Lightning 2004 Traverse City review with GM Jay Feaster

By Timothy Bennett

The annual Traverse City prospects tournament was held September 10-14, 2004 in Traverse City, Michigan with the St. Louis Blues prospects clinching the tourney championship by defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning prospects 4-3.

The Baby Bolts finished the tournament with a record of 2-1-0, winning their opening matches 3-1 against St. Louis and 5-4 over the Detroit Red Wings. The wins earned the Lightning a berth in the championship game. The Blues defeated the Red Wings 8-3 in the semi-finals setting up their successful rematch against Tampa. After leading 1-0 after the first period, and trailing 3-1 after two, the Blues scored three times in the first half of the third period to clinch the tournament championship.

The Bolt tournament roster was previewed here.

Throughout the tournament, Hockey’s Future had an opportunity to sit down with Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Jay Feaster and discuss his thoughts and reflections about the tournament and the competing Tampa prospects. Those conversations are presented below.

HF: Following the tournament, you told the Tampa Tribune that Nick Tarnasky (1G-2A-3P) was your team MVP. Who would you list as the Lightning All-Tournament Team?

JF: All-Tournament team for me is Adam Henrich (2G-3A-5P), Ryan Craig (1G-0A-1P), and Tarnasky up front, with Andy Rogers (1G-1A-2P) and Doug O’Brien (0G-1A-1P) on the blueline, and Karri Ramo (1W-0L-0T; 1.00GAA; 0.974 SV%) as the goalie. They all battled and competed. Henrich was excellent. Craiger played his usual hard-hosed, aggressive style and Tarnasky was my MVP. Tarnasky skates really well and, most importantly, he competes each and every shift. That’s what we like about him — his competitiveness. He looked very comfortable. On the blueline, I didn’t even think it was close. Rogers was outstanding throughout and O’Brien was solid and steady. Ramo was excellent as well. Clearly the better/best of the three goalies. The young man was playing in his first game in North America and didn’t know he would be starting until the morning of the game. He was solid and you could see him warming and becoming more comfortable as the game wore on.

HF: After a superb performance from Ramo, it would seem that Gerald Coleman (1W-0L-0T; 4.00GAA; 0.879 SV%) giving up four goals [against Detroit] might be a bit of a disappointment. Was his performance a disappointment to the staff?

JF: Coleman battled. I wasn’t disappointed with any of the goals. Some rebounds we failed to clear and some point blank chances. He was solid, despite giving up four.

HF: Whose play in the tournament surprised the organization the most?

JF: The biggest, and most pleasant, surprise of the tournament for us was Henrich. The trick is to get him to be committed like that at both ends each and every night through the grind of an 80-game schedule in the AHL. We saw a brief glimpse of the offensive skill at last year’s Rookie Tournament, but too many times this year the scouts were disappointed by his lack of commitment in the defensive zone and his lack of work ethic along the wall and in the neutral zone. He brought it all to Traverse City and he was clearly, by far, the biggest and most pleasant surprise for us.

He was a force [in the opening game against St. Louis]. As we discussed internally, that will be the challenge for Dirk Graham and Phil Russell in Springfield this season — to try to unlock what we saw on a night in and night out basis. He had three outstanding scoring chances in the first period alone and he was excellent on the PK.

HF: Whose play disappointed the most?

JF: In terms of “disappointment,” I wouldn’t characterize anyone’s play that way. What I will say is that I, personally, expected more from Jan Zapletal (0G-0A-0P). He had received quite a bit of a build-up internally and I was looking for more from him. He was incredibly nervous, I thought, and the speed and pace of the game was too much for him. He will benefit greatly, I trust, from playing North American junior this year, particularly in the Western Hockey League (Regina).

HF: If there wasn’t an NHL lockout, which prospect(s) would have the best chance of making the Bolt squad out of camp (if any)?

JF: I don’t think any of the guys would have made our team out of camp given that we are the defending Stanley Cup Champions and really only lost one player — Jassen Cullimore. There might have been some battles at some spots, but overall, it was highly unlikely that anyone would step up this year. I do believe that after a full season in Springfield, playing our system for our coaching staff, a couple of guys have a chance at camp next year… such as Jean-François Soucy (0G-2A-2P; 13 PIMs), Evgeni Artukhin, Gerard Dicaire, Tarnasky, Craig… who knows…

HF: Speaking of Soucy, your thoughts about his tournament?

JF: Soucy is one mean, tough kid to play against and we love what he brings to the team. He and Craig were two of the leaders on the team in Traverse City.

HF: Did anyone jump significantly in the organization’s depth chart due to what you saw at the tourney (like Dicaire did last season)?

JF: Clearly, Tarnasky has moved up the depth chart considerably.

HF: You only invited one free agent tryout to Traverse City this year, former Canadiens pick Andre Deveaux (0G-2A-2P), and he ends up signing a contract with the Lightning following the tournament. Your thoughts about Deveaux?

JF: We signed Deveaux to an NHL three-way contract and did so prior to the expiration of the CBA. We assigned him to Springfield where he’ll compete for a spot on the roster. He had an excellent tournament. As I told him, he had an incredibly high bar to hurdle to earn a contract because I was not looking to sign anyone. He really impressed us and he earned that contract. Very solid on draws and is a smart player. He works hard, which endears him to this organization.

HF: Your thoughts about Ryan Craig’s tournament?

JF: Again, on Craiger, I thought he demonstrated tremendous leadership both on and off the ice. As I told the guys after we lost the championship game, I was upset that too many of us tried to be “pretty” early in the game. We made “pretty” drop passes at our blue line that went the other way for scoring chances against. We tried to make that “pretty” tic-tac-toe play rather than going to the net. “Pretty” isn’t the way I want to describe Tampa Bay Lightning hockey. I said Craiger’s goal, driving to the net, diving, laying himself out fully with a guy all over him, tipping it past the goalie and then crashing into the goalie like a bowling ball — that’s Tampa Bay Lightning Hockey.

HF: There was some consternation this summer with the HF staff regarding how to rank Darren Reid (2G-0A-2G) following his explosive overage junior season with Medicine Hat. In the end, we are very big on Reid at HF and he skyrocketed into our Top 10 list. Your thoughts about Reid’s tournament?

JF: Reid is going to be an NHL player one day if he continues to work. He has very good hands, a very hard shot, and he thinks the game well. Combine all of that with the fact that he is a tough kid who is willing to stick his nose in there and you have to like what he brings. He played well [in the first game against St. Louis] and we expect even bigger and better things from him. Your Top 10 prospect ranking is not a mistake.

HF: With the disappointing season Andreas Holmqvist (1G-1A-2P) had last year, how about his game against Detroit?

JF: Holmqvist was very good offensively. Dirk Graham had told him to start expressing himself offensively if the opportunity presented itself, and the first chance he had he did just that, going end to end to score a goal. Very impressive.

HF: One of the hesitations about Justin Keller (1G-0A-1P) is his diminutive (5’10) size. Does Keller play a perimeter game or does he venture into the high-traffic areas?

JF: Keller does not play a perimeter game. He sticks his nose in there and goes into high traffic areas. He was a bit tentative at the start of the tourney, but he really came on and played well as we progressed. We all liked him a great deal.

HF: One of the most mysterious Tampa draft picks of the past few seasons was this summer’s fifth round selection of defenseman Brandon Elliott (0G-0A-0P; 5PIMs). He didn’t seem to be on any of the pre-draft ranking lists, yet was a fifth round selection. Your thoughts on Elliott and what you’ve seen of him in the tournament?

JF: He was good [in the opening game against St. Louis], but got hurt in a fight. He is a guy we really like. The reason he was drafted so highly is because we don’t believe tough guys who can play are easy to acquire. Thus, you have to try to grow your own. That’s why we stepped up and went after him. We’ll see how he develops but right now we are very pleased with our selection.

HF: With Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier known in Tampa circles as the Rimouski Brothers, the organization has sort of a next generation on the Rimouski-Tampa pipeline in Zbynek Hrdel (1G-1A-2P) and Mark Tobin (1G-OA-1P). Some comments about Hrdel and Tobin?

JF: Hrdel and Tobin both rebounded nicely and contributed. They were nervous in their first game [against St. Louis], but came on strong [against Detroit].

HF: We were surprised to see two European prospects in Raimonds Danilicis (0G-1A-1P) and Karri Akkanen (0G-OA-OP) getting invitations to Traverse City. Neither has shown much in their Finnish junior careers. Comments about both of these kids?

JF: Danilicis has a long way to go. Akkanen came into this camp in less than stellar shape in my opinion and pulled a groin in the first game. He needs to recognize how hard he has to work if he is going to have a future in the Tampa Bay organization.

HF: Thoughts on the play of Dennis Packard (0G-1A-1P)?

JF: Packard needs to pick up his play. He needs to start using his size and playing a power forward game. Thus far [through the Detroit game] he has been a non-factor.

HF: Impressions of Paul Ranger (0G-0A-0P)?

JF: Ranger needs to get stronger. He is a gamer and he competes, which I like a lot. At the same time, he is not strong enough to win all the battles in front of the net or on the wall. He needs to continue to work on getting stronger, both upper body and leg strength.

HF: Where was Henrik Bergfors?

JF: Bergfors had immigration problems. Adirondack of the UHL had not secured his H2-B visa.

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