The Lightning currently have eight players in juniors — six in the OHL and one each in the WHL and QMJHL. Of these, there are five forwards, one defenseman, and two goalies. With the exception of Carter Ashton and Richard Panik, the Lightning junior prospects are not considered possible top-end talent at this time.
Carter Ashton, RW – Lethbridge Hurricanes
Acquired: 1st round, 29th overall, 2009
April 1, 1991, 6’3", 200
Ashton is on pace to improve on his past performance in his third full WHL season. He is the second leading scorer on Lethbridge with 21 points in 18 games. Nine of those 21 points have been goals. He is second on the team in scoring behind Carter Bancks.
Ashton has obviously added some more scoring punch to go with his solid defensive game. Ashton struggled at the beginning of the year defensively, but has since turned it around. While still a minus player, it should be noted that the Hurricanes are in last place in their division. The 18-year-old has also played with a more of an edge this season with him on pace to eclipse the century mark in penalty minutes.
His performance has been impressive enough this season to be selected to represent the WHL in the 2009 Super Series. If Ashton continues to develop in the WHL this season, he has an opportunity to make the Lightning in 2010-11.
Richard Panik, RW – Windsor Spitfires
Acquired: 2nd round, 52nd overall, 2009
February 7, 1991, 6’2", 197
This season, Panik is getting his first taste of North American hockey. He came into a terrific situation with the champions of last year’s Memorial Cup. He has the chance to round out his game without excess pressure as the Spitfires are loaded with talent. He is spending most nights on the second or third line.
After 20 games, Panik has a very respectable 12 points with four of them goals. It is tough for a regular on Windsor to not be a plus player, and Panik is a good +14. A veteran of Slovakia‘s U-20 team, it is quite likely that he will be competing in the tournament again.
Alex Hutchings, LW – Barrie Colts
Acquired: 4th round, 93th overall, 2009
November 7, 1990, 5’10", 173
In his fourth season in Barrie, Hutchings is on pace to have another good season. The speedy winger looks headed towards another point-per-game campaign. He has 19 points in his first 20 games. Goal scoring has accounted for almost half of his points with him potting nine of them so far. Currently, he is fourth in scoring on a very balanced team.
Not the biggest player, Hutchings uses speed and hockey sense in order to produce. He was voted the third best skater in the OHL last season. His ability to skate and score are his best attributes.
Jaroslav Janus, G – Erie Otters
Acquired: 6th round, 162nd overall, 2009
September 21, 1989, 5’11", 192
Janus had his opportunity earlier in the season to show the Lightning his ability as he started the season in Norfolk in the AHL. While in a time share with Dustin Tokarski and Riku Helenius, Janus had minimal minutes to make an impression with his tryout contract. He did perform admirably there before being released back to Erie. In two games played, he was winless, but only allowed three goals on 49 shots.
After reassignment, he started the first game possible with the Otters. Janus had a big win over Niagara in which he allowed three goals. The starting goalie for Slovakia in last year’s U-20 Tournament looks to be the starter in Erie or, at the very least, splitting time with Ramis Sadikov for now.
Kyle DeCoste, RW – Belleville Bulls
Acquired: 5th round, 147th overall, 2008
June 30, 1990, 6’2", 190
The two-way forward from London, Ontario was recently traded for the third time in his career this season. DeCoste went from Sault Ste. Marie to Belleville for a conditional seventh round pick. The move should give DeCoste a fresh start as he was quite disappointing to start 2009-10. He produced 14 points in 26 games last season after being traded to Sault Ste. Marie, but only could muster three points in 13 games so far this season. The move to Belleville may offer some dividends for DeCoste as he jumped out to three points in as many games.
Matias Sointu, LW – Ottawa 67’s
Acquired: 7th round, 182nd overall, 2008
February 10, 1990, 5’10", 180
Like Panik, Sointu is playing in North America for the first time. The native of Finland was selected in the Import Draft in June. Fresh off a season-ending injury, this soft-handed winger decided to come to Ottawa to make up for some development time he lost last season.
The veteran of Ilves in his home city in Finland, Sointu has started his season modestly. His talent level makes the eight points scored in 17 games somewhat disappointing. On a team filled with mostly minus players, he is doing pretty well defensively with a +3. Once he gets completely acclimated, he could turn it up as the season progresses.
Michael Zador, G – Oshawa Generals
Acquired: 5th round, 148th overall, 2009
May 8, 1991, 6’2", 172
In his first full season in Oshawa, Zador has been just OK in net. While getting twice the amount of appearances as backup, Kevin Bailie, Zador has posted a 6-7-1 record with a 3.69 goals against average and a .889 save percentage.
Zador has shown his inconsistency as he has been shellacked in six straight losses. The Generals have lost seven straight overall after starting 7-3-2. He will hope to reclaim the form he possessed earlier in the season and during the last U-18 tourney.
Mark Barberio, D – Moncton Wildcats
Acquired: 6th round, 152nd overall, 2008
March 23, 1990, 6’0", 201
Barberio is the highest ranked rearguard in the Lightning system who is not in the NHL or AHL. He is also the lone defenseman they possess in the CHL. Barberio, more of an offensive player by trade, is learning some defensive skills with the Wildcats. Moncton has allowed the fewest goals in the QMJHL. For the second straight year, he is a plus player.
With the added defensive responsibilities, he is not neglecting his offensive skills. He is on track for a higher point per game average than 2008-09 with 13 points in 18 games. Similar to Ashton, he has been chosen to represent his league in the Super Series against Russia.