Only a little more than two weeks separates us from the beginning of start of NHL training camps and the 2010-11 season. With that in mind, there are a load of questions that can be asked about the Tampa Bay Lightning and various aspects of the franchise.
There are obvious questions that will be repeated time and again in preseason Lightning evaluations, and there are other ones that will be overlooked, or forgotten, or just downright brushed off because they don't seem relevant.
We decided to ask five questions to three separate Lightning bloggers. All three are independent voices with different takes on the team and who will be focusing on three specific areas for 2010-11.
- Jon Jordan, formerly of Hockey Buzz and a new addition to the Kukla's Korner staff who will be covering the Southeast Division
- Mike Corcoran of Creative Loafing, who is the Bolts beat writer at the local independent newspaper
- Pete Choquette from Bolt Prospects who specializes in North American pro coverage in the Lightning developmental system.
As the title of this post suggests, Pete from Bolt Prospects
is up first answering a few questions regarding prospects in the Lightning system and what he sees from the kids.
1 - Who would you project as the prospect with the biggest chance for a breakthrough in the
Lightning system this season (at both the junior and AHL levels)?
Pete: At the junior level, Geoffrey Schemitsch. It's weird to say a guy who had 40 points in 62 games from the back line will break out, but he's flown under the radar. He was a 4th round pick even though he made the Canadian U18 team. He reminds me of Mike Lundin and he's on a team that's fairly young and returning a lot of their best players. I think, statistically, he's got a chance to put up some really gaudy numbers.
In the AHL, I'll be the guy to get his heart-broken by Mitch Fadden. He's a magician with the puck, and if he ever learns to use his linemates better, he'll be an AHL star. The Ads are going to need several guys to step up and pot 20 goals without a star scorer like Bochenski, and I think Fadden can be one of those guys.
2 - What do you make of the Norfolk Admirals new head coach, Jon Cooper?
Pete: Cooper is what Yzerman's new coaching mold is. He's looking for educated young guys. The best and the brightest. I like that you bring in a guy with new ideas, and I like that he has some ties to the USA Hockey program. My only concern is that, unlike Boucher having Fleming around or Torts having Ramsay back in the day, Cooper doesn't have that steady experienced voice to calm things down when adversity hits. We'll see how that works out.
3 - Going into the 2010 off-season, what do you believe was the Bolts biggest system-depth issue? Do you believe that's been adequately addressed this summer through the draft / free agency?
Pete: They probably still need a first or second round caliber d-man to add to the mix. I like the potential of Janosik and Schemitsch and Beukeboom was a fairly safe pick, but I think they could use another potential top-four guy, which they passed up to get Connolly this year. The other thing is that I'm skeptical of Smaby, Wishart, Mihalik, and Jackson's ability to play Boucher's system.
4 - If you had to guess right now, who in the organization is slated for the ECHL?
Pete: I have Giliati, Berry, Zahn, Vernace, and Janus headed to the ECHL. It could easily be Quick rather than Vernace, though.
5 - Last season, James Wright defied the odds and made the jump from juniors to the NHL out of camp. Is there anyone you believe could impress the Lightning enough to make the jump to the NHL? Or perhaps accelerate the club's perceived development timeline for him?
Pete: I think Johan Harju and Niklas Persson will make the team and Carter Ashton will get a few regular season games before they decide whether to send him back to Regina. If you're looking for a Wright/Lundin/Afanasenkov type dark horse, I think on paper Boucher's system fits Kevin Quick perfectly. The thing is, though, you have to be in NHL condition to catch the coach's eyes in camp, and I'm not sure how much faith I have in Kevin's training habits. So, instead, I'll say Mark Barberio even though there's a hitch in his skating stride. I believe there's a shot for a young d-man. The top six is solid, but the 7 and 8 spots are sloppy. Matt Smaby was bad last year and tends to be subpar in camp, Matthieu Roy's been a career AHL'er, Ty Wishart's a little clueless defensively, and Vladmir Mihalik /Scott Jackson can't skate. If you can put together two or three good weeks of hockey, you can outlast competition like that.