Despite the graduation of Jonathan Drouin from the junior ranks, the Tampa Bay Lightning have plenty of reason to keep a keen eye on the QMJHL, OHL, and WHL this season. From the 2013 NHL Draft, American-born forward Adam Erne remains with Quebec in the ‘Q,’ while six of seven selections from last year’s draft are currently playing in the CHL.
The Lightning have two prospects playing in both the QMJHL and WHL, as well as three in the OHL.
Adam Erne, LW, Quebec Remparts
Acquired: 2nd round (33rd overall), 2013
At 6’1 and 210 pounds, Adam Erne is perhaps both physically mature and skilled enough to play for Syracuse in the AHL, but is not old enough. Because he does not turn 20 until April, Erne was sent back to junior after he failed to make the Lightning’s 23-man roster.
With Quebec, Erne has been one of the league’s most productive players. He has 30 points through 18 games and is currently 15th in league scoring, despite playing fewer games than those above him – he has failed to record a point in just three games this season, through November 16th. His ability to find the back of the net is aided by his size and powerful stride, and he can score in bunches. He is the driving force of the team’s offense, having recorded at least three shots in all but two games this season.
Erne played for the United States U20 World Junior team last season, picking up just one assist through five games, but he figures to be a key cog on this year’s team.
Cameron Darcy, RW, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
Acquired: 7th round (185th overall), 2014
Assigned back to Cape Breton for his overage season, Cameron Darcy has yet to find the scoring touch he showed last year with the team. In 65 games with the Screaming Eagles as a 19-year-old, Darcy scored 35 goals on 210 shots for a scintillating 16.7 shooting percentage; this season, Darcy has just one goal in 14 games, scoring on just 2.4 per cent of his shots. Darcy had seven points in his first eight games with Cape Breton, but in November has gone cold – his assist against Halifax on November 15th was his first point in five games.
Cape Breton is relying much more on younger players this season, including a pair of young Russians – Evgeny Svechinko and Maxim Lazarev – who are currently second and third in team scoring. Darcy came into the league last year relatively unknown to most, recording over a point per game as a 19-year-old rookie. This season has been much tougher to date, but there is no doubt Darcy has the ability to contribute at a higher level for Cape Breton.
Cristiano DiGiacinto, LW, Windsor Spitfires
Acquired: 6th round (170th overall), 2014
DiGiacinto, a breakthrough prospect last season, missed the first three games of the OHL season due to a “bullying” suspension he picked up in last year’s playoffs. Since then, the rugged winger has also sat out two games due to a suspension picked up by instigating a fight during the last five minutes of a game. He is by no means a big player on the ice, but solid at 5’11 and 200 pounds, and possessing a knack for getting under the opposition’s skin.
Last year, DiGiacinto was cut from the Erie Otters before eventually being picked up by Windsor; he fit in immediately, scoring 17 goals and accumulating more than 100 penalty minutes in 50 games. In DiGiacinto, the Lightning hoped they had found a late bloomer in the sixth round, and that notion appears to be holding true this year. Not turning 19 until January, DiGiacinto has nine points in 14 games which is good enough for sixth in team scoring.
He needs to find the line between playing overly physical and being productive offensively, particularly as a top-six forward for the Spitfires.
Anthony DeAngelo, D, Sarnia Sting
Acquired: 1st round (19th overall), 2014
One-quarter through the 2014-15 OHL campaign and Anthony DeAngelo is playing well, but not producing offensively at the level he did last year. Thus far, through 15 games, DeAngelo has 17 points and just three goals – last year, the American defender finished the season with 71 points in 51 games.
That said, DeAngelo is playing on a much-improved Sting team this season, and that much is evident through his minus-1 rating – last year, DeAngelo finished with a plus/minus rating of minus-34. A power-play specialist with elite skating skills, DeAngelo needs to work on his defensive-zone coverage and strength. He is a lock to make the United States U20 World Junior team.
Dominik Masin, D, Peterborough Petes
Acquired: 2nd round (35th overall), 2014
Selected by the Petes in the first round of the CHL Import Draft, Dominik Masin has been settling in nicely so far this season. He is second on the team in scoring by a defenseman with nine points in 18 games, behind only Matthew Spencer (2015). He is also third on the team in penalty minutes, which should be no surprise given the fact he recorded the most penalty minutes amongst all U20 Czech league defenders last year with 103.
Masin is a big-bodied blueliner at 6’1 and 187 pounds, still with room to grow. His aggressive, physical style of play made him a perfect fit for the Petes and he has since slotted into the club’s top four. Not afraid to drop the mitts either, Masin already has three fights in the OHL to his credit.
Brayden Point, C, Moose Jaw Warriors
Acquired: 3rd round (79th overall), 2014
With 28 points through 20 games this season, Brayden Point is performing just as expected offensively. An undersized pivot, Point proved himself an elite scorer in the WHL last season by posting 91 points in 72 games for a poor Moose Jaw team; this year, he currently leads the team with 13 goals. Point is also a team-leading plus-12, and while plus/minus is not the best indicator of defensive play, it is certainly worth mentioning given the fact the team has surrendered 74 goals opposed to its 62 goals scored.
Point has also only failed to record a point in four games this season and, along with linemates Tanner Eberle and Jack Rodewald, has been the driving force for the team offensively.
Ben Thomas, D, Calgary Hitmen
Acquired: 4th round (119th overall), 2014
A vital part of the Calgary Hitmen defense corps – he is second in points behind only Travis Sanheim (PHI) – Ben Thomas is continuing his development so far this season, becoming more of a complete defender.
So far this season, Thomas has 11 points in 21 games, five of which have come in his last four games, including a three-assist effort against the Regina Pats on November 7th. He is currently on pace to surpass last year’s mark of 31 points in 72 games.
A couple soon-to-graduate prospects have been performing admirably with the Lightning to start the season. Of course, there is much-hyped Jonathan Drouin, who has nine points through just 14 games. Drouin has played throughout the lineup, including a stint with Steven Stamkos early in the season. Vladislav Namestnikov, a first round pick in 2011, and Cedric Paquette have also been key contributors for the Lightning with seven and six points respectively. Five of Paquette’s six points have been goals.
The organization’s most hyped prospect outside of Drouin – Andrey Vasilevskiy – is currently playing for Syracuse in the AHL. Vasilevskiy came over to North America from Russia prior to training camp, and while many suggested he may already be NHL-ready, he has gotten off to a shaky start. In eight games with Syracuse, his goals against average sits at 3.07 while his save percentage is sub-.900. Kristers Gudlevskis, with whom Vasilevskiy shares the net with, has only been slightly better with a 2.69 goals against average and .905 save percentage.
In the NCAA, it is early but former second round pick Brian Hart is scoring at a point-per-game pace. In his third season with Harvard University, Hart already has four goals through six games. He had just 11 goals in his first two seasons. Matthew Peca, meanwhile, a senior with Quinnipiac University, is holding true to his point-per-game pace over his career with 10 points in 10 games.
Tampa Bay Lightning Prospect of the Month: October
Jonathan Drouin’s eight points in 11 games, at the NHL level, certainly stand out, and it would be easy to name anoint him as the Lightning’s top performing prospect to this point, but it is the consistent level of production by Adam Erne in the QMJHL that earns him the honor. It will be interesting to see what kind of role Erne plays on the United States World Junior team and if his combination of size and skill can help the team navigate its way back to the medal round.