Every year teams have their rookie development camps shortly after the draft. This time around, I was able to attend and take a look at the group of players who attended. I’ll be providing an excerpt on each player in regards to what I thought of them.
Disclaimer: The following notes are entirely based off my opinion from what I saw during drills and the short 3-on-3 tournament that was played at camp. These players are at development camp for a reason, either they’re first year draftees/invitees or they’re returning young players who have a part of their game that the organization would like to see improve. Thus, let’s not get carried away with the players I was impressed by at camp.
We’ll start with the forwards first.
|19||BARRE-BOULET, Alex||5'10||165||5/21/1997||FA Signing (2/28/18)|
|92||COLTON, Ross||6'0||201||9/11/1996||16 Draft (4th Rd)|
|78||FORTIER, Gabriel||5'10||170||2/6/2000||18 Draft (2nd Rd)|
|41||KATCHOUK, Boris||6'1||192||6/18/1998||16 Draft (2nd Rd)|
|45||KOEPKE, Cole||6'1||196||5/17/1998||18 Draft (6th Rd)|
|36||LIPANOV, Alexey||6'0||170||8/17/1999||17 Draft (3rd Rd)|
|33||LOHIN, Ryan||6'0||193||6/26/1996||16 Draft (7th Rd)|
|46||RADDYSH, Taylor||6'2||209||2/18/1998||16 Draft (2nd Rd)|
|42||SOMPPI, Otto||6'0||181||1/12/1998||16 Draft (7th Rd)|
|47||TAMMELA, Jonne||5'11||185||8/5/1997||15 Draft (4th Rd)|
|61||WALKER, Samuel||5'10||142||6/7/1999||17 Draft (7th Rd)|
|38||YAN, Dennis||6'1||202||4/14/1997||15 Draft (3rd Rd)|
The CHL player of the year was highly impressive at camp. He was always near the puck regardless of whether or not he was defending or attacking. He had a variety of plays that either resulted in a goal or, at a minimum, a dangerous opportunity. He saw the ice well, though it was 3-on-3 so take that for what it is, and used his speed and agility to work his way around defenders. He made his presence known, and early signs on Barre-Boulet show that he could be another diamond in the rough for the Lightning organization.
Colton didn’t stand out during his first 3-on-3 game, but the rest of the tournament was an entirely different story. He wasn’t as flashy as others at camp, but he was every bit as effective. I wouldn’t go so far as to say he bulls his way through defenders, but he does have a slightly larger frame than most did at camp and he wasn’t afraid to use it. Add in his skating and ability to protect the puck, and you have a player that slightly reminded me of Alex Killorn, just with better playmaking ability (and a strong propensity for NOT falling down). He also had ridiculous chemistry with Jonne Tammela; these two players were constantly creating dangerous opportunities during the tournament. This is further backed up with Colton and Tammela tying for the scoring lead after the tournament ended with 14 points a piece (Colton 7-7-14, Tammela 5-9-14).
Fortier is the first player on the list to not entirely impress me. Fortier had some flashes, but overall struggled to get much going offensively. He did set up Alexei Lipanov with a beautiful pass, but I had to constantly divert my attention to see if Fortier was on the ice. He just didn’t do much that caught my eye. He is shifty, quick, and has a nice set of hands, but nothing else stood out about him. I’m hoping it was just nerves getting to him during his first pro camp.
Katchouk quietly put up 9 points (3-6-9) during the tournament and that is meant as a compliment. Katchouk didn’t do anything flashy per se, but he was always in the right spot at the right time and controlled the puck along the boards exceptionally well. He seemed to always be looking for the pass instead of shooting and it paid off for him since he was on a team with Ross Colton, Jonne Tammela, and Oleg Sosunov (who caught my eye more than Katchouk did). Katchouk reminded me a little of Ondrej Palat—he does the little things and is the “straw that stirs the drink”. He struck me as one of those players that is just downright good and isn’t going to make a ton of mistakes.
Koepke didn’t do much to catch my eye. He did set up a goal for Otto Somppi where he threaded the needle on a pass (the pass was one of those, “Ooooooo that’s a sneaky pass right there”). Outside of that, Koepke was a bit pedestrian. Quick on his feet and aware of his surroundings, but outside of a few impressive passes he was another first timer who probably had nerves affecting him.
Krieger is interesting. He was by far the oldest player in attendance (24 yrs old) and only scored one goal (he had 5 assists to put himself in the top 10 for scoring), but man that one goal was one of the most impressive ones of the tournament. Krieger deked through three players and then yanked the jock strap off the goaltender as he scored the opening goal of that particular game. The goal had everyone at the Ice Sports Forum cheering (which only happened on a few occasions). Aside from his lone goal, he had some clear chemistry with Sammy Walker (we’ll get to him soon) and those two, in addition to Otto Somppi, wreaked havoc on every other team in the tournament. Krieger might be one of those complimentary type players that just slots in and plays well, but his age is a bit worrisome.
I’m going to be honest here—Leppard did little to catch my eye. I constantly kept noticing him high in the zone when his team was on the offensive and he struggled with opposing defenders poke checking the puck off his stick. He is quick along the outside of the zone, but given that he was on Team Killorn (they didn’t win a game) he was unable to get much going.
First, Lipanov is definitely the goofball of this group. He was constantly doing fake celebrations during drills and was the most animated player on the ice. He’s a character and I love that about him. As for his on-ice performance? Well, he was on Team Killorn and was one of two bright spots for that team (Dennis Yan being the other). The chemistry that Lipanov and Yan displayed were the only good thing about Team Killorn. Even though neither of them broke the top 10 in scoring, they created a bevy of chances that either rung off the post, sailed wide, or the goaltender made an impressive save. He has exceptional vision and is more of a playmaker than a shooter, but he can fire one if he needed. He’s definitely a higher ceiling player than most at camp, and I’m excited to see how he develops.
Lohin, unfortunately, falls into the same spot as Koepke. He still managed to secure a top 10 spot in scoring with a line of 0-6-6, but this could be seen as him being the beneficiary of Alex Barre-Boulet being the most dangerous player on his team (they were on Team Hedman). Not much else caught my eye, and when I did notice him, he was on the periphery of the zone battling for the puck. He won most of those puck battles and maintained possession for his team (which is an underrated quality) but there wasn’t much else that really stood out about him.
I liked MacDougall. He was consistently in the right spot at the right time, had good vision, and wasn’t afraid to get wrapped up in the corner. What I didn’t like about him was his edge work—it looked sloppy. This was noticeable in drills and the tournament. He wasn’t able to turn or accelerate like other players at camp and it occasionally gave him some issues. He made up for this with his passing ability (which leads back to his vision) and shiftiness.
Note, I have never been especially high (compared to others) on Raddysh. I don’t entirely know why, but something about him makes me go “Hmmm”. The first day of the tournament was a mixed bag. He did score three times, but two goals were gifts provided to him, yet the third was downright impressive though. He had six chances in one game alone, but hit the post three times, and either missed the net or was shutdown by the goaltender on the others. Aside from those chances I felt like Raddysh disappeared at times. I was hoping the second day of the tournament would show me a bit more and boy was I right. He didn’t produce on the stat sheet as much in the second day, but the Taylor Raddysh I saw in day one was not the one I saw on day two. He was far more engaged and dominant along the boards (which he should control given that he was the largest forward in attendance) and was flying in every game he was in. If we see more of that day two Raddysh then the Lightning are going to have an extremely good winger in the near future.
Smith falls into the same category as Leppard. He did little to catch my attention and when I did focus on him he seemed disengaged at times. He scored twice, but both goals were set-up by Sammy Walker so the entire defense was more focused on not allowing Walker to cut through them.
Otto Somppi—I really do enjoy that name. I don’t know why, but it just sounds nice when you hear it. Somppi looked great in camp—speed, control, and vision were all apparent when he was on the ice for Team Stamkos. His production was less than Sammy Walker’s (4-4-8), but that doesn’t devalue Somppi, at all. He was most effective bringing the puck into the zone and working along the boards. He still displayed plenty of skill when he was in-close on net, but Somppi seemed more content to simply control the play and see what options were available to him. Keep an eye on this kid moving forward.
Finally healthy, Jonne Tammela pretty much put a giant stamp on this tournament. He tied for the lead in scoring and was a huge reason why Team Johnson was so deadly. Ross Colton played a big part to that team’s success, but Tammela was the de-facto catalyst for nearly everything Team Johnson did. He had everything going for him; the shot, the passing, the ability to control the puck while being covered by a defender, and great vision. The only negative I’d say Tammela displayed was holding onto the puck for too long. Though, I would say he does that to try and set his teammates up. Regardless, Tammela had a fantastic camp and I can’t wait to see what he does in Syracuse.
Sammy freaking Walker, ladies and gentlemen. He led everyone during the tournament in goals with 9 and was third in scoring with 12 points. Sammy Walker was built for 3-on-3 and that was noticeable every time Team Stamkos took the ice. Fast, shifty, and dangerous anytime the puck was on his stick, Walker was, at times, the most dominant player on the ice. He did most of his damage by attacking from the periphery of the zone and cutting inward. Not a lot of players could keep up with him when he got going. Will that translate to 5-on-5? It’s unknown, but he has the talent—that’s for damn sure. It would be nice to see him add some bulk though. He’s listed at 5’10’’ 142 pounds, that size won’t help him in the AHL or NHL. He’s only 19 so I expect him to grow into his frame a bit more, but I’m excited to see how Walker develops.
Wouters is the final non-drafted invitee on the list and he has some similarities to Krieger. He went 3-3-6 in the production department and was another reason why Team Johnson did so well in the tournament. Between Wouters and Colton, Team Johnson controlled the boards well during their games. Wouters especially, wasn’t hesitant to initiate contact and battle for the puck. I didn’t notice a lot of raw skill, but he has everything else you’d look for in a prospect: speed, intelligence, patience, etc. He’s only 18 and if he continues to grow he could be a dark horse contributor down the road.
Skill for days with Dennis Yan. He was, unfortunately, on Team Killorn during the tournament and didn’t break into the top 10 of scoring, but between Yan and Lipanov they scored the vast majority of goals their team did get. We’ve heard plenty about what Yan can do offensively, and he backed that up during the tournament. However, the most glaring issue I saw was on the defensive side. There were times where Yan would position himself awkwardly which led the opposing forwards to surge by him and drive the net. Yan recovered a handful of times, but others he clearly went into desperation mode and hooked his opponent. None of those were called on him (yes, penalties are called during the tournament, but they result in a penalty shot for the team that received the power-play and take place after the game ends), but it’s something that I noticed. He was called for a roughing penalty when he pushed Tammela hard into the boards, but that looked more like an accident than anything intentional on Yan’s part. Yan pushed Tammela right as Tammela was shifting his weight—just something I thought I’d mention. His chemistry with Lipanov was apparent immediately and once those two started to control the puck, the opposing team struggled to get it back. Yan’s only 21, so there’s plenty of time left for him to grow.
|57||GREEN, Alexander||6-2||177||6/18/1998||18 Draft (4th Rd)|
|52||FOOTE, Callan||6'4||210||12/13/1998||17 Draft (1st Rd)|
|48||PERBIX, Nicklaus||6'2||191||6/15/1998||17 Draft (6th Rd)|
|58||SALDA, Radim||6'0||185||2/18/1999||18 Draft (7th Rd|
|76||SOSUNOV, Oleg||6'8||230||4/13/1998||16 Draft (6th Rd)|
|43||ZUHLSDORF, Ryan||6'0||195||7/1/1997||15 Draft (5th Rd)|
It’s difficult to really get a feel for a defensive prospect in a 3-on-3 setting. Green played well for Team Stamkos and managed to score twice for them during the tournament. If there is one definitive thing I liked about Green, it was how attentive he was. He was rarely out of position and repeatedly kept his man to the outside of the zone. Outside of that, he didn’t do anything that is noteworthy.
Foote left development camp for a family matter. I hope everything with his family is going well. Sucks we couldn’t see him play. We’ll see him at camp in September!
Perbix is listed as a defensemen, but he could’ve fooled me during this tournament. He had little issue playing in the 3-on-3, and had a few chances that were downright impressive. He did score two goals during the tourney and made a slew of passes that you don’t expect from a sixth round pick. Maybe he was just feeling himself these two days, but Perbix was easily the second best defensemen at camp.
Radim Salda didn’t do a whole lot to stand out. I noticed a few nice passes and reads from him, however, outside of that he kind of just blended into the group. This isn’t to disparage him, it’s just to note that nothing he did made him stand out.
The giant that is Oleg Sosunov. Last season when I saw him, his skating was one of the bigger issues the Lightning had with him. Now? He is a far superior skater and it was clearly apparent. He’s 6’8’’ and skates like he’s 6’3’’, he has a ridiculous amount of reach and is deceivingly quick for a kid of his size. His production was the best of all defensemen as well with a 4-3-7 stat-line and every goal he scored had the crowd (and some of the media in attendance) audibly cheering for him. Big man has a shot and is skilled as well. He’s still a project and is nowhere near ready for the NHL, but if the organization can develop him in the way they hope—this kid could be something really interesting.
Did not attend camp, I am unaware of the reason why.
|35||CHRONA, Magnus||6'4||209||8/28/2000||18 Draft (5th Rd)|
|1||INGRAM, Connor||6'1||202||3/31/1997||16 Draft (3rd Rd)|
|32||OLDHAM, Kristian||6'2||203||6/25/1997||15 Draft (6th Rd)|
|49||TAYLOR, Ty||6'3||196||7/5/1999||18 Draft (7th Rd)|
I know very little when it comes to goaltending so I’m just going to rank them from best to worst in regards to their play with a very brief explanation.
1 - Connor Ingram - By far the best netminder at camp. He made more than a few ridiculous stops and made life agitating for opposing shooters. Here’s to hoping he improves even more next season in Syracuse.
2. Magnus Chrona - Admittedly, I know very little about Chrona, but he looked solid when he was in net. Didn’t give up on a play and tracked the puck decently enough.
3. Kristian Oldham - I don’t know what it is about Oldham, but he strikes me as a battler type goalie. He was aggressive and didn’t seem to be very hesitant at all when he was in net.
4. Ty Taylor - It felt like whenever the scoreboard got really high in the tournament, it was Ty Taylor in net for one of the halves. This isn’t to disparage him, it’s just how it felt. There were times he made some impressive saves, and others that made me go “Hmmm”. He’s a seventh round pick, so he’s the definition of a project, but one that could become something.
None of the aforementioned players are bad by any stretch of the imagination, and they all had moments to shine. However, this is development camp and these players are here for a reason; for the team to bring them in, work on some issues and see how they’ve progressed. None of them are remotely expected to make an NHL roster this season or next (if we’re being realistic). With that being said, it is best to focus on the positives I mentioned about all of them and hope they all develop in a manner that helps them and the organization moving forward. Besides, it was fun just watching them play hockey and enjoy it (they were all smiles throughout camp, which goes to show how the coaching staff treats them).