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Top 25 Under 25: #20 Adam Wilcox

Our first goaltender hits the countdown at #20 as former NCAA prospect Adam Wilcox finally signed a contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning and debuted as a pro with the Syracuse Crunch during the 2014-15 season.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

There was a time not too long ago when we weren't sure if Adam Wilcox would ever sign a contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Now he slots in as a key piece on the Lightning goaltending depth chart.

Drafted out of the USHL in the 6th round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Wilcox was a slow burn prospect who played one more USHL season (split between the Green Bay Gamblers and Tri-City Storm) after being drafted before heading to the University of Minnesota.

Here's how the panel ranked Adam Wilcox:

Kyle Alexander John Fontana Mike Gallimore GeoFitz4 Brett Frieman
18 17 23 23 20

Previous Ranks: #23 (2013), #21 (2014)

After an outstanding 2013-14 season, Wilcox's numbers took a bit of a dip with the Golden Gophers in 2014-15, perhaps explaining his stagnation in our yearly rankings. The career stats so far:

Tampa Bay ran the risk of losing Wilcox for nothing, as he, like many NCAA draftees, could have opted to walk as a free agent this summer rather than signing with the team that drafted him.

Fortunately for the Lightning, Wilcox signed an entry level deal on April 1 and reported to the Syracuse Crunch immediately on an ATO following Minnesota's elimination from post-season NCAA Frozen Four contention. He appeared in two regular season games and one playoff contest with the Crunch and appears locked in as the number 2 goaltender at the AHL level behind Kristers Gudlevskis for the 2015-16 season.

Wilcox leaves a year of NCAA eligibility on the table, but that was a decision that was made easy:

Wilcox departing school after his junior year is not a surprise. He was working towards graduating since returning following Minnesota's 2014 national runner-up season. He has only 4 classes remaining to complete his marketing degree after this semester.

Those classes can easily be finished up without enrolling for another full year of school. Wilcox gets to begin to hone his game against professionals, with a legitimate opportunity for starter's playing time in the top developmental league in North America. Kristers Gudlevskis is far from entrenched as Syracuse's go-to starter, and the expectation is that head coach Rob Zettler will not hesitate to use Wilcox and continue using him if he outperforms his teammate and earns the minutes.

As for Wilcox's style, at first glance he's a bit different than what you might expect for an Yzerman goalie. Most of what you'll read from scouting reports and see as Wilcox gets worked into more regular action is how he's notable more "aggressive" in net than, say, Ben Bishop. Some of that stems simply from a size difference -- Wilcox isn't tiny, but by modern goaltending standards he's certainly on the small size. Back in 2013, Raw Charge staffer Clare Austin (now of InGoal Media) noted his athleticism and style while also highlighting some concern for him shifting to the professional game:

Wilcox is very aggressive, up very high in the crease, up on his toes, hands active. In some ways all that's helpful, given his size, but there are certainly "small" guys who rely less on depth and more on posture. I love the way he stays on his skates that extra half second rather than dropping to the ice as early as a lot of kids do. Again, that's part of playing where he does; staying on the skates maximizes lateral mobility as well as allows him to telescope with more control. That's a tricky thing to get right, though. He'll get victimized by that when he starts playing pro and will have to adjust as he learns to read plays at pro speed.

Still, he reads plays quite well and is a rather deft puckhandler, two traits the Lightning have absolutely favored in their netminders.

The 2015-16 season will be a year of adjustment and opportunity for Wilcox. His ELC was a two-year deal, so there's no rush for him to ascend the depth chart right away, even if he's outstanding as a rookie AHLer. Adjusting his reads to the speed of the pro game (on a pro-sized sheet of ice that's being installed at the War Memorial over the summer) and working more with goaltending/video coach David Alexander will likely be the focus for Wilcox as he battles Gudlevskis to earn the #3 spot on the organizational depth chart behind Andrei Vasilevskiy and Ben Bishop.