Lightning Top-20

By Chad Schnarr

The prospect’s name is followed by thier likely destination for the 2002-03 season.

1.C Alexander SvitovTampa Bay Lightning / Springfield Falcons, AHL

Svitov retains his #1 ranking despite missing virtually the entire year due to a political tug-of-war between the Lightning and his Russian club, Omsk. He’s in North America now and has a legitimate chance to showcase his nasty side and significant two-way abilities in Tampa as early as this fall.

2.RW Alexander PolushinHC CSKA, Russian Upper League

Polushin moves up from the #5 spot, thanks to a solid season with HC CSKA and an impressive showing at the WJCs. Starting to add more consistency and drive to a package featuring size, skill, poise, and above-average skating abilities, Polushin is turning out to be a second round steal for the Lightning. If only he could get Super League duty.

3.D Andreas HolmqvistHammarby, SEL-2

Staying at #3, this Swedish blueliner missed most of the year due to a bad wrist injury. Lightning head scout Jake Goertzen raves about his skill set and mean streak. The injury sets him back a step, but he has the ability to make his mark in Tampa in the ‘03-‘04 season.

4.LW Anton ButYaroslavl, Russian Super League

Jumping up from #9, But remains the key to last season’s Andrei Zyuzin trade when But’s rights were acquired from NJ. An established scorer in the Russian Super League, But’s skating and two-way play makes him a solid NHL scoring-line prospect.
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5.D Kristian KudrocSpringfield Falcons, AHL

Kudroc steps up one spot from #6 despite a lackluster season. He started the year in Tampa, but was quickly sent to Springfield before finding himself on the bench due to inconsistent play and disagreements with Falcon’s coach Marc Potvin. He finished the year on loan to the Philadelphia Phantoms, adding a physical presence to their blueline for a brief playoff run.

6.LW Adam Henrich Brampton Battalion, OHL

Jay Feaster’s first draft choice, the 2002 second rounder debuts at the 6-spot. Henrich will return to the OHL, where the Battalion’s leading scorer looks to top the 33 goal mark he set this past season for Brampton, a mark accomplished by only one other player in Battalion history – Raffi Torres.

7.RW Evgeni Artukhin Podolsk, Russian Upper League / Moncton Wildcats, QMJHL

Artukhin made a huge leap in the rankings, jumping up seven spots from #14. Artukhin possesses the Lightning’s best combination of size and speed in a prospect. The gritty Russian was drafted by Moncton in the CHL Import Draft, and could contribute immediately on their top-2 lines in the offensive-minded QMJHL.

8.C Martin CibakSpringfield Falcons, AHL

Like Artukhin, Cibak made significant strides last season and as a result moves up from #15. Cibak showed a little grit and a lot of willingness to pay the price in a late call-up with the Bolts last year. Cibak is turning his game from just a playmaking center to a contributing two-way player.

9.LW Dennis PackardHarvard University

Packard moves up from #16 thanks to a fine season with Harvard in which the soon-to-be junior more than doubled his previous year’s point output (9-10-19). A big man with good skating abilities, Packard’s stock continues to rise.

10.G Evgeny KonstantinovSpringfield Falcons, AHL

Konstantinov falls from #8 to #10 mostly due to an inconsistent and injury-plagued year. Konstantinov found himself everywhere from the ECHL to the NHL before finally settling and performing well for Springfield for the last few games of the season. He must improve his mental approach, work ethic and commitment if he wants to re-establish himself as Tampa’s “Goaltender of the Future.”

11.C Dmitri KazionovLada Togliatti, Russia / Kingston Frontenacs, OHL

The Lightning’s fourth round pick of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft was recently selected by Kingston in the CHL Import Draft. His good size, playmaking abilities and two-way game will help him acclimate to the North American game if he chooses to come over the ocean to the OHL.

12.G Joseph PearceNew Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, EJHL

The reigning EJHL MVP, Pearce will return to the defending EJHL Champions for another season before attending Boston College in 2003. The Lightning hope he gives Konstantinov some serious competition to be the sure-fire “Goaltender of the Future” they need in the organization. A big goalie with impressive numbers (2.16gaa, .933 sp%), the 2002 fifth rounder has the ability to make the Lightning look like geniuses for nabbing him.

13.D Paul RangerOshawa Generals, OHL

Ranger debuts at lucky #13 thanks to the overall package and upside he brings to the table. The 39th ranked NA skater by CSB was slowed with a broken wrist and was playing in the OHL as a 17-year-old, so his numbers (0-9-9) aren’t what they could be, or will be. The Lightning feel it’s just a matter of time before Ranger puts up solid offensive numbers to go with his sound defensive game.

14.C Karri AkkanenIIves Jr., Finland Jr.

This towering, slick-skating, physical, two-way center has significant upside, but will need some time for his game to mature. A long term project with the potential for great reward.

15.D Gerard DicaireSpringfield Falcons, AHL / Pensacola Ice Pilots, ECHL

A former 2000 second rounder (Buffalo), Dicaire has the left-handed shot and offensive prowess from the backline the Lightning need in the minors. He’ll be battling with Mike Jones for the Lightning’s third defensive spot in Springfield (Mathieu Biron, Kristian Kudroc).

16.LW Dmitry AfanasenkovSpringfield Falcons, AHL

The award for the biggest tumble in the rankings goes to this enigmatic Russian winger. Listed at #7 last year, Afanasenkov struggled in Springfield before being loaned to Grand Rapids, where he only managed one goal in 18 games. After starting his professional career in 2000 with a hat trick against Montreal’s rookie squad in the Hull Rookie Tournament, then notching 15 goals his first year of professional hockey, this sniper by profession finds himself off the scoresheet and falling off the bubble entering the final year of his rookie contract.

17.RW Aaron LobbGuelph Storm, OHL

Lobb stays at #17 on the list despite being lost for most of the year to a serious knee injury. Lobb started his season with a whimper in London (3 pts in 10 games), before a trade to Guelph saw him start to find his groove (7 pts in 7 games), only to fall to injury. Lobb added muscle to his 6-4 frame during rehab, played well but sparingly in the 2002 Memorial Cup, and will enter next season determined to continue where he left off in ‘00-‘01 (23 goals, 93 pim).

18.D P.J. Atherton University of Minnesota

A 2002 sixth round pick, Atherton takes his impressive USHL stats and physical game to the defending NCAA Champions, where he will have four years to develop in an outstanding hockey program.

19.D Paul Lynch University of Maine

Lynch stays at #19 and hopes to make a better impression on the Lightning by earning more ice time next season at Maine. Entering his sophomore year, Lynch looks to help the Black Bears get back to the Frozen Four.

20.D Henrik BergforsSödertälje SK, Sweden J-20

The surprise of last year’s training camp, Bergfors moves into the top-20 thanks to a fine year in Sweden where the big stay-at-home defenseman posted a +16 rating in 37 games. The last pick of the 2001 Draft, Bergfors earned the praises of then-GM Rick Dudley and coach John Tortorella for his aggressive and smart defensive play during last year’s camp and exhibition games.

Graduating from last year’s list:
#2 Nikita AlexeevTampa Bay/Springfield;
#4 Mathieu BironSpringfield;
#10 Sheldon KeefeTampa Bay;
#13 Sascha GocAdler Mannheim, Germany;
#20 Mike JonesSpringfield/Pensacola.

*Rankings compiled by Chad Schnarr and Pete Choquette.