Lightning Top 20 prospects, Spring 2010

By Ben Bebernitz

Top 20 at a glance

1. Victor Hedman, D (8.5B)
2. Carter Ashton, RW (7.5C)
3. Dustin Tokarski, G (7.0C)
4. Richard Panik, RW (7.0C)
5. Dana Tyrell, C (7.0C)
6. Ty Wishart, D (7.0C)
7. Matt Lashoff, D (7.0C)
8. Vladimir Mihalik, D (7.0C)
9. James Wright, C (6.5B)
10. Blair Jones, C (6.5C)
11. Johan Harju, LW (7.0C)
12. Alex Hutchings, LW (7.0C)
13. Martins Karsums, RW (6.5C)
14. Alex Killorn, LW (7.0C)
15. Jaroslav Janus, G (7.0D)
16. Mitch Fadden, C (7.0D)
17. Mark Barberio, D (6.5C)
18. Lauri Tukonen, RW (7.0D)
19. Juraj Simek, LW (6.5D)
20. Radek Smolenak, LW (6.5D)

Key: Rank (previous rank), name, position, rating

1. (1) Victor Hedman, D (8.5B)
Acquired: 1st round, 2nd overall, 2009

Hedman is probably the only Lightning prospect worthy of full-time action in the NHL right now. The Swedish defenseman has struggled at times, but has shown growth and hints of brilliance this season. With fellow Swede Mattias Ohlund providing him tutelage, Hedman is third on the team in ice time at 21:40 per game. This is quite impressive considering he gets less power-play time than other rearguards on the team.

The huge 19-year-old is a +2 with four goals and 18 points in 58 games. While not the most impressive numbers, he is playing better than most, if not all, the veterans on the team.

2. (2) Carter Ashton, RW (7.5C)
Acquired: 1st round, 29th overall, 2009

The Saskatoon native is in his third full season in the WHL. He was traded to Regina this season from Lethbridge. Ashton has supplemented his defensive skills with an improved scoring touch.

The right wing is on the same goal-scoring pace from last season with 23 goals in 54 games right now. But the 19-year-old has become more of a playmaker this season, with 20 assists in 50 games this season compared to the same number in 70 games last season.

3. (6) Dustin Tokarski, G (7.0C)
Acquired: 5th round, 122nd overall, 2008

Tokarski replaced Karri Ramo as the organization’s AHL starter after Ramo’s departure to Russia. The 20-year-old former WHLer has been with the Norfolk Admirals the whole year. He did split time with Riku Helenius earlier in the season before Helenius departed for Europe.

The Admirals have struggled to score, much like the big club, so that has limited the number of wins for Tokarski. He has 17 wins in 32 games with 2.58 GAA and a .914 save percentage. He also had a cup of coffee with the Lightning, appearing in two games in relief of Antero Niittymaki when Mike Smith was injured. Tokarski will have to prove himself in the NHL, as he has a height disadvantage at 5’11.

4. (3) Richard Panik, RW (7.0C)
Acquired: 2nd round, 52nd overall, 2009

Panik went from a lesser role on a stacked Windsor Spitfires team to start the season to a more enhanced role on the Belleville Bulls team via a midseason trade. Panik scored nine goals and 18 points with Windsor in 33 games. The newly-turned 19-year-old has impressed with the Bulls, with five goals and 10 points in 15 games.

The Slovak was at his best this season during the 2010 World Junior Championships. Panik was undoubtedly the best player for his team, putting up six goals and eight points in six games.

5. (5) Dana Tyrell, C (7.0C)
Acquired: 2nd round, 47th overall, 2007

Tyrell, 20, is playing his first full season since his damaging knee injury. He is currently struggling in the AHL for Norfolk. The question is whether he is having trouble adjusting to the AHL or whether he is having some issues playing after rehab.

Even with most Admiral players having tough seasons offensively, Tyrell has only 14 points in 49 games. All three goals were scored recently, after having been stuck on nine assists. Next season may be a better indication of Tyrell’s potential when his knee issues are fully behind him.

6. (8) Ty Wishart, D, (7.0C)
Acquired: Trade with Sharks, July 4, 2008

After Hedman, Wishart is the Lightning defenseman showing the most promise. His game has improved significantly since last season, his first full one in the AHL.

While Wishart’s -16 may be troubling, the 21-year-old is showing the offensive ability he showed in the Western Hockey League. Wishart is really heating up lately. He has more than tripled the seven points he scored last season with 24 points in 54 games for the Admirals.

7. (4) Matt Lashoff, D, (7.0C)
Acquired: Trade with Bruins, March 4, 2009

Lashoff has had a forgettable season. Unless he really turns it on to close the season, this will be the 23-year-old’s worst AHL season to date. Mike Lundin and Matt Smaby have both been recalled to the big club ahead of the East Greenbush, NY native, who was thought to have a chance coming into training camp.

Even though he has been quite poor at times this year, Lashoff has improved lately. After 21 games, he only had three points and a -16. In the 26 games since, he has added 12 points and only a -4 over that span. His step backwards cannot be forgotten though.

8. (7) Vladimir Mihalik, D (7.0C)
Acquired: 1st round, 30th overall, 2005

With his size, Mihalik, 23, will continue to tantalize scouts and GM’s, but he has plateaued after three seasons in Norfolk. There has not been substantial growth shown yet by the Slovakian. He is on pace for his worst season so far.

His plus/minus is good for a regular defenseman on the Admirals with a +1. However, he has struggled mightily in the second half. He has posted 11 points in 52 games.

9. (NR) James Wright, C (6.5B)
Acquired: 4th round, 117th overall, 2008

James Wright has been a curious case this season. He made the Lightning out of camp as a bottom-six forward in what was a surprise. He played 48 games for the team while averaging almost 12 minutes a game. But the Lightning claimed Nate Thompson off waivers from the Islanders and just like that, Wright was back in juniors again because at 19, he can’t be sent to the AHL. It will be interesting to see next season whether Wright makes the Lightning or is sent to Norfolk.

In his 48 games with the Lightning, Wright did score two goals and five points and posting a -9. Since rejoining the Vancouver Giants in the WHL, the Saskatchewan native has three goals and 10 points in eight games.

10. (12) Blair Jones, C (6.5C)
Acquired: 4th round, 102nd overall, 2005

Blair Jones has been on the plane from Norfolk to Tampa and back a few times this season. The playmaking forward was receiving bottom-six time while in Tampa. His movement between the two clubs has hampered his play in Norfolk lately, but that can be expected as he has to constantly regain chemistry with his teammates.

With the Lightning, Jones, 23, was held scoreless in 14 games with a -5. He has totaled six goals and 22 points in 42 games for the Admirals. His struggles in Norfolk have been worst as of late.

11. (13) Johan Harju, LW (7.0C)
Acquired: 6th round, 167th overall, 2007

Harju is a Swede in his first season in the KHL. After five seasons with Lulea in the Swedish Elite League, he signed with Moscow Dynamo. That is not the only change Harju has experienced this year. While in Moscow, the 23-year-old Harju has been playing center instead of wing.

After being one of the highest goal scorers in the SEL last season with 27, he has struggled in the KHL. He only has 17 points in 53 games, but the KHL is a low-scoring league. The Lightning have stated that they still desire to bring him over to North America next season.

12. (11) Alex Hutchings, LW (7.0C)
Acquired: 4th round, 93rd overall, 2009

Hutchings, 19, is using his speed and his keen hockey sense to set his best goal-scoring pace in his OHL career. The Barrie Colt has 37 goals in 55 games, which is an improvement on his 34 goals in 63 games last year. The Colts currently lead the league in points.

Known as one of the best skaters in the OHL, he has not let his diminutive frame hinder his play. He is second on his team with 61 points and first on the team with a +36. The Ontario native, barring injury, is going to have ample time to prove if he can continue his production in the upcoming playoffs.

13. (9) Martins Karsums, RW (6.5C)
Acquired: Trade with Bruins, March 4, 2009

Karsums had more downs than ups this season. He was named to Team Latvia for the Olympics, but was shipped off to play for his national coach at Riga Dynamo in the KHL after a very disappointing AHL start.

The 23-year-old is one of many Lightning prospects who saw his production from past seasons drop off in Norfolk. He had two straight good seasons in Providence, but then hit a low with only 16 points in 36 games before being sent to Riga. For Riga, he has four points in nine games before heading to Vancouver. With the events of the past six months, it’s unclear if Karsums will be back in the States any time soon.

14. (16) Alex Killorn, LW (7.0C)
Acquired: 3rd round, 77th overall, 2007

The best NCAA prospect the Lightning have, Alex Killorn is one of the few bright spots on a Harvard team that is terrible this season. The sophomore left winger is getting first-line minutes for the Crimson. At the age of 19, he is showing growth as a player.

Killorn is tied for second on the team in scoring with nine goals and 19 points in 25 games, which eclipses his prior total of 14 in 30 games.

15. (NR) Jaroslav Janus, G (7.0D)
Acquired: 6th round, 162th overall, 2009

The Lightning signed Janus to an AHL tryout contract to start the year. He later returned to the Erie Otters and then sealed the deal on his NHL contract on New Year’s Day. He would then supplant Riku Helenius, who was later shipped to Sweden, as the backup to Tokarski.

Janus, 20, has performed admirably this season. He was 7-4-2 with a 2.81 goals against average and a .918 save percentage in the OHL. In the AHL, he is 5-6-0, but has a very good 2.00 GAA and .925 save percentage. Janus has the disadvantage of being just 5’11, however, which is small for an NHL goaltender.

16. (10) Mitch Fadden, C (7.0D)
Acquired: 4th round, 107th overall, 2007

Fadden has struggled through this season so far. Unlike Tyrell though, Fadden has not been healthy enough to stay on the ice in his first professional season. He has only played half of Norfolk’s games.

Because of this, the 21-year-old, who was such a high-scorer in juniors, is having a rough start. In 26 games, the former WHL product has three goals and eight points. He has started to find his game recently.

17. (14) Mark Barberio, D (6.5C)
Acquired: 6th round, 152nd overall, 2008

Barberio, 19, is the lone QMJHL prospect the Lightning possess. In his third full season with the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL, Barberio is having his best yet. An offensive defenseman through and through, Barberio is living up to it. He is averaging almost a point a game with 12 goals and 48 points in 53 games, which is good for third on the team in scoring.

Most importantly, Barberio is playing a more defensive game this season with a +34 rating. He should get a test in the AHL sooner rather than later.

18. (15) Lauri Tukonen, RW (7.0D)
Acquired: Trade with Dallas, November 30, 2008

The former first-round pick of the Los Angeles Kings has never made an appearance for the Lightning or any of their affiliates. Having spent time in North America previously, the Finn has spent the past two seasons in his native land. Tukonen may stay in Finland for a while longer as he was not even close to making the big club coming out of training camp.

The 23-year-old has played for Lukko for part of last season and all of this one. In 43 games, Tukonen has seven goals and 23 points.

19. (NR) Juraj Simek, LW (6.5D)
Acquired: Trade with Vancouver, October 6, 2008

The Slovakian has spent the past two seasons with the Admirals after his trade that brought him from Vancouver. Simek has improved steadily with each year in the minors.

This is his first season with double-digit goals with 15 potted in 54 games. He also has 13 assists. At age 22, Simek has a battle to secure top-six minutes.

20. (NR) Radek Smolenak, LW (6.5D)
Acquired: 3rd round, 73rd overall, 2005

Smolenak, 23, has definitely racked up the frequent flyer miles this season. He was poached from the Lightning by the Blackhawks on waivers before the season began. After he played for the Hawks in Helsinki, the Lightning re-acquired him on waivers. The Lightning sent him down to Norfolk and then recently sent him to another AHL team, Abbotsford.

With Norfolk, he had seven goals and 21 games in 39 games. He is scoreless in two games for Abbotsford.