Lightning 2004 Traverse City tournament preview

By Timothy Bennett

The annual Traverse City Prospects Tournament kicks off September 10, 2004 in Traverse City, Michigan. For the second straight year, the Tampa Bay Lightning will be participating in the tourney.

The Washington Capitals, a 2003 participant, announced recently they would not attend the 2004 tournament as previously planned for financial reasons. This leaves only the Lightning, Detroit Red Wings, and St. Louis Blues participating in what is this year a five day, three-team round-robin affair.

After stocking their 2003 tournament roster exclusively with prospects playing in the North American junior or minor leagues, the Bolts will be bringing three of their unsigned Europe-based prospects to Traverse City this year. Of the entire 2004 tournament roster, only three prospects boast any North American professional experience. Thirteen are returning for their second Traverse City tournament, but prospect Evgeny Artukhin, a 2003 participant and eligible for 2004, will not attend due to a school examination conflict in his native Russia.

The following is a brief breakdown of the expected Bolt roster by position (roster courtesy of RedWingsCentral.com):

Goaltenders

The Bolts 2004 tournament roster sports a return visit by two of Tampa’s top netminder prospects, Jonathan Boutin and Gerald Coleman. Both are currently ranked in Hockey’s Future’s Tampa Bay Top 20 prospects, and their strong performance in the 2003 tourney earned each an invitation to the Lightning 2003 main training camp. Joining Boutin and Coleman in goal will be big Finnish goalie Karri Ramo, one of General Manager Jay Feaster’s two sixth round picks this summer. Ramo managed to secure a backup job for Finland in the 2003 U-18 World Junior Championships where he played one game, stopping 12 of 13 shots en route to a 4-1 win over Denmark.

Boutin, Jonathan
– 2003 3rd round pick (96th overall)
– 6’1, 195 lbs; Catches: Left
– 2003-2004 team: PEI (QMJHL)

Coleman, Gerald
– 2003 7th round pick (224th)
– 6’4, 189 lbs; Catches: Left
– 2003-2004 team: London (OHL)

Ramo, Karri
– 2004 6th round pick (191st)
– 6’2, 192 lbs
– 2003-2004 team: Lahti (FIN-Jr)

Defensemen

Over the last three draft classes, Feaster has stockpiled a cache of strong blueline prospects for the Lightning. More than half of Tampa’s Top 15 prospects are defensemen, and the 2004 Traverse City tournament roster contains five of the top eight Bolt blueliners. Six of the eight defensemen on the roster are Feaster picks from the last three years.

Leading Tampa’s defensemen in Traverse City will be Calgary Hitmen teammates Mike Egener and Andy Rogers, the Lightning’s top picks in each of the last two draft classes. Both are big, rugged, stay-at-homers that showcase the typical Feaster criteria for blueliners: great skaters, good passers, highly physical, and exemplary character. Joining Egener as second year Traverse City veterans are Canadian Hockey League offensive phenoms Doug O’Brien and Paul Ranger. Egener, O’Brien, and Ranger all signed three-year rookie contracts with Tampa this summer, and are expected to patrol the AHL Springfield Falcon blueline this year as first year pros. Also participating will be former Pensacola ice Pilot and Traverse City veteran Andreas Holmqvist, who is looking to put his disappointing 2003-04 season behind him as he prepares for his sophomore pro campaign.

Former Lightning General Manager Rick Dudley picked rugged backliner Henrik Bergfors in the 2001 draft (along with Holmqvist), and he too returns for a second Traverse City appearance. Bergfors came to North America last year intent on earning a contract with the Bolts, but his season with the Wichita Thunder (CHL) ended earlier than expected with a season-ending shoulder injury during an exhibition game with Tulsa. Bergfors recently signed a one-year contract with Adirondack (UHL) as he attempts to show the Lightning brass that he can play the North American game. Rounding out the eight man defensive corps is a pair of 2004 sixth round picks, Brandon Elliott and Jan Zapletal. Elliott, a big, bruising enforcer, looks to be heading back to Mississauga (OHL) for an overage junior season. Zapletal, a recent forward-turned-defenseman in the Czech juniors, makes his North American debut in 2004 with Regina (WHL).

Bergfors, Henrik
– 2001 9th round pick (289th)
– 6’4, 227 lbs; Shoots: Right
– 2003-2004 team: Wichita (CHL)

Egener, Mike
– 2003 2nd round pick (34th) – signed
– 6’3, 195 lbs; Shoots: Left
– 2003-2004 team: Calgary (WHL)

Elliott, Brandon
– 2004 5th round pick (158th)
– 6’4, 225 lbs; Shoots: Left
– 2003-2004 team: Mississauga (OHL)

Holmqvist, Andreas
– 2001 2nd round pick (61st) – signed
– 6’4, 190 lbs; Shoots: Right
– 2003-2004 team: Pensacola (ECHL)

O’Brien, Doug
– 2003 6th round pick (192nd) – signed
– 6’1, 200 lbs; Shoots: Left
– 2003-2004 team: Gatineau (QMJHL)

Ranger, Paul
– 2002 6th round pick (183rd) – signed
– 6’2, 200 lbs; Shoots: Left
– 2003-2004 team: Oshawa (OHL)

Rogers, Andy
– 2004 1st round pick (30th)
– 6’5, 206 lbs; Shoots: Left
– 2003-2004 team: Calgary (WHL)

Zapetal, Jan
– 2004 6th round pick (188th)
– 6’3, 190 lbs
– 2003-2004 team: HC Vsetin (CZE-Jr)

Forwards

Leading the forward ranks is sophomore pro Ryan Craig. Craig is the only prospect on the roster who has secured consistent playing time at the AHL level. His natural on and off ice leadership will be called upon to quickly help bring some cohesiveness to this diverse unit. Joining Craig as one of the forward leaders is fellow second year pro Jean-François Soucy. Both Craig and Soucy are making a return trip to Traverse City, and are anticipated to be an integral part of Tampa’s new AHL affiliation in Springfield during the 2004-05 season.

Feaster’s first ever draft choice, Adam Henrich, signed a three year rookie contract this summer along with fellow tourney alums Dennis Packard, Darren Reid, and Nick Tarnasky. These first year pros will be battling for roster spots and playing time in Springfield after the conclusion of the tournament. Rimouski Oceanic teammates Zbynek Hrdel and Mark Tobin, also join Tampa’s tournament roster. Tobin was the Lightning’s second round pick in the 2004 draft, while Hrdel makes his second appearance in Traverse City in hopes of establishing himself as a candidate to be signed by Feaster next summer. Joining Tobin as the only other 2004 forward draft pick is the Kelowna’s diminutive winger Justin Keller. Following the Lightning’s success with NHL MVP Martin St. Louis, Feaster is hoping this small but skillful Canadian can follow the blueprint of St. Louis and someday play in the NHL.

Unsigned European prospects Karri Akkanen and Raimonds Danilicis hope to revive their standings in the Lightning organizational depth chart after disappointing 2003-04 seasons in the Finnish juniors. It’s possible the difficulties with the NHL and IIHF agreements, particularly with the Russian leagues, made it impossible for the Lightning to get a better look at some of their more highly-touted European prospects such as number one prospect Alexander Polushin, as well as Dmitry Kazionov, and Vasily Kochechkin.

Rounding out the forward ranks is former Montreal Canadiens 2002 sixth round pick Andre Deveaux, the only free agent try-out on the Lightning’s tournament roster. Deveaux, a big center with excellent faceoff skills, could possibly win a contract and a roster spot with Tampa’s new ECHL affiliate in Johnstown if he can impress the Bolt staff.

Akkanen, Karri
– 2002 6th round pick (174th)
– 6’6, 202 lbs; Shoots: Right
– 2003-2004 team: Tampere (FIN-Jr)

Craig, Ryan
– 2002 8th round pick (255th) – signed
– 6’1, 200 lbs; Shoots: Left
– 2003-2004 team: Hershey (AHL)

Danilicis, Raimonds
– 2003 8th round pick (225th)
– 6’3, 215 lbs; Shoots: Right
– 2003-2004 team: Lukko (FIN-Jr)

Deveaux, Andre
– Montreal’s 2002 6th round pick (182nd)/Tryout
– 6’3, 215 lbs; Shoots: Right
– 2003-2004 team: Owen Sound (OHL)

Henrich, Adam
– 2002 2nd round pick (60th) – signed
– 6’4, 220 lbs; Shoots: Left
– 2003-2004 team: Brampton (OHL)

Hrdel, Zbynek
– 2003 9th round pick (286th)
– 6’2, 194 lbs; Shoots: Right
– 2003-2004 team: Rimouski (QMJHL)

Keller, Justin
– 2004 8th round pick (245th)
– 5’10, 194 lbs; Shoots: Left
– 2003-2004 team: Kelowna (WHL)

Packard, Dennis
– 2001 7th round pick (219th) – signed
– 6’6, 225 lbs
– 2003-2004 team: Harvard (NCAA)

Reid, Darren
– 2002 8th round pick (256th) – signed
– 6’2, 187 lbs; Shoots: Right
– 2003-2004 team: Medicine Hat (WHL)

Soucy, Jean-Francois
– 2001 8th round pick (252nd) – signed
– 6’3, 207 lbs; Shoots: Left
– 2003-2004 team: Pensacola (ECHL)

Tarnasky, Nick
– 2003 9th round pick (287th) – signed
– 6’2, 218 lbs; Shoots: Left
– 2003-2004 team: Lethbridge (WHL)

Tobin, Mark
– 2004 2nd round pick (65th)
– 6’3, 205 lbs; Shoot: Left
– 2003-2004 team: Rimouski (QMJHL)

Lighting 2004 Traverse City Tournament Schedule:

Friday, Sept. 10 — 10:30 a.m. practice; 7 p.m. game vs. St. Louis
Saturday, Sept. 11 — 1 p.m. practice
Sunday, Sept. 12 — 10:30 a.m. practice; 6 p.m. game vs. Detroit
Monday, Sept. 13 — practice TBD (10:30 a.m. or 1 p.m.); 7 p.m. Semi-final game
Tuesday, Sept. 14 — 1 p.m. Championship game

Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without written permission of the editorial staff.