The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the RawCharge community. Ten writers and 106 readers ranked players under the age of 25 as of September 1, 2017 in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. Now, we’ll count down each of the 25 players ranked, plus Honorable Mentions.
Daniel Walcott really has become the Jack-of-all-Trades with the Syracuse Crunch organization. He plays defense. He plays forward. He’s got a little enforcer in him. He’s been an alternate captain. He wore the “C” for one game last season with Syracuse when Erik Condra, the Crunch’s captain at the time, was out of commission. He was the Crunch’s AHL Man of the Year for the 2017-18 season. He’s king of locker room karaoke battles and team choreographer. He’s done everything asked of him willingly and with a smile.
Now, if only he could figure out how to crack the Tampa Bay Lightning’s line up.
Walcott clocks in at number 24 on this year’s Top 25 Under 25. Last season, Walcott was ranked 20th out of 25, a number that reflected a mix of hope that he’d come into his own after two strong seasons with Syracuse and a lack of confidence in his potential ceiling. Walcott came into the Lightning organization in 2015 after being traded from New York Rangers. Undersized and undervalued before the trade, Walcott’s versatility and grit was exactly the kind of skill set Steve Yzerman and company seem to have a knack for sniffing out.
In his three full seasons with the organization, Walcott has been invaluable for Syracuse. He’s been the face of the Crunch in the community, to an extent that most fans weren’t even aware of. He has switched from his natural position of defenseman to forward whenever the need called, and at several times played at forward for so long it was wondered if the change had been made permanent. He’s been a leader in the dressing room, and instrumental in organizing team events and helping out with team promotions.
Despite his constant reassuring presence in Syracuse, Walcott seems virtually unknown to Lightning fans. He went unranked by Raw Charge’s readers this summer. His lack of a call up to the Lightning has also hurt his status among Raw Charge’s contributors, which was marked by his fall from 20th last summer to 24th this summer.
After his initial three year entry-level contract with the Bolts ended, Walcott was re-signed for one more season with the Lightning this past June. He will be turning 25 during the 2018-19 season, so whether he continues on with the Lightning or not, this is his last time ranked in this countdown. In 2017-18, Walcott totaled 16 points in 62 regular season AHL games. He played in all seven of the Crunch’s post-season games, netting one assist.
When Walcott was re-signed, Geo addressed his NHL potential:
If he is to make it to the NHL, in my opinion, he’s more likely to do so as an energy winger on the fourth line rather than as a defenseman. His defensive liabilities are not made up for with enough offensive firepower to see him making it even as a third pairing defenseman.
His willingness to slot in anywhere the coaching staff needs him is absolutely a plus at the AHL level, and something that probably helped convinced the Lightning to keep him on board for 2018-19. That flexibility, however, may still be hampering Walcott’s NHL visibility. Walcott also isn’t getting any younger, and there’s plenty of prospects at both positions that are knocking on Tampa’s door.
Whether he eventually makes the Lightning or not, Walcott will most certainly be a big part of the Crunch’s dressing room again this up coming season. With Condra moving on, the captaincy is open and there’s a chance, despite his age, that he might be selected to wear the “C” for the season. Walcott served as Captain of his QMJHL team, the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, in his second season with that team. His leadership is clearly valued by Crunch head coach Ben Groulx and his staff. He will most certainly be wearing an A at the very least, and surely will continue to be a positive force in the community.
His contributions to the Crunch were clearly why the writers here at Raw Charge felt he deserved to be ranked on this countdown one last time before he ages out. One can only hope that he will get the opportunity to show Lightning fans everything they haven’t had a chance to see yet.