Photo: Defenseman Slater Koekkoek was one of two selections the Tampa Bay Lightning made in the first round of the 2011 NHL Draft. (courtesy of CHL Images)
The Tampa Bay Lightning failed to make the playoffs for the second consecutive season and Head Coach Guy Boucher was eventually relieved of his duties and replaced by Jon Cooper, the coach of the Lightning's AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. Goaltending and defense proved once again to be the team weakness, as they dropped to 14th in the East, and locked up the third overall pick in this June's draft.
Photo: Goaltender Andrey Vasilevskiy remains the top prospect for the Tampa Bay Lightning. (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)
The 2012-13 season saw many of the Tampa Bay Lightning's top prospects work their way onto the NHL roster. Radko Gudas and Alex Killorn both saw substantial time and made significant contributions with the big club while Tyler Johnson, Richard Panik, Ondrej Palat, and Mark Barberio also made their NHL debuts at various points throughout the lockout shortened season.
Photo: Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau finished the 2012-13 season tied for the lead among NHL rookies with 31 points (courtesy of Rich Kane/Icon SMI)
Hockey's Future presents the top grouping of the Spring NHL Team Rankings, the staff's ranking of each NHL team's system based on the strength of the entire prospect pool. For reference, just the top five prospects are listed. To be eligible, a prospect must meet HF's prospect criteria. The ranking is done twice a year, with this edition being an update to the Fall ranking.
Photo: Selected first overall in 2008, Steven Stamkos has developed into one of the top goal-scorers in the NHL. (courtesy of Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)
With the number one overall pick going into the 2008 NHL draft, the Tampa Bay Lightning were expected to select at least one successful NHL player. This was certainly the case, as Steven Stamkos, widely touted to be one of the best prospects in the world for quite some time prior to the draft, turned out to be a top-notch sniper at the NHL level.
Photo: Forward Cory Conacher has been one of the top rookie forwards in the NHL this season. Conacher was a free agent signing by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2011. (courtesy of Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)
The Tampa Bay Lightning have a deep and talented affiliate in their AHL squad, the Syracuse Crunch. Several players have filtered through the Crunch recently to make it on the NHL ice with the Lightning, including: Cory Conacher, Alex Killorn, and Richard Panik. Currently, their offensive talent at the professional level is deeper than their defensive talent.