Lightning Top 20 prospects

By HF Staff

Top 20 at a glance

1. Mike Egener
2. Adam Henrich
3. Andy Rogers
4. Alexander Polushin
5. Darren Reid
6. Matt Smaby
7. Doug O’Brien
8. Gerard Dicaire
9. Evgeni Artukhin
10. Andreas Holmqvist
11. Mike Lundin
12. Paul Ranger
13. Ryan Craig
14. Gerald Coleman
15. Jonathan Boutin
16. Brian Eklund
17. Dmitri Kazionov
18. Mark Tobin
19. Zbynek Hrdel
20. Nick Tarnasky

1. Mike Egener, D – Springfield Falcons
(AHL)
Height: 6’4, Weight: 213 lbs., DOB: Sep. 26, 1984
Acquired: 2nd round, 34th overall, 2003

The 20-year-old defenseman seizes the top spot as the top prospect in the Tampa Bay
Lightning organization. The mean, heavy-hitting
defenseman will not win any scoring championships, having scored only six goals in his four
years with the Calgary Hitmen and has a career-high
three with the Falcons this season, but will bring
defensive responsibility and an in-your-face,
lead-by-example style of play to the ice every game.
He is somewhat undisciplined with his rugged style of
play, and will have to control that aspect of his game
if he is going to make the next step, but his style of
play is looked upon favorably in NHL circles. Logging
plenty of ice time in his first professional season,
Egener has made a relatively smooth transition to the
professional game. This year has definitely been a
learning experience for Egener with a struggling Springfield team, and he will look to help his squad compete more effectively
next season. Egener missed 18 games in the middle of
the season with a knee injury, and will hope to stay
healthy, getting a full season next year. If he can
keep disciplined, and hone his defensive game a little
bit more, the smooth-skating defenseman should be a
shoo-in to play one day in the top two pairings for
Tampa Bay.

2. Adam Henrich, LW – Springfield Falcons
(AHL)
Height: 6’4, Weight: 238 lbs., DOB: Jan. 19, 1984
Acquired: 2nd round, 60th overall, 2002

Henrich is playing in his first year of professional
hockey with the Springfield Falcons. After having
enjoyed greener pastures over the past several seasons
with the Brampton Battalion of the OHL, the large
two-way forward has tried to make the most of his
opportunity with the lowly Falcons this season. He
currently sits fifth in points on the team, with seven
goals and 13 assists, while posting a modest –13
rating on the poor team. A clever offensive player
who has just begun to use his size appropriately,
Henrich has had some problems with consistency with
the Falcons this season –- though this has been a
problem with much of the roster –- but he is still
trying to improve his game night in, night out. He has
the fundamentals under control, and he has shown in
the past that he can put the puck in the net, having
put up points at a point-per-game average in the OHL.
If he and his team can get some consistency, and he
can adapt to the professional game, he will have a
better shot at breaking the poor hockey luck of his
family. His is the brother of former Edmonton Oilers
first round bust Michael Henrich. He will look
to have a better season in his sophomore year of
professional hockey.

3. Andy Rogers, D – Prince George Cougars
(WHL)
Height: 6’5, Weight: 206 lbs., DOB: Aug. 25, 1986
Acquired: 1st round, 30th overall, 2004

Rogers had the unfortunate luck of being traded from a
team that finished the season 11 games above .500
(Calgary Hitmen), to a team that finished 15 games
below .500 (Prince George Cougars), and will thus
miss the playoffs, like his future teammates with
Springfield. However, it will not be from lack of
effort from the Lightning’s first round selection in
the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. Rogers, a stay-at-home defenseman who has only scored three
goals in his three seasons in the WHL combined, finds
other ways to contribute on the ice. While he will not
be a key contributor in the offensive end, it is in
his own zone where Rogers shines. Boasting a large
frame and great skating ability, the physical
defenseman has a knack for punishing the opposition in
the defensive end. His size is a key attribute, and
coupled with the physicality and mobility he
possesses, was key in the Lightning choosing him at
the end of the first round, though he could stand to
put on a little bit more weight. His mobility was
slowed temporarily after he suffered a minor ankle
injury that kept him out a few games mid-season. He
will likely return to the WHL for a fourth season next
year, and will look to help contribute to the Cougars
squad next year in his own ways.

4. Alexander Polushin, RW – CSKA Moscow
(RSL)
Height: 6’4, Weight: 200 lbs., DOB: May 8, 1983
Acquired: 2nd round, 47th overall, 2001

Formerly the top prospect in the Lightning
organization, Polushin falls three spots in this
update. Due to a large number of NHL players taking up
residence on the CSKA squad (Nikolai Zherdev,
Alexander Frolov, and Oleg Kvasha,
primarily), Polushin’s ice time with the big club has
been diminished. He still managed to contribute
offensively during his limited time, picking up three
goals and four assists in 17 games. He has played more
of the season with CSKA’s lower-level squad, which might have
spelled disaster for the previously disinterested Polushin, who had played three years in the Russian SuperLeague. However, his mind is now in the right place, and he has taken his temporary demotion
in stride, and let his offensive skills shine. In the
Russian First League, Polushin has scored at above a
point-per-game clip. If it had not been for his ice
time being drastically reduced, he may have put up
similar numbers with parent club. A great skater with
good size, offensive creativity, and desire, Polushin
has what it takes to contribute at the NHL level.
Whether or not he will get that opportunity in the
near future remains to be seen. All he can do is
continue to contribute offensively on a consistent
basis, at whichever level his is at, and wait for his
opportunity. It will come in time.

5. Darren Reid, RW – Springfield Falcons
(AHL)
Height: 6’2, Weight: 190 lbs., DOB: May 8, 1983
Acquired: 8th round, 256th overall, 2002

A first glance at Reid’s offensive stats for the
Falcons this season, one would suspect that the
first-year forward has been quite the bust. In 53
games thus far, Reid has only managed to notch two
goals; a far cry from the 81 points he put up last
season for the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers. However,
Reid is contributing in other ways. A physical forward
who does all that is asked of him on the ice, Reid
brings a physical dimension to the ice every game. Not
the largest of players, but willing to buy into a
“team” concept, Reid brings a strong work ethic to a
team that can use leadership, and gives great effort
on every shift. Not an overwhelming offensive threat
thus far in his professional career, Reid does boast a
decent repertoire of moves, and he has good on-ice
vision and offensive creativity, though he is not
getting results yet at the professional level. Things
are looking up for Reid in the future. The
hard-working forward has risen rapidly up the
Lightning prospect depth chart, and if he can regain
his offensive touch next season, this power-forward in
the making has a legitimate shot at someday playing
for Tampa Bay, despite being somewhat of an
afterthought on draft day in 2002, when he was
selected in the eighth round.

6. Matt Smaby, D – University of North Dakota
Fighting Sioux (WCHA)
Height: 6’5, Weight: 205 lbs., DOB: Oct. 14, 1984
Acquired: 2nd round, 41st overall, 2003

The Lightning tradition in recent years has seemed to
be of drafting defensemen who are not great offensive
threats, but are mean and responsible in their own
end. Matt Smaby fits into this mould, much like Egener
and Rogers before him, playing a very tight, gritty game in his own end, while more or less neglecting much of his offensive talent. Boasting
great size (though he could definitely stand to add
some more weight), the defensive Smaby is still quite
mobile in his own end, and opposing forwards have a
difficult time getting around him. Not known for his
offensive threats, with only three points this
season, Smaby still has a decent shot and above-average
offensive instincts. Smaby and the Fighting Sioux will
be competing in the Frozen Four tournament, to
determine a national collegiate hockey champion, and
he will no doubt play a key role for the Fighting
Sioux, alongside other highly touted talents in
Travis Zajac and Drew Stafford. Smaby was second on the team in penalty minutes with 86 so far this season.

7. Doug O’Brien, D – Springfield Falcons
(AHL)
Height: 6’1, Weight: 200 lbs., DOB: Feb. 16, 1984
Acquired: 6th round, 192nd overall, 2003

O’Brien has been a rare bright spot on a poor
Springfield Falcons squad in his first year in
professional hockey. A winner in junior, appearing in
two Memorial Cups for the Hull (now Gatineau)
Olympiques, the 21-year-old defenseman won’t be seeing the postseason this time, as the Falcons sit in the basement of the
AHL’s Atlantic Division. O’Brien, despite being a
rookie, has logged plenty of ice time on the point. A
great two-way defenseman in junior, he has had to
focus more on his defensive play (which is quite
respectable) for Springfield. However, he still leads
team defensemen in scoring at this point, with 13
points. Playing in key situations for a poor team,
O’Brien’s plus/minus rating is third worst on the
team, at –21, but he is still playing a responsible
game. Not overly large, nor dominant in any particular
aspect of the game, O’Brien continues to bring a
well-rounded game to the rink every night.

8. Gerard Dicaire, D – Springfield Falcons
(AHL)
Height: 6’2, Weight: 210 lbs., DOB: Sep 14, 1982
Acquired: 5th round, 162nd overall, 2002

Dicaire’s second season in professional hockey has
been problematic. He spent several weeks at the start
of the season on the injured list after having surgery
to remove infected boils from his back. He was never
able to get his season on the right track after that,
and Springfield’s poor season has not provided him
with an adequate environment to improve his play. A
good offensive defenseman in junior, Dicaire has not
had much of an opportunity yet to use his offensive
instincts this season. He only has two goals and five
points in 43 games for the Falcons, and will look to
next year to hopefully prove his worth. His all-around
game has been decent with Springfield this season. An
intelligent player, he has tried to make the smart
play at the right time, and his two-way ability has
resulted in a somewhat respectable –15 rating. His
offensive expertise cannot be overlooked by the
Lightning scouting staff, as most of their other
defensive prospects are lack Dicaire’s skill and
awareness in the opposition’s zone. Though boasting a
decent-sized frame, Dicaire has not used his size to
his advantage often enough, and will have to get
meaner if he wishes to make a permanent step up to the
next level.

9. Evgeni Artukhin, LW – Springfield Falcons
(AHL)
Height: 6’4, Weight: 254 lbs., DOB: Apr. 4, 1983
Acquired: 3rd round, 94th overall, 2001

Artukhin has shown some progression this season, his
second in the AHL (but first for Springfield). The
mammoth Russian power-forward has compiled seven
goals, 10 assists for the offensively dreadful
Falcons, and as per usual, has been bringing his very
sound physical game to the ice nearly every night. A
tank on skates, Artukhin hits everything and anything. A deceivingly strong skater, he can
build up speed quickly, and hits to punish opponents. With his
frame, that happens often. Playing with often-reckless
abandon this season has gotten Artukhin in trouble
with the league offices on multiple occasions, as he
has been suspended twice (one for a devastating check
thrown on an opponent, and a ten-game suspension for
abuse of officials). He must learn to keep his cool,
keep himself under control, and learn to throw the big
hit at the opportune time. Artukhin is the only player
with a plus/minus rating on this year’s Falcons – a
difficult task for a player on a team that has given
up 90 more goals than it has scored.

10. Andreas Holmqvist, D – Springfield Falcons
(AHL)
Height: 6’4, Weight: 195 lbs., DOB: Jul. 23, 1981
Acquired: 2nd round, 61st overall, 2001

Holmqvist is in his first full season in the American
Hockey League with Springfield. The two-way
Swedish-born defenseman had a taste of the AHL with
the Hershey Bears last season (four games) before
putting together a fairly successful season in the
ECHL with the Pensacola Ice Pilots, piling up four
goals and 33 assists. Despite what many deem to be
NHL-calibre offensive skills, Holmqvist has been in
and out of the line-up this season, as the Lightning
farm team in Springfield has a plethora of strong
defensive prospects, meaning there is not enough ice
time to go around, in spite of Holmqvist’s obvious
valuable skills. Tall and physical, but still somewhat
slight, Holmqvist could definitely stand to add some
weight and strength for next season, when the log-jam
on the Falcons blue-line should be cleared up (should
the lockout come to an end). In limited action this
season, Holmqvist has contributed offensively. Despite
playing half as many games as many defensive regulars,
Holmqvist has scored three goals and five assists in
34 games, and he has added one game-winning goal.
Highly skilled, and responsible in both ends of the
ice, and boasting good size and strength, Holmqvist
has plenty of desirable attributes. All he needs to do
is win a regular spot, to show them off on a regular
basis. He will have a chance next season.

11. Mike Lundin, D – University of Maine Black
Bears (HE)
Height: 6’1, Weight: 195 lbs., DOB: Sep. 24, 1984
Acquired: 4th round, 102nd overall, 2004

A smooth skater with great vision and playmaking
ability with the puck, Lundin is just another in a
long line of solid defensive prospects in Tampa Bay’s
stable. Lundin just finished his sophomore season with
the Maine Black Bears in Hockey East. After a very promising freshman year, which
resulted in his drafting by the Lightning in the
fourth round of last year’s NHL draft, Lundin
struggled out of the gate, falling victim, it
appeared, to yet another sophomore slump. However,
the second half of the season, Lundin got back to
making the safe play, and regaining the fundamentals
of the game, and was able to turn around a poor
season. He scored only one goal in his sophomore
season, but that was a game-winning goal in a game
against Northeastern in January. Lundin finished the
season with 13 assists to go with his one goal, a
little less than last season, but far better than it
appeared he would finish with at the start of the
season. By the end of the season, Lundin was seeing
prime ice again, and was one of the team’s top
defensemen. With two senior defensemen moving on next
season, the defensive corps will unofficially fall
into Lundin’s control. With his tireless work ethic
and positive, upbeat attitude, he should have little
trouble adapting.

12. Paul Ranger, D – Springfield Falcons
(AHL)
Height: 6’2, Weight: 215 lbs., DOB: Sep. 12, 1984
Acquired: 6th round, 183rd overall, 2002

Ranger made the jump to the professional ranks this
season after four fairly productive seasons with the
OHL’s Oshawa Generals. Ranger joins the long list of
defensively responsible defensive prospects in the
Tampa Bay system. A quick skating, mobile defenseman
with decent size, Ranger plays very well positionally
in his own end. Of the Springfield defensemen who have
played more than 50 games this season, Ranger is third
in plus/minus with a respectable –12 rating, in spite
of the fact that he has only put up seven points in 61
games thus far. There were two knocks on Ranger’s game
coming into this season – consistency and lack of
physicality. There have been times when Ranger has
appeared very solid in his own end, but there are
other times when he looks as if he could have used
some seasoning in the ECHL before making the jump to
Springfield. In regards to his lack of physicality, he
was deemed somewhat slight, and in response to that,
put on 15 pounds of muscle in the off-season. With the
added size, it was hoped that his physical game would
increase, but it has not come along as was hoped.
Increased physicality, coupled with competent two-way
play, will go a long way in ensuring that Ranger has a
long professional career, that may perhaps take him
into the NHL.

13. Ryan Craig, C – Springfield Falcons
(AHL)
Height: 6’2, Weight: 220 lbs., DOB: Jan 6, 1982
Acquired: 8th round, 225th overall, 2002

Ryan Craig has been one of the few bright spots
offensively on an otherwise dismal Falcons squad. When
he came aboard with Springfield this season after
having a rather forgettable first professional season
with Hershey, it was expected that the solid two-way
player would become a fixture on the Springfield
checking line. Instead, Craig has developed into the
team’s leading goal scorer (24, of which five are
game-winning goals) and point-getter (37). Craig’s
offensive outburst should not come as a surprise,
since he topped the 30-goal plateau twice in the WHL, though the offensive facet
was not expected to be what he brought to the table in
the professional game. A great leader with third or
fourth line role-player potential, it is entirely
possible that this offensive outburst is an aberration
in Craig’s professional career, but that does not mean
he should not have a chance to carve out a successful
professional career in the future. With great size,
grit, and character, Craig is the sort of player who
helps win championships by bringing intangibles to the
ice.

14. Gerald Coleman, G – London Knights
(OHL)
Height: 6’4, Weight: 190 lbs., DOB: Apr 3, 1985
Acquired: 7th round, 224th overall, 2003

The statistics Gerald Coleman has put up
for the best team in the Canadian Hockey League, the
London Knights, are staggering. During the regular
season, Coleman compiled an almost unheard of record
of 32 wins, 2 losses, and 2 ties, while putting up an
astounding save percentage of 0.941, and holding onto
a microscopic goals against average of 1.70. While the
Knights offense is, as a whole, among the most
overpowering groups seen in the CHL in recent years,
Coleman also did his share in keeping the Knights
record so astounding as it was. Coleman is very large
(if still somewhat lanky), and is quite positionally
sound. However, the statistics may be deceiving, and
there are still concerns in his game. Though
positionally sound, and boasting a stellar save
percentage, Coleman has been known to give up the
occasional very bad goal, and regardless of how potent
the rest of the team is, a bad goal at an inopportune
time can be deadly. Also, Coleman’s playing time down
the stretch was curtailed after the acquisition of
another goaltender, Adam Dennis, who had an
even lower goals against average and higher save
percentage than Coleman. The two netminders each
played a pair of games in London’s first round sweep
of Guelph. In order to soundly make the next step to
the professional level, Coleman must realize that not
every team he plays for will be as strong as the
2004-05 Knights, and he will have to stop giving up
the bad goal.

15. Jonathan Boutin, G – Quebec Remparts
(QMJHL)
Height: 6’2, Weight: 206 lbs., DOB: Mar. 28, 1985
Acquired: 3rd round, 93rd overall, 2003

Boutin had yet another inconsistent season, his fourth
in the QMJHL. After finishing last season
strong after a change of scenery, Boutin came out of
the gates on fire with the P.E.I. Rocket, and thus
almost silenced his critics that have continuously
harped on his choppy play, and he led his team to the
top of the Maritime Division for a time in October.
However, it was not long until the wheels fell off,
and he was moved off the island to play for Patrick
Roy’s Quebec Remparts. He was hampered down the
stretch with a bout of appendicitis that kept him out
several weeks. Plagued by inconsistency for much of
the season, Boutin was given the ball after Maxime
Joyal
faltered, and he proved to be very
efficient, helping bring the Remparts back from a 3-1
series deficit against Victoriaville, to lead his team
to the second round. Until he can keep his head in the
game for an extended stretch, and prevent himself from
giving up the early, weak goal, Boutin will still
leave everyone wanting more. He has the stuff to be a
top-flight goaltender, but whether he can put it all
together at the same time is still unclear. The next
round series against Chicoutimi will be very telling
as to whether or not Boutin has overcome his mental
demons.

16. Brian Eklund, G – Springfield Falcons
(AHL)
Height: 6’5, Weight: 205 lbs., DOB: May 24, 1980
Acquired: 7th round, 226th overall, 2000

Eklund’s third professional season has been quite the
learning experience with Springfield. After a very busy season with the ECHL’s
Pensacola Ice Pilots last season, Eklund made a
permanent jump to the AHL this season, and was more or
less thrown to the fire, facing a barrage of opposing
shots on a daily basis. The butterfly netminder from
Massachusetts, who is also a graduate of Brown
University, has compiled a decent record of 11 wins
and 20 losses (the rest of the team is 10-28-3), a
decent goals against average of 3.03, and a better
than average save percentage rating of .909. One of
the major knocks on Eklund coming into this season was
that his confidence was often easily shaken
(seemingly, like Tampa Bay’s other two goaltending
prospects), however, his confidence has been put to
the test night in, night out this season. While he may
not have very much confidence in those playing in
front of him, he has shown good poise between the
pipes, playing with what he has. He will look forward
to next season, in the hopes that Springfield can ice
a more competitive team, and get some offensive support.

17. Dmitri Kazionov, C – Lada Togliatti
(RSL)
Height: 6’3, Weight: 185 lbs., DOB: May 13, 1984
Acquired: 4th round, 100th overall, 2002

It was hoped that Kazionov would be able to take on a
larger role with Lada this season, but unfortunately
for his development, the team was a key destination for
many locked out NHL forwards (Viktor Kozlov,
Igor Grigorenko, Dmitri Afanasenkov,
Alexander Semin, Dainius Zubrus, and
Ivan Novoseltev), and thus he had been
relegated to spot duty on the fourth line. Highly
skilled, quick, with decent size (though he has not
quite learned how to use it efficiently yet), Kazionov
has compiled three goals and eight assists in his
limited duty with Lada this season, though in the
playoffs, he has yet to see any action. It is hoped
that once the lockout comes to an end, Kazionov will
be able to gain some valuable ice time with one of the
better teams in the Russian SuperLeague, and thus
continue to hone his already strong skill set, in the
hopes of one day jumping to North America. His two-way
play and great vision would be greatly welcomed in the
Tampa Bay farm system.

18. Mark Tobin, LW – Rimouski Océanic
(QMJHL)
Height: 6’3, Weight: 211 lbs., DOB: Nov. 26, 1985
Acquired: 2nd round, 64th overall, 2004

The hard-working forward from Newfoundland did not see
the expected rise in ice time this season, thanks
largely to Rimouski over-using the Sidney
Crosby
line for much of the season. But when he
got his opportunities, he made them count, equaling
his 22-goal output from last season, but more than
doubling his assist total in the process, while
seeing time split between the top two power play units
(he notched ten goals with the man advantage this
season). Always counted upon to bring a strong work
ethic, Tobin helps create space for his teammates.
While he still maintains his physical style of play,
he has begun to shy away from the fighting aspect of
his game. His –1 rating on such an offensive team is a
bit worrying, though his line had been playing against
the opposition’s top units most of the season, and
many of his points came via special teams. He still
needs some work on his offense, but his grit is a
desirable facet of his game that will go over well at
the professional level.

19. Zbynek Hrdel, LW – Rimouski Océanic
(QMJHL)
Height: 6’4, Weight: 197 lbs., DOB: Aug. 19, 1985
Acquired: 9th round, 286th overall, 2003

Hrdel compiled another respectable season, both in the CHL
and internationally. Hrdel has spent much of
the season on the second line for the offensive
juggernaut Rimouski Océanic, flying under the radar of
his more renowned teammates. In his third season in
North America, Hrdel became a point-per-game player,
notching 23 goals and 35 assists in 56 games, compiling an impressive +25 rating. Responsible at
both ends of the ice, and playing in all situations,
Hrdel has proven to be a necessary component for the
often one-dimensional Océanic attack. Hrdel was
selected to play for his native Czech Republic in the
World Junior Championships in Grand Forks, winning the
bronze medal in the process. In the tournament, Hrdel
scored only once, but was an integral part of that
team. He will look to go deep into the playoffs with
the Océanic and raise his stock as a prospect, as this
may be his last chance at CHL success before likely
jumping to the minor professional ranks next season.

20. Nick Tarnasky, C – Springfield Falcons
(AHL)
Height: 6’2, Weight: 233 lbs., DOB: Nov. 25, 1984
Acquired: 9th round, 287th overall, 2003

Tarnasky has spent much of the season playing for
Springfield’s fourth line. The Lightning took a flyer
on Tarnasky with one of the final picks in the 2003
NHL Entry Draft, and even though he is not expected to
be much of a scorer in the professional game (though
he did compile 26 goals in his final season in the
Western Hockey League with Lethbridge), he does bring
other aspects to the table. The massive center boasts
a strong physical game, a willingness to drop the
gloves, and has loads of character. Still, in limited
ice time, in spite of his average offensive talents,
and with little offensive help around him, Tarnasky
has chipped in six goals and nine assists in 73 games,
compiling 169 penalty minutes. Though his plus/minus
rating leaves a lot to be desired (-31 thus far),
Tarnasky is still an effective, gritty two-way center,
who has been improving bit by bit over the course of
the season. He may not be much more than a checking
center in the professional ranks, but his willingness
to get his hands dirty, and work hard every shift will
certainly endear him to his coaches.

Missing the cut

Jean-François Soucy, LW – Springfield Falcons
(AHL)
Height: 6’3, Weight: 205 lbs., DOB: Mar. 25, 1982
Acquired: 8th round, 252nd overall, 2001

Soucy has struggled mightily both in the AHL with
Springfield and in the ECHL with Johnstown. Though he
has appeared in 48 games with the Falcons, Soucy, a
strong skater with decent size and physical play, has
only compiled three points. A stint with the Chiefs
did not help him regain his offensive touch. A decent
two-way player with good size, but not very solid with
the puck, Soucy will have to retool next season, and
hope that this poor season was only a sophomore slump,
and he can return to being a regular contributor, as
he was with Pensacola in his rookie season.

Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate
without permission of the editorial staff.