Lightning 2009-10 AHL prospect update

By Ben Bebernitz

The Lightning have 14 players playing in the minor leagues, all of them for the Norfolk Admirals in the AHL. The Admirals are ranked in the middle of the seven-team East Division with a 12-14-1 record. If the Calder Cup playoffs started now, they would be missing the playoffs for the second straight year.

Matt Lashoff, D, 23

Lashoff, who came over in last year’s Mark Recchi trade, is struggling mightily this season. For a defenseman who looked quite good with the Lightning last season and with Providence in the past, this season is a bit surprising. Lashoff has only totaled three points in 21 games and is -16, which is worst on the team by seven notches. Lashoff very well may be the Lightning’s best AHL prospect, but he is being passed over for promotion by Mike Lundin and Matt Smaby. He will have to turn around his game quickly.

Dana Tyrell, C, 20

The former Prince George Cougar is playing his first pro season with the Admirals. After recovering from a horrific knee injury last season, he is still looking for his first goal on this campaign. However, it is not for a lack of effort as the forward is using his speed and power-play time to get a decent amount of shots on goal in 26 games. Tyrell does have nine assists as he adjusts to the pro game as a second-line center.

Dustin Tokarski, G, 20

In 2008, the Lightning drafted Tokarski in the fifth round. A little over a year later, he is their starter in Norfolk. With a Memorial Cup trophy and a WJC gold medal under his belt, Tokarski has made a relatively smooth transition to the pro game. He beat out second-year pro Riku Helenius for the starting job before the season began. In 15 games, he has posted a 2.47 GAA and a .911 save percentage. For a team that does not score a bunch of goals, he has battled to an 8-7-1 record. He is a potential starting goaltender at the NHL level.

Vladimir Mihalik, D, 22

The huge Slovak is in his third season in the AHL. Mihalik had an 11-game audition for the Lightning last season, but it was not impressive enough for him to stay with the big club. The 6’7" defenseman is a force in his own zone, who is starting to play more with his body than his stick. The former first-round pick has eight assists in all 27 of Norfolk’s games while being a -1. Paired with Lundin as the top pairing, Mihalik is one of the most consistent rearguards on the team.

Ty Wishart, D, 21

Wishart, a former first-round pick of the Sharks, is the last asset the Lightning directly received from trading Dan Boyle. Wishart is showing more offensive touch than he did last season with the team. He had seven points last season in 61 games and now has posted six points in 26 games this season. The downside is the -7 he has put up so far. He will probably be brought along slowly.

Martins Karsums, RW, 23

Karsums was traded along with Lashoff last season and like Lashoff, he is struggling this season. Karsums did have some minor lower-body injury issues that caused him to miss a few games earlier, but they alone are not enough to cause such a drop-off in production. Karsums was trending upwards in Providence with a better team, but has crashed in Norfolk with new teammates. In 24 games, Karsums has matched his point total of five that he achieved with the Lightning last season in 18 games. Prospects like Blair Jones, Paul Szczechura, and James Wright have passed him by and spent time with the Lightning this season.

Blair Jones, C, 23

Just coming back from a two-game stint with the Lightning, Jones is the No. 1 center in Norfolk. Coach Darren Rumble mixes up the wingers he centers between Adam Hall, Brandon Bochenski, Ryan Craig, and Radek Smolenak. Jones is the second highest scorer on the team behind Bochenski with 19 points in 25 games. He will likely be called up again if the Lightning need a forward.

Radek Smolenak, LW, 23

When the Blackhawks offered up Smolenak on waivers, the Lightning brought him back to the team. Smolenak brings some toughness along with some scoring touch to the Admirals. The Czech-born player is a top-six forward most nights with this team. He currently has 12 points and 27 penalty minutes in 17 games.

Riku Helenius, G, 21

Helenius has a 4-6 record, .909 save percentage and a 2.40 GAA. He has played in 10 games to Tokarski’s 15, with similar results. Helenius is a year and a half older than Tokarski, however.

Juraj Simek, LW, a former Canuck farmhand, plays some nights as a top-six forward and on the power play depending on the lineup. So far this season, he has tallied 13 points in 26 games. Mitch Fadden, C, has been a scratch on most nights, some healthy and some not, with just four games played. He suffered a lower-body injury while blocking a shot in November and was out for a few weeks. Scott Jackson, D, has the top plus/minus on the team with a +11. Kevin Quick is at best a fifth or sixth defenseman even with his +9 rating. Chris Lawrence, C, has only three points in 23 points.