Team Canada has announced their roster for the U20 World Junior Championships, and five Tampa Bay Lightning prospects have been selected. Forwards Mitchell Stephens, Anthony Cirelli, Mathieu Joseph, and Taylor Raddysh will be joined by Goaltender Connor Ingram in representing Team Canada at the WJC.
Mitchell Stephens is the captain of the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL and the lone returning member of the team from the five Lightning prospects. He made the team last year despite missing much of the early part of the year with a broken foot. He was the 13th forward, and saw an increase in ice time due to injuries up front for Team Canada, despite its disappointing finish.
Last year, Stephens had a goal and an assists in five games. Stephens previously played in the U18 version of the tournament as well as representing Ontario in a U17 tournament. It won’t be a surprise if Stephens is named an Alternate or perhaps even Captain.
This season, Stephens has 28 points in 22 games for Saginaw. He was drafted by the Lightning 33rd overall in the 2nd round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. He has been signed to an Entry Level Contract and will likely begin his professional career in the AHL in 2017-18. Stephens has been compared favorably to Ryan Callahan in the way he plays, and is projected as a middle six forward with two-way ability.
BoltProspects.com had him ranked as the Lightning’s 7th best prospect in their latest rankings.
Stephens, who is already signed by the Lightning and a candidate to be moved later by Saginaw within the OHL, is known for being a hard worker who is defensively responsible and plays with a physical edge. His skill set is decent and his hustle and determination help fill in the gaps well. Put it all together, and you get the picture of a prospect who compares to Lightning forward Ryan Callahan and whose ultimate future may be as a second or third line, two-way winger in the NHL.
Anthony Cirelli is the captain of the Oshawa Generals of the OHL. He’ll be making his international debut for Team Canada. Cirelli will serve a bottom six role for Team Canada. He’s a center that can win faceoffs and should be able to match up well against opposing team’s top lines. He has 33 points in 25 games so far for the Generals, who have become one of the better teams in the OHL and currently lead the Eastern Conference standings.
Cirelli was the 72nd overall pick in the 3rd round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. He has signed an entry level contract with the Lightning and will start his professional career in 2017-18. He also played in three AHL games with the Syracuse Crunch at the end of 2015-16. BoltProspects.com has him ranked 17th.
It's hard to believe that Anthony Cirelli is still only 19 years old, but as one of the youngest members of the 2015 draft class, he's established himself as one of the better young centerman prospects in the organization. [...] Fitting the high-character, high-energy mold, the Oshawa captain is a relentless forechecker who plays an honest game in all three zones. Once he moves up to Syracuse in the AHL, he'll likely be a player the coaches can use comfortably in all three phases of the game. In the long run, the Lightning can look at Cirelli as a potential third line two-way center with some upside.
Joseph has turned out to be something of a gem after being drafted in the 4th round 120th overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Prior to being drafted, Joseph had put up 42 points in 59 games and 53 points in 89 games overall in the QMJHL for the Saint John Sea Dogs. He took off in the next season with 73 points in 58 games, and so far this season has 45 points in just 29 games including 25 goals. His goal scoring has kept him at or near the top of the goal scoring race in the QMJHL to start the season.
This will be Joseph’s first time representing Team Canada in an international tournament. He has yet to sign an entry level contract, but you have to think that it is coming soon. He has more than proved himself capable in the QMJHL and should start in the AHL in 2017-18 with the Syracuse Crunch. BoltProspects.com has him ranked 13th.
Although somewhat slightly built, Joseph is athletically strong and active with no fear of driving to the high traffic areas. His fearlessness is accented by a softer set of hands than may have been originally been anticipated in his draft season. We expect him to continue to terrorize the QMJHL before moving up to the pro level next season. Pinning down his exact upside is a little more difficult now that he's already jumped a few lanes in his development. At a minimum, he looks like an outstanding option for a lower line energy winger in the traditional north-south pro mold once he makes it up to the NHL. However, we're starting to see the possibility of a new ceiling where Joseph tops out as a two-way third liner who, like Katchouk, can spot on a scoring line needing energy as a complimentary winger.
The surprise member of Team Canada, Raddysh was not even invited to the summer training camp for the WJC by Team Canada. Raddysh was on the bubble but after a red hot start to his OHL season with the Erie Otters. He solidified his roster spot with some great play in the pre-pre-tournament games (yes I said that right) against the Canadian University All-Star team.
As one of the handful of natural wingers in the selection camp, perhaps that gave Raddysh a leg up on the competition. Another factor in his favor was his familiarity with Otters teammate Dylan Strome, who will likely emerge as the number one center for Team Canada. Raddysh has 61 points in 28 games thus far for the Otters including 23 goals. He is only one goal off his career high of 24 which he accomplished last season in 67 games. Raddysh was ranked 8th by BoltProspects.com.
If you're looking for a growth stock among Lightning prospects, consider grabbing a few shares of summer second rounder Taylor Raddysh of Erie. A classic case of a player who had all the tools but needed the tool box, Raddysh frustrated scouts last season with inconsistency and perimeter play that failed to optimize his size and strength. [...] Sometimes big wingers just take a little bit extra time to get it, and Raddysh's early explosion portends good things for his future, and not just because he's leading the OHL in scoring. He's a patient playmaker with excellent vision and also possesses a hard, accurate shot. His skating is good, and he still needs work on his first step acceleration, but the real test is if he's applying himself in the high traffic areas. If he is, he's a scoring line power winger in the NHL.
A Imperial, Saskatchewan, native, Ingram was an overage draft pick by the Lightning at 88th overall in the 3rd round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Ingram has picked up his performance this year for the Kamloops Blazers in the WHL and is showing signs that he has at least the ability to be a good AHL starter and could work his way into being an NHL back up a few years down the line.
This season, he has been right at the top of the stats standings with fellow Team Canada goalie Carter Hart. The two of them will continue to battle it out during the pre-tournament games to determine who will be the number one going into the tournament for Team Canada. Ingram has yet to sign an entry level contract, but likely should soon. With Bishop almost certainly moving on this offseason, there should be a spot available for Ingram next season in the AHL. At worst, he’ll start in the ECHL and work his way up. BoltProspects.com has him ranked 18th.
The Lightning organization has a remarkable track record with overage draft picks over the past several years, so with that in mind, it might be a good idea to buy stock in Kamloops netminder Connor Ingram early. The 19-year-old Western League star was one of the best among his peers last year in posting 34 wins, 4 shutouts, and a fairly gaudy .922 save percentage. Although his winning percentage has dipped a little in the early going in Kamloops, Ingram's other statistical numbers have remained extremely impressive early this year, sitting at or near the top of the WHL. Put simply, he shows no signs of letting up. While not overly big or technically polished, Ingram is the classic tenacious competitor between the pipes with an instinct for the big save and a flair for the dramatic. With further coaching and refinement, he could end up being one of the bigger steals of the 2016 draft class.
The only Lightning prospect to be invited to training camp that was not selected with Brett Howden. Howden was the Lightning’s first round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. He is a two-way center with a future as a second line pivot. Howden has struggled with injuries this season. Though he performed well in the warm up games, he had a huge hill to climb to make a stacked Team Canada forward corps. The experience will be good for him, and you’ll likely see him make the team next year and be a big part of it.
Defenseman Matthew Spencer was invited to a summer camp for Team Canada in preparation for the WJC but was not invited back for training camp. Unfortunately for him, he has had some struggles in the OHL this season with the Peterborough Petes. He hasn’t shown much offense in his game and when playing a best-on-best tournament, the defense needs to be able to move the puck to transition to the highly talented forwards on the team.