Lightning N.A. Junior Report

By Chad Schnarr

Lightning North American Junior Report
A look at Lightning junior prospects in action on North American ice.

Q.M.J.H.L.

W Evgeni ArtukhinGPGAPPIM+/-
2001-2002 Podolsk (Rus 1)491572294NA
2002-2003 Moncton 45112435182+13

Stock: Rising
Since Last Update: 15GP, 4G-9A-13P, 90PIM, (+6)

Artukhin is turning into a point machine for Moncton, seemingly picking up one per game lately. He was recently ranked fourth among Lightning prospects in The Hockey News’ top-10 ratings for Bolt prospects. Head Scout Jake Goertzen said playing in North America “has really given [Artukhin] a lot of confidence.”

Artukhin’s physical game will translate well to the AHL and ultimately the NHL, but got a little out of hand recently when he was suspended one game for head-butting an opponent during a fight. That came in the midst of a four-game roadtrip in which Artukhin netted two goals and four assists, despite missing most one game after the head-butting ejection, and the subsequent one-game suspension. His offense has picked up thanks in part to a two-hour meeting with coaches and his English teacher, in which the coaching staff told him to skate, backcheck, hit, use his speed more, and shoot more. Artukhin recently told the New Brunswick Times and Transcript he doesn’t have as many goals as he wants. “It’s not enough,” he said, before explaining the learning curve he’s gone through coming over from Russia. “Not same game here as in Russia. Big difference. Smaller ice here, more physical and more shots. It takes time to learn North American hockey.” In addition to the coaches meeting, he also credits the WJC gold medal for his recent turnaround: “I start to get more goals and points last few weeks. I come back here feeling good after gold medal at world junior championship.” Artukhin had one goal in the tournament. Wildcats coach Christian La Rue stated, “The [checking-line] responsibilities that he’s been asked to do during that tournament are totally different from what he’s being asked to do here. And that’s what NHL teams want. They want their young prospects to dominate the game and to be exposed to a lot of situations to see where they stand, what they can do best and what they have to improve. If we take Artukhin now and compare him to the player he was in September, he’s not even close to being the same guy. He’s improved his game.”

Speaking further on the difference between Russian hockey and North American hockey, Artukhin said, “I think it’s good idea to play junior in Canada. Same hockey as NHL. I learn some English. I learn some French also—bad words only.” He went on to say playing in the Russian Super League is better overall, because it’s “a smart game, fast game, good money … [but] if you don’t play regular in Russia, it’s better to play junior in Canada.” Perhaps fellow Russian prospect and Kingston Frontenac import draftee Dmitri Kazionov, who is playing sparingly for the RSL’s Lada, should heed Artukhin’s advice.

C/W J.F. SoucyGPGAPPIM+/-
2001-2002 Montreal498132194NA
2002-2003 Montreal56212748154+6

Stock: Steady
Since Last Update: 22GP, 5G-9A-14P, 44PIM, (+6)

Soucy continues to shatter his personal career bests for offensive numbers, though his scoring pace has slowed in the last 20 games. In a head-to-head match-up with fellow Bolt prospect Evgeni Artukhin, Artukhin won the battle (1g-2a-3points vs. 0g-1a-1points and a fight for Soucy), but Soucy won the war as Montreal won the game 6-4. In his last game, Soucy assisted on both Montreal goals in a 2-1 win over Hull.

Ontario Hockey League

W Aaron LobbGPGAPPIM+/-
2001-2002 London/Guelph17281018NA
2002-2003 Guelph 5417153299+7

Stock: Rising
Since Last Update: 24GP, 11G-7A-18P, 39PIM, (+4)

Finally fully recovered from last season’s knee surgery (he wasn’t for the first few months of the year) and benefiting from a coaching change, Lobb appears to be the player the Lightning and Storm hoped Lobb would be this year. Getting more minutes, having more fun, and crashing the net more has resulted in Lobb finding the scoresheet with regularity lately. In his first eight games after Shawn Camp was named coach of the Storm, Lobb netted four goals and five assists and had back-to-back three-point nights vs. Windsor and Oshawa. "It’s like dumping the piano off your back," Lobb told the Guelph Mercury. "Right now it’s panning out for me a bit. Hopefully I keep going and have a good end of the year." Camp has been pleased with the effort of Lobb; "We believe we’re seeing the real Aaron Lobb now," Camp told the Mercury. "He’s seen some immediate results for his work. In the past he didn’t always get the results. He’s one of two big wingers we have and he seems to have embraced the role of being a physical winger who crashes the net. He’s always been noted as a bit of a scorer." Once considered on the trade block by Guelph, Lobb has played himself back into a prominent role with the club and with a big finish could land himself a pro contract. Right now he’s just concentrating on helping the Storm, who won three of three last weekend, maintain their playoff position.

W Adam HenrichGPGAPPIM+/-
2001-2002 Brampton6633306392-4
2002-2003 Brampton5428265478+27

Stock: Rising
Since Last Update: 25GP, 16G-11A-27P, 33PIM, (+9)

How hot is Adam Henrich? In his last 15 games, he has 13 goals and is leading the Battalion back to the playoffs. In their last game, a pivotal division game against Toronto, Henrich scored the game-tying goal in the third, then added the winner in overtime to pull Brampton into a first place tie with the Majors in the Central Division. After being in the box for a hooking call when Toronto scored their only goal, Henrich picked up a loose puck off a blocked shot in the offensive zone and beat Toronto goalie Andy Chiodo low to the stick side. In overtime, Henrich stripped the puck from Toronto captain Tim Brent behind the net, swung around the net and slid the puck between Chiodo’s pads for an unassisted goal and a 2-1 win. Henrich was named the game’s first star.

Henrich’s +27 rating is currently 31 points higher than his –4 rating last year. It’s also good for 12th in the OHL and first on the Brampton club. He is Brampton’s goal leader and is second in points. Henrich was ranked sixth in THN’s top-10 rankings of Bolt prospects.

D Paul RangerGPGAPPIM+/-
2001-2002 Oshawa6209949NA
2001-2002 Osh. (Playoffs)50004NA
2002-2003 Oshawa598233162+21

Stock: Steady
Since Last Update: 23GP, 3G-9A-12P, 32PIM, (+11)

Let’s just hand the nickname “Mr. Consistency” over to Mr. Ranger. His numbers are almost even in every quarter so far this year and all he does is produce. The 6’2” 210 Ranger has been a physical presence so far this year, and has contributed on the power play (3 PPG).

Western Hockey League

D Gerard DicaireGPGAPPIM+/-
2001-2002 Sea/Kty676465234NA
2001-2002 Kty (Playoffs)221131424+7
2002-2003 Kootenay6314385275E

Stock: Steady
Since Last Update: 24GP, 5G-16A-21P, 22PIM, (-10)

Dicaire’s 52 points are good for 3rd in the WHL among defenseman. That mark equals his output all of last year when he split the season between Kootenay and Seattle. Remarkably, 12 of Dicaire’s 14 goals have come on the power play. His special teams play will be needed next season for the Bolt’s AHL affiliate. Dicaire squeaked into THN’s top-10 Bolt prospects at #10. The caption stated he isn’t involved physically, a statement seemingly shot down by the fact Dicaire’s PIM numbers (75) are already more than twice those of his previous season (34).

W Darren ReidGPGAPPIM+/-
2001-2002 Medicine Hat37891770+8
2001-2002 D.V. (AJHL)3191221195NA
2002-2003 Medicine Hat5492635140-11

Stock: Steady
Since Last Update: 21GP, 2G-9A-11P, 52PIM, (-7)

Reid leads the Tigers in penalty minutes and is a gritty leader for the club. He’s spent the whole year in Medicine Hat after splitting last year between the Tigers and the AJHL. An older prospect, it will be interesting to see what kind of approach the Lightning take in signing Reid. He could be a plugger on the AHL or ECHL level, but his skating, size, and lack of raw skills won’t translate well in the upper professional ranks. If Tampa GM Jay Feaster wants a guy with heart and who gives 110%, he may sign Reid to contribute on the lower lines in the AHL.

LW Ryan CraigGPGAPPIM+/-
2001-2002 Brandon5229356452NA
2001-2002 Bdn (Playoffs)1911102113+7
2002-2003 Brandon5235296467+23

Stock: Still Rising
Since Last Update: 25GP, 16G-10A-28P, 27PIM, (+10)

Craig continues to work his way up the Lightning’s prospect ranks. He was listed at #9 in THN’s Tampa Bay rankings, thanks to his all-around leadership, skill-set, and intangibles. The Lightning isn’t crazy about his skating, but think that can be corrected through training. The Lightning brass has already talked about Craig wearing a letter for next year’s AHL club, illustrating just how high they are on the Wheat King’s captain. Brandon has clinched a playoff spot and can clinch their division this week. They are currently ranked sixth in the CHL’s latest top-10 team rankings. Craig is six games away from 300 for his WHL career. He’s earned a point in five straight games (3-4-7) and was instrumental in leading the Wheat Kings when WHL star Jordin Tootoo was out serving a 10-game suspension. Craig’s 35 goals are tops for his club and seventh in the league. He also leads the club in +/- (18th in league) and in power play goals, with 14 (9th in the league).

U.S.H.L.

D Arthur FemenellaGPGAPPIM+/-
2001-2002 Sioux City5611011215NA
2001-2002 Sioux City (Playoffs)1201132NA
2002-2003 Sioux City 38156164+8

Stock: Steady
Since Last Update: 13GP, 0G-0A-0P, 61PIM, (+3)

The 6’7 Femenella will be following in the mite-sized footsteps of five-foot-six and current Lightning all-star forward Martin St. Louis when he attends the University of Vermont next fall. Femenella has verbally committed to the Catamounts, fulfilling a highly prioritized goal he set for himself coming out of high school. Though he hasn’t registered a point in several games, his defensive play (he’s a true stay-at-homer) has been adequate. He showed an underrated shot at the Lightning’s rookie workouts this past summer, and backed that up by winning Sioux City’s hardest shot contest in the team’s skills competition. Femenella fired a 92 mph shot to win that portion of the competition.

G Joseph PearceW-L-TGAASv%SO
2001-2002 Manchester (EJHL)NA2.16.9330
2001-2002 Man. (Playoffs)NA1.82.938NA
2002-2002 Chicago 11-10-(3 OTL)3.08.8891

Stock: Steady
Last Update: 7-6-2, 3.23, .889%, 1 S.O.

Pearce is currently part of a goaltending duo in Chicago, a plan the Steel seem to be set on despite having a much better won-loss record with Pearce in net (11-10-3 vs. 6-13-3) . Pearce, who stands 6’5, will have a lot of time to develop when he attends Boston College next fall.

Eastern Junior Hockey League

W John ToffeyGPGAPPIM+/-
2001-2002 Ohio State242354NA
2002-2003 Walpole19781510NA

Stock: Steady
Since Last Update: 11GP, 5G-2A-7P, 6PIM

Toffey stopped attending The Ohio State University in the summer, thereby being released from his hockey and baseball scholarships. He played minor-pro baseball this summer for the Bourne Braves of the Cape Cod League, posting below-average numbers as a relief pitcher. He joined the Walpole Junior Stars in the fall, in which he will keep his NCAA eligibility. It turned out to be a smart move as he will attend the University of Massachusetts next fall.

NCAA Hockey

 

D PJ AthertonGPGAPPIM+/-
2001-2002 Cedar Rapids (USHL)5472229101NA
2002-2003 U of Minnesota1822420E

Stock: Steady
Since Last Update: 10GP, 1G-2A-3P, 13PIM, (E)

Atherton registered an assist in the Gopher’s last game, a loss to Minnesota-Duluth. He has gained more favor from the coaching staff and is now playing more regularly—a plus for a true freshman. Atherton has good passing skills and a nice swagger to his game, but must improve in his own zone as he continues to develop in one of the country’s best collegiate hockey programs.

D Paul LynchGPGAPPIM+/-
2001-2002 U of Maine 2224624NA
2002-2003 U of Maine70112+4

Stock: Dropping Slightly
Since Last Update: 4GP, 0G-1A-1P, 2PIM, (+2)

Lynch, a sophomore, has finally gained some ice time after not playing for weeks. Maine was experimenting, moving him to forward, but nothing has become official as he’s still listed as a defenseman on the club’s roster. After playing 22 games as a freshman, it’s discouraging to know he’s only been able to get in 7 so far this year.

W Dennis PackardGPGAPPIM+/-
2001-2002 Harvard 329101934NA
2002-2003 Harvard2354924NA

Stock: Steady
Since Last Update: 10GP, 2G-1A-3P, 6PIM

Despite declining offensive numbers, Packard was still ranked #8 in the THN top-10 list. Packard’s last point came on Valentine’s day when he made a drop-pass shorthanded to teammate and Rangers prospect Dominic Moore, who scored the final goal for his hat trick in a 7-0 win over Colgate. That assist was the only point Packard, a junior, would notch in the contest.

Note: All statistics as of 2-24-2003.

The Hockey News’ Top-10 Tampa Bay Prospects:
1. Alexander Svitov (C – Tampa Bay Lightning – NHL)
2. Alexander Polushin (C/W – CSKA – RSL)
3. Nikita Alexeev (RW – Tampa Bay Lightning – NHL)
4. Evgeni Artukhin (RW – Moncton – QMJHL)
5. Andreas Holmqvist (D – Linkoping – SEL)
6. Adam Henrich (LW – Brampton – OHL)
7. Martin Cibak (C/W – Springfield – AHL)
8. Dennis Packard (LW – Harvard – NCAA)
9. Ryan Craig (C – Brandon – WHL)
10. Gerard Dicaire (D – Kootenay – WHL)