Lightning AHL prospects update

By Gregory Maker

Evgeni Artukhin, Ryan Craig, and Paul Ranger have all been promoted to Tampa Bay this season, leaving the AHL Springfield Falcons reeling in the standings with a record of 14-20-2-4. The Falcons started the season with a 14-9-1-3 record, but have not recorded a win and have only registered two points since then.

Tampa Bay has not had a first round pick in two of the last four drafts, have seen their depth sink. With a team of late round draft picks and journeyman veterans, Springfield has not performed well this season. However some of the prospects playing there are having decent individual seasons.

Goaltenders

Gerald Coleman
Height/Weight: 6’4, 190 lbs.
Drafted: 224, 2003

Coleman, 20, joins the Falcons after one of the most successful seasons in CHL history with the Memorial Cup Champion London Knights where he compiled 32 wins in 38 games and stopped 94.1 percent of the shots he faced. He finished the campaign with a 1.70 GAA. This season has not been as kind to Coleman with a much weaker team in front of him in Springfield. However, the native of Romeoville, Illinois has posted a record of 11-11-2 for a team with only 14 wins in 40 games. His GAA is 3.51 and his save percentage is .885.

Inconsistency has been revealed, as he has been known to make a spectacular save and then give up an easy goal from the blue line. If he wants to play in the next level he will need to be more consistent and be better in shootouts.

Coleman is the starter in Springfield backed up by Brian Eklund, a 2000, seventh round draft pick by the Lightning. The transition to pro hockey has been rough, but Coleman is expected to start the most of Springfield’s remaining games.

Defensemen

Doug O’Brien
Height/Weight: 6’1, 200 lbs.
Drafted: 192nd, 2003

The sophomore defenseman is being used more this season. He plays the left point on the first defensive pairing for Springfield with Harlan Pratt, also Tampa Bay property. O’Brien is nearing his point total from his rookie season when he ended with 17 points. The St. John’s, Newfoundland native has 13 points (3 goals, 10 assists) this season, first among defensemen on a Springfield team which ranks 22nd in the AHL in goal scoring. O’Brien, who logs a lot of ice time, is –16 on a team that has allowed the second highest total in the league. His 50 penalty minutes this season are on pace to pass last season’s total of 76 minutes in 74 AHL games.

O’Brien is a decent skater with a good shot. He makes good decisions with the puck and tends not to rush when he has it. However, O’Brien has a tendency to pinch too much in the offensive zone which leaves him out of position more often than he should be. He is a decent back checker, but should not be leaving himself in a position to back check as much as he does. In the defensive zone, O’Brien covers the front of the net well. He needs a bit more strength to be able to compete in the NHL. O’Brien is used on the second power play and penalty kill units. He will be 22 on Feb. 16.

Jay Rosehill
Height/Weight: 6’3, 210 lbs
Drafted: 227th, 2003

The rookie is in his third league in three seasons after opting to turn pro after only one season in the WCHA with Minnesota-Duluth. Rosehill started the season in the ECHL with Johnstown before earning a promotion to the AHL on Oct. 29. Rosehill’s only point this season is an assist. Paired with Timo Helbling on the third defensive pair, Rosehill does not see much ice time, all of which comes at equal strength. An intimidator, Rosehill has taken 62 penalty minutes this season for Springfield in 30 games. Rosehill is -15 on a team with no plus players.

Tampa Bay has shown confidence in Rosehill, keeping him in Springfield although the team continues to struggle mightily. Veteran Brad Bombardir was released from Springfield less than a month after Rosehill’s call-up, freeing up a position and some ice time. Rosehill does not look out of place in the AHL, but he is still too raw to be given any consideration for an NHL roster spot this season. He will more than likely remain in the AHL, although a demotion is not out of the question which would allow Rosehill to play more at the pro level.

Forwards

Ryan Craig
Height/Weight: 6’2, 220 lbs.
Drafted: 255th, 2002

The third-year pro played well enough this season in Springfield to earn a call-up to Tampa Bay where he is playing right now. The Abbotsford, British Columbia native played 28 games in the AHL this season where he recorded 22 points (12 goals, 10 assists) with five of those goals coming on the power play. He took only 14 penalty minutes and had a -3 rating in the AHL.

Craig, 23, played his first NHL game on Dec. 17 in Tampa in a 6-3 loss to Detroit. He has four points (3 goals, 1 assist) including a power play goal in nine NHL games this season. He missed two games for the Lightning with a hairline fracture to his big toe. It is uncertain to say whom Craig will finish the season with at this point.

Marek Kvapil
Height/Weight: 5’11, 172 lbs.
Drafted: 163th, 2005

Kvapil, a Slovakia native, is one of only a few members of the 2005 NHL draft class playing pro hockey this season. Drafted as a 20-year-old, Kvapil, although undersized is sixth on Springfield in points with 19 including eight goals. In 39 games this season, he has taken only 20 penalty minutes. Kvapil plays the top line on the right wing for the Falcons which includes Ryan Vesce at center and veteran Jim Campbell on the left wing.

In his first season in North America, 2004-05, Kvapil led the Saginaw Spirit in points, goals and assists as an import player to the OHL. His transition to the smaller rink has been smooth. Kvapil is constantly looking for open space on the ice. He has a tendency to hang around the blue line, waiting for a long pass. Kvapil is a good puck handler and his passes are on the mark. Kvapil is timid in the corners which is something he will have to work on. He does not see any power play or penalty kill time, but is one of Springfield’s best at even strength, logging a decent amount of ice time. Like all players on the team, Kvapil has suffered a poor plus/minus rating currently at -11.

Darren Reid
Height/Weight: 6’2, 205 lbs.
Drafted: 256th, 2002

Reid, who struggled to make it early in his junior career has filled out, gaining 20 pounds since being drafted from Medicine Hat of the WHL. Although a player with only average ability, Reid has a strong work ethic which resulted in a promotion to Tampa Bay for his NHL debut on Dec. 17 along with Ryan Craig. He was returned to the Falcons on Dec. 28 after appearing in four NHL games.

Reid has been a solid presence for Springfield although his numbers do not reflect it. He has 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists) in 23 AHL games. Reid has seen time on the power play and on the penalty kill, recording a goal with each unit. Reid, 22, a native of Lac La Biche, Alberta might get another shot at the NHL this season. It is likely though for him to end the season in Springfield.

Nick Tarnasky
Height/Weight: 6’2, 233 lbs.
Drafted: 287th, 2003

Tarnasky enters his sophomore season in a different role. Last season he was one of the team’s enforcers with 176 penalty minutes. This season he has taken over as the second line center for Springfield and has only 38 penalty minutes although he is still not afraid to fight when necessary. Tarnasky, 21, is not a goal scorer, nor much of a point producer, but his toughness has led him to the top penalty-killing unit. Tarnasky has nine points including four goals, one of which came on the power play. Accompanying him on the second line are fellow prospects, and big bodies Dennis Packard on the left wing, and Andre Deveaux to his right. Tarnasky is a calm player and very responsible defensively although his -14 rating does not reflect it. He maintains his position, and does not try to take on other players’ responsibilities. He possesses a hard shot as well.

Tarnasky is a durable player. Last season he played in all 80 games for Springfield. He was a good selection by Tampa Bay, being selected sixth to last at the 2003 NHL entry draft. Tarnasky made his NHL debut on Oct. 20 with the Lightning in a 6-0 win over Atlanta. The Rocky Mountain House, Alberta native recorded an assist in the nine NHL games he played this season receiving just under five minutes of ice time on average.

Andre Deveaux
Height/Weight: 6’3, 240 lbs.
Drafted: 182nd, 2002 (MTL)

Deveaux, who will turn 22 in February, has seen more ice time this season on the right wing playing alongside center Nick Tarnasky, and left wing Dennis Packard. Deveaux’s job is not to score, but to intimidate. He has 83 penalty minutes in 38 games this season. Last season he led the team with 210 penalty minutes. Deveaux is not just a fighter, he crashes the net well. Deveaux currently has nine points (4 goals, 5 assists) compared to 12 points in 73 games last season.

Hailing from Welland, Ontario, Deveaux has seen his share of doubt placed in him. After being drafted by Montreal in 2002, the Habs did not offer him a contract. After impressing Tampa Bay at the Traverse City prospects tournament, Deveaux was given a contract on Sept. 15, 2004 and sent to Springfield.

Zybnek Hrdel
Height/Weight: 6’4, 195 lbs.
Drafted: 286th, 2003

Hrdel, drafted one spot above teammate Nick Tarnasky in the 2003 NHL entry draft, started the season in the ECHL with the Johnstown Chiefs. After three points in five games, Hrdel got the call to Springfield on Nov. 3 Hrdel has 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists) and a power play goal in 22 games. Hrdel has a plus/minus rating of -10 and eight penalty minutes.

Hrdel played for the Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL for the last three seasons where he was teammates with fellow Tampa Bay prospect Mark Tobin.

Dennis Packard
Height/Weight: 6’4, 235 lbs.
Drafted: 219th, 2001

Packard, a Harvard graduate, enters his second season in pro hockey with the Springfield Falcons. He had a rough rookie season where he split time between Springfield and Johnstown of the ECHL. It now looks like he is here to stay in the AHL. He is the left wing on the second line and a part of the Falcons’ top penalty-killing unit along with Nick Tarnasky.

Packard is a big player who has a long way to go to reach the NHL. The Kingston, Pennsylvania native, who will turn 24 in February, is a physical presence on the ice, but does not produce a lot of points. He has only 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists) in 31 games this season including a power play goal. Packard is one of the more disciplined Springfield players with a -10 plus/minus rating and 26 penalty minutes. He needs to greatly improve his skating and stickwork. Packard is a work in progress, but his size can only help him.

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