Lightning AHL/ECHL prospects 2009-10 review

By Ben Bebernitz

The Lightning had 13 prospects playing in the minor leagues this season — six forwards, five defensemen, and two goalies — all in the AHL. Of these 13, 12 were playing for the Norfolk Admirals with Radek Smolenak playing with the Abbotsford Heat. Just like their parent club, the Admirals did not make the playoffs.

Dustin Tokarski, G – 5’11, 185
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 was with the Norfolk Admirals most of the year except for his stint with the Lightning after a Mike Smith injury. He did split time with Riku Helenius earlier in the season before Helenius was exiled to Europe.

Tokarski was quite consistent for a rookie. He had 27 wins in 52 games with 2.51 GAA and a .915 save percentage. With the Lightning, he appeared in two games in relief of Antero Niittymaki. Tokarski will have a chance to prove he belongs in the NHL as it does not appear that Smith is the answer for the Lightning.

Dana Tyrell, C – 5’10, 185
Acquired: 2nd round, 47th overall, 2007

Tyrell, 21, played his first full season since his serious knee injury. Most Admiral players struggled offensively and Tyrell was no exception. However, he was almost producing at a point-per-game clip in the last 25 games.

This uptick could be attributed to both Tyrell adapting to the pro game and feeling more comfortable as his game shape improved. He finished with nine goals and 36 points in 74 games. He was also the highest plus player on the team with a +9.

Ty Wishart, D – 6’4, 215
Acquired: Trade with Sharks, July 4, 2008

Wishart, 21, is the Admiral defenseman showing the most promise. His game has improved significantly since last season, his first full one in the AHL. He is starting to show why the Sharks made him a first-round pick.

Showing that offensive touch that he had in the WHL, Wishart was the leading rearguard scorer for the Admirals. He had nine goals and 32 points in 76 games. The -18 he had though has to be a tad troubling. This will probably keep him the minors again next season in order to hone his game. However, he looks like a player the Lightning can count on in the future.

Matt Lashoff, D
Acquired: Trade with Bruins, March 4, 2009

The 23-year-old Lashoff regressed this year with the Admirals. Lashoff looked great playing for Providence in the farm system of the Bruins since his pro career began. Whether it was the disappointment of not making the Lightning or the quality difference in prospects between Norfolk and Providence is hard to tell.

Lashoff had eight goals and 24 points with a disappointing -18 in 68 games for Norfolk. The Lightning still wanted to get a closer look at him though and recalled him for five scoreless games for the team. Lashoff will need a better camp and probably a better AHL season to make the Lightning for the long haul.

Vladimir Mihalik, D – 6’7, 240
Acquired: 1st round, 30th overall, 2005

Mihalik, 23, has continued his apprenticeship in the AHL for another season. The hulking Slovakian has not shown significant progress during his time with the Lightning. Nor has he shown the capability of being any more than a late-season tryout for the Lightning.

Mihalik chipped in two goals and 18 points with a +6 in 75 games for the Admirals. However, he could have played more like an imposing force than he did. He did receive his tryout with the Lightning again this season with four scoreless games. Next year may be a make or break season for Mihalik.

Blair Jones, C – 6’3, 215
Acquired: 4th round, 102nd overall, 2005

Jones was traveling quite a bit from Norfolk to Tampa and back this season. The constant movement between the clubs disrupted the play of Jones while with the Admirals. After going scoreless in 14 games for the Lightning, Jones, 23, was sent down for good this season. After this point, Jones struggled offensively.

He showed flashes with the Admirals earlier in the season, but was not up to his potential to close the season. While still receiving top-six minutes, Jones only netted nine goals and 30 points in 63 games.

Jaroslav Janus, G – 5’11, 192
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 signed his first NHL contract on New Year’s Day. He would then supplant Riku Helenius as the backup to Tokarski.

Janus, 20, has performed quite well 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 was 7-6-0, but had a miniscule 2.07 GAA and a very good .922 save percentage. Like Tokarski, he was a backup for the Lightning this season, but did not see any time. Also like Tokarski, Janus is small for a NHL netminder, but he should have a chance to prove his worth for the team.

Mitch Fadden, C – 6’0, 200
Acquired: 4th round, 107th overall, 2007

Fadden had a tough start to his pro career. He was not healthy enough to stay on the ice in the early going of his first professional season. Because of this, the 22-year-old, who was such a high scorer in juniors, had trouble finding his game right away.

He was better to end the season, but it was still disappointing. Fadden potted seven goals and 19 points in 53 games. Next season could be much better if he starts it in full health.

Juraj Simek, LW – 6’1, 189
Acquired: Trade with Vancouver, October 6, 2008

Simek had his best season as a pro. The Slovakian has improved steadily with each year in the minors. While not lighting the world on fire, Simek propelled himself to 21 goals in 75 games. For a team that was offensively challenged, his contribution helped the team greatly.

Simek, 22, was only outscored by a player with NHL experience, Ryan Craig. With the Admirals having a few NHL veterans on the roster that may not come back, Simek has a chance to even do more than his 36 points with a possible upgrade to a better line next season.

Radek Smolenak, LW – 6’3, 210
Acquired: 3rd round, 73rd overall, 2005

Like Jones, Smolenak, 23, definitely racked up the frequent flyer miles this past 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. Now, he has recently signed for two years with HC Sparta Praha in the Czech Extraliga.

With Norfolk, he had seven goals and 21 games in 39 games. He was sent to Abbotsford over rumored discipline problems. He produced even less for them with just two goals and six points in 21 games. The Lightning would have to offer him a qualifying offer to keep his rights going forward, which is unlikely.

Scott Jackson, D – 6’4, 213
Acquired: Signed as a free agent, July 3, 2008

Jackson, 23, appeared in his first full season in the AHL. Originally drafted in the second round by the Blues in 2005, Jackson performed admirably for the Admirals. The Lightning called him up to appear in his first NHL game on the final day of the regular season.

The former Seattle Thunderbird had one goal and 15 points in 72 games. He was a good defensive rearguard for the team as witnessed by his +6.

Center Chris Lawrence, 23, did his job as a plugger for the Admirals this season. He had seven assists in 72 games while being a -7. Kevin Quick had issues getting into the lineup this season. He only played in 47 games garnering four assists and a +4.