’0, 209
Cunti’s first year for Rimouski has been productive up to this point. He started out with at least one point in his first eight games. He compiled two goals and seven assists in that eight-game span. Cunti hit a bit of a slump after that point, which even saw him go without any points in six straight games. He has started to hit the score sheet as of late, and sits at four goals and 13 assists in 24 games.
The Swiss star has looked comfortable with Rimouski. Cunti possesses a tremendous shot, which only having four goals may not indicate. It is encouraging to see his playmaking abilities progressing. He has had a label of being a selfish player, but his willingness to dish the puck to teammates this season has been a welcome surprise.
Mark Barberio, D – Moncton Wildcats
Acquired: 6th round, 152nd overall, 2008
March 23, 1990, 6’0, 201
Barberio has been a pleasant surprise for the Lightning organization. The 2008 sixth-round draft pick has put up six goals and 20 points in his 23 games in the 2008-09 season. He is tied for eighth in scoring among defensemen in the QMJHL.
Known mostly for his offensive prowess, Barberio has also been respectable in his own end this season. He currently has a +11 rating, and has steadily improved his decision-making while with the puck. Barberio still remains a dominant force on the power play. Four of his six goals have come with the man advantage.
Michael Ward, D – Lewiston MAINEiacs
Acquired: 7th round, 197th overall, 2007
August 13, 1989, 6’2, 197
Ward is putting together a solid 2008-09 season, bringing a strong physical presence to the Lewiston Maineiacs. Ward sits at three goals and 14 points in 25 games, and has accumulated 35 penalty minutes.
The young defenseman is known for solid defensive play and has continued that approach into the 2008-09 season. Ward is an average stay-at-home defenseman and is proving to be a nice addition to the Lightning prospect group.
Kyle DeCoste, RW – Brampton Battalion
Acquired: 5th round, 147th overall, 2008
June 30, 1990, 6’1, 178
DeCoste, the Lightning’s 2008 fifth-round draft pick, is the only Tampa prospect playing in the OHL. He has posted five goals and nine points in 22 games for the Brampton Battalion. DeCoste is not a prolific scorer, but he is at least producing around the same rate as past seasons.
DeCoste is a tenacious forward who incorporates all aspects of the game. He will not overly impress in any single ability of his game, but he does not fall short in anything either. He is still a young player and has plenty of time to develop. DeCoste’s hard-working nature is what may propel him on to the Lightning in the distant future as a plug in and play energy forward.
Justin Courtnall, LW – Victoria Grizzlies
Acquired: 7th round, 210th overall, 2007
May 22, 1989, 6’3, 197
Courtnall decided to remain with the Grizzlies for the 2008-09 season rather than joining the NCAA. He is once again having a productive season with eight goals and 24 assists in 29 games. He currently leads Victoria in both points and assists. The aggressive winger has also accumulated 44 penalty minutes, which is second on his team.
Courtnall’s mix of tough play and playmaking ability make him an interesting prospect. If Courtnall decides to go the college route for the 2009-10 season, it will give him plenty of time to fine-tune his game.
Luke Witkowski, D – Fargo Force
Acquired: 6th round, 160th overall, 2008
April 14, 1990, 6’2, 200
Witkowski deferred his enrollment to Western Michigan University until the 2009-10 season. He decided to remain in the USHL, and ended up with the newly-formed Fargo Force. Witkowski has one goal and two points with a +3 rating in 14 games. He is second on the Force in penalty minutes with 51.
The big defenseman possesses respectable speed and brings a great physical presence to his team. He is a steady stay-at-home defenseman. Witkowski could afford to work on the offensive side of his game.