Lightning junior prospects 2008-09 review

By Vic Alvira

The Tampa Bay Lightning have 11 prospects playing in juniors — five in the WHL, three in the QMJHL, one in the OHL, one in the BCHL, and one in USHL. Six of the prospects are forwards, three are defensemen and two are goaltenders.

Dustin Tokarski, Mitch Fadden and Mark Barberio had excellent 2008-09 regular seasons for their teams. Luca Cunti on the other hand, struggled to find consistent play in his first season in the QMJHL


Dana Tyrell, C – Prince George Cougars

Acquired: 2nd round, 47th overall, 2007
April 23, 1989, 5’10, 185

Tyrell went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in the span of two weeks. The young center signed a three-year entry-level contract with Tampa Bay on Dec. 11, and had been slated to play on the first line for Team Canada at the 2009 WJC. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL and partially tore his MCL in an exhibition game against Team Sweden on Dec. 19, ending his season.

Up until his injury, Tyrell had been putting up another brilliant season with the Cougars. He had accumulated 19 goals and 21 assists in 30 games. Tyrell is a feisty, hard-working player who brings tremendous speed to the ice. Barring an unexpected delay in his recovery, Tyrell will likely be getting a taste of his first full-time professional stint by playing in Norfolk of the AHL for the start of the 2009-10 season.

Mitch Fadden, C – Tri-City Americans
Acquired: 4th round, 107th overall, 2007
April 3, 1988, 6’0, 174

Fadden is quite an enigma. Some nights he can be the most dominant force on the ice, other nights invisible. After a rough start to the 2008-09 season with Lethbridge, he was dealt to Tri-City on Nov. 5. With Tri-City, Fadden’s season got back on track and he has been very impressive with the Americans. After only posting two goals and five points in nine games with Lethbridge, Fadden put together well over a point-per-game pace with 35 goals and 71 points in 54 games for Tri-City. He and Predator prospect Chet Pickard were named team Co-MVPs by the Tri-City Americans.

Fadden has excellent playmaking ability and a superb shot. However, the young center does not fare well along the boards and shies away from the physical aspect of the game. Fadden still remains unsigned by the Lightning.

Dustin Tokarski, G – Spokane Chiefs

Acquired: 5th round, 122nd overall, 2008
September 16, 1989, 5’11, 185

The word that follows Tokarski wherever he goes is winner. He is a 2006 Telus Cup champion, a 2007-08 Memorial Cup champion and MVP, and a 2009 WJC champion and gold medal game MVP. The young goaltender simply wins and comes up big in the clutch. He consistently puts up good games and rarely has an off night. Tokarski’s causes for concern are his small frame and tendency to commit down low too early. 

Tokarski once again had an amazing season for the Spokane Chiefs. He compiled a 34-18-2 record with a 1.97 GAA, a .937 save percentage, and seven shutouts. He led the WHL in goals against average, save percentage and was tied for the league lead in shutouts. Tokarski was also named the Spokane Chiefs player of the year.  He was given a three-year entry contract on Dec. 30.

Torrie Jung, G – Edmonton Oil Kings

Acquired: 7th round, 183rd overall, 2007
January 21, 1989, 6’1, 170

After Jung’s merry-go-round start to the season by being dealt twice in six days, he found a home with the Edmonton Oil Kings. Jung received the most workload in his WHL career in the 2008-09 season, and responded fairly well. In 48 games, he posted a 20-20-8 record with a 2.56 GAA and a .912 save percentage to go along with three shutouts.

With his increased workload, Jung has taken steps forward in his development. He has shown he can be a starter at his current level and do it fairly well on a consistent basis. Jung currently remains unsigned by Tampa Bay.

James Wright, C – Vancouver Giants
Acquired: 4th round, 117th overall, 2008
March 24, 1990, 6’3, 175

Wright simmered down after his superior start to the 2008-09 season for the Vancouver Giants. He was still able to set career highs in goals and points, even hitting the 20-goal mark for the first time. In 71 games, Wright produced 21 goals and 47 points with a +26 rating.
Wright puts together a nice gritty game with a scoring punch. He is a tough competitor, with a big frame to compliment his style of play.  With increased playing time in the 2009-10 season, it will be a good indicator of where Wright is in his development and future with the Lightning.


Luca Cunti, LW – Rimouski Oceanic

Acquired: 3rd round, 75th overall, 2007
July 4, 1989, 6’0, 209

Cunti’s first year for Rimouski can be defined as inconsistent. He started the 2008-09 season on an eight-game point streak, followed shortly by a six-game pointless streak. Cunti was up and down on the score sheet at a similar pace for the remainder of the season. Cunti’s season was average at best, but in his final two games he compiled back-to-back hat tricks. The Swiss forward notched 20 goals and 45 points in 57 games.

On paper, Cunti has the skills that should translate into excellent numbers in the QMJHL. He has not met that potential as of yet. Cunti has an incredible shot and speed. A knock on the youngster has always been his lackadaisical play, and that has followed him to the QMJHL. He currently remains unsigned by the Lightning.

Mark Barberio, D – Moncton Wildcats

Acquired: 6th round, 152nd overall, 2008
March 23, 1990, 6’0, 201

Barberio had another successful season for Moncton in the QMJHL. He put together 15 goals and 45 points in 66 games, to go along with a +9 rating. While falling one point shy of his career high in points, he did set a personal record with his 15 goals. His 45 points were good enough for ninth in scoring by a defenseman in the QMJHL. His 15 goals were sixth by a defenseman in the QMJHL. Also, Barberio’s points and goals were tops on the Moncton Wildcats for a defenseman.

Barberio is an offensive force, but has also improved steadily on the defensive side of his game this year. He is a valuable weapon on the power play. Ten of his 15 goals came with the man advantage, which was fifth in the QMJHL among defensemen. He hit a bit of a dry spell mid season, but still finished admirably. The Lightning may have gotten good value in the sixth round if Barberio’s development continues in its current path.

Michael Ward, D – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles

Acquired: 7th round, 197th overall, 2007
August 13, 1989, 6’2, 197

Ward was dealt to Cape Breton on Dec. 26. With the Screaming Eagles he has continued his strong play. Ward is very efficient in his own end and brings a physical edge to the game. For the 2008-09 season, Ward finished with seven goals and 34 points in 65 games with both Lewiston and Cape Breton.

Ward is a defensive defenseman, but his offense has been on the rise for the 2008-09 season. His previous career high in points had been 20, and he almost doubled that mark in the 2008-09 season. Ward still maintained his mean streak by posting 105 penalty minutes, which was good enough for fifth in the entire QMJHL for defensemen. While maintaining his effective defensive play, along with the increased offensive ability, Ward is quietly developing into a solid all-around defenseman.


Kyle DeCoste, RW – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

Acquired: 5th round, 147th overall, 2008
June 30, 1990, 6’1, 178

The Greyhounds acquired DeCoste on Jan. 9 from the Brampton Battalion. He accumulated 15 goals and 28 points with both the Greyhounds and the Battalion. Both goals and points were career highs for DeCoste, up from 10 goals and 22 points respectively.

DeCoste is a hard-working, two-way forward who does not lack any major flaws in his game. The Greyhound forward is respectable in all aspects of the game, but does not excel in any one area. With Sault Ste. Marie, he was able to get increased ice time. Near the end of the season, DeCoste even saw time on the first line.  He produced fairly well by finishing the 2008-09 season strong with five goals and two assists in his final nine games.


Justin Courtnall, LW – Victoria Grizzlies

Acquired: 7th round, 210th overall, 2007
May 22, 1989, 6’3, 197

Courtnall had another productive season for the Grizzlies in 2008-09. He accumulated 22 goals and 63 points in 60 games. Courtnall’s goals and points were career highs, up from 19 goals and 51 points respectively.

Courtnall is a gritty power forward. He will battle for his teammates, as well as chip in a couple of goals. Courtnall does not shy away from the physical aspect of the game, as evident by his 98 penalty minutes in the 2008-09 season. He has committed to Boston University in the NCAA for the 2009-10 season. Playing in the NCAA will give Courtnall plenty of time to further develop his game.


Luke Witkowski, D – Fargo Force

Acquired: 6th round, 160th overall, 2008
April 14, 1990, 6’2, 200

Witkowski put up another solid season in the USHL. With Fargo this year, Witkowski put together 5 goals and 19 points to go along with an impressive +28 rating. That +28 rating was third in the USHL by a defenseman. Witkowski’s rating was quite an improvement over his previous -10.

Witkowski is a sturdy stay-at-home defenseman. He is a force in his own end of the ice and punishes opponents with his physicality. Witkowski has formidable speed as well. He has committed to play for Western Michigan University this fall.