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Unsigned Tampa Bay Lightning Prospects that could sign soon

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Entry Level Contract season is upon us, so who’s up for signing?

2018 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7 Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

We’re getting down towards the end of the season, not just for the Tampa Bay Lightning and the NHL, but also for junior hockey, European leagues, and NCAA hockey. That also means we’re not far off from seeing some prospects appearing in the AHL for the Syracuse Crunch. A prospect doesn’t necessarily need to sign an entry level contract (ELC) to play for the Crunch, but it’s usually a precursor to them doing so.

So let’s take a look at the Lightning’s unsigned prospects and take a guess at who might sign a contract soon, and who we’ll still be waiting on for a bit longer. One clarification, the Signing Possibility is for the short term of the next few months and over the summer for a player to sign an ELC.

CHL Juniors

D Radim Salda

Current Team: Rimouski Oceanic, QMJHL

Through 46 games so far, Salda has scored nine goals and 29 points. His scoring rate is down a little bit from last season when he had 41 points in 62 games, but he’s just one goal from matching his total of 10 last season. Salda was a seventh round pick of the Lightning last summer in the 2018 NHL draft. As a seventh rounder, he’s still a bit of a long shot as an NHL prospect and he hasn’t shown much more this year to make him a slam dunk for an ELC.

However, Salda has just turned 20 years old and will be eligible to play in the AHL full-time next year. The Lightning don’t have to make a decision yet on him as they control his rights for another season and he could play another year in the QMJHL as an overage player. Rimouski is currently second in the East division of the QMJHL and fifth overall in the league. They’re likely to play past the first round and perhaps even into the second and third round of the playoffs.

Signing Possibility: Maybe

European Prospects

D Dmitri Semykin

Current Team: SKA-1946 St. Petersburg, MHL / SKA-Neva St. Petersburgh, VHL

Semykin was a third round pick last summer by the Lightning and was an under the radar selection by the team. He put up 15 points in 41 games for Kapitan Stupino in the MHL last season. Kapitan was not a very good team and was the junior team for one of the have-nots in the KHL in HK Sochi. However, shortly before the draft, Semykin was traded to SKA St. Petersburg, one of the power house, well-funded franchises in the KHL.

He started out the year playing with SKA-Varyagi im. Morozova in the MHL. This team is SKA’s B-team in the MHL. He played on the first pair and the power play with that team and scored three points in six games. After that, he was moved more permanently back to SKA’s top team, SKA-1946. In a lesser role on that team, he has 16 points in 38 games. Between the two teams, he has 19 points in 48 games putting him at a slightly higher scoring pace than he had with Kapitan.

Semykin has also gotten some professional time this year playing with SKA-Neva in the VHL, the Russian minor leagues. He played in ten games toward the end of the season with one assist in 10 games. He’s also played in two playoff games for SKA-Neva.

Semykin signing an ELC is very dependent on what he wants to do. The Lightning can control his rights until he is 27 years old so Semykin could decide to stick it out in Russia for quite a while. On the other hand, if Semykin is interested in the NHL, and I have to assume there is at least some belief he would be for the Lightning to take him in the third round, he could sign and play in the CHL next year before moving to the AHL the year after.

Signing Possibility: Unlikely

G Magnus Chrona

Current Team: Skelleftea AIK J20, SuperElit

Chrona had a bit of a rough year moving up into SuperElit, Sweden’s top junior tier. Skelleftea has also had a pretty hard time this year. They’re currently tied for 8th in the North division and there’s only three teams in the 20 team league behind them in points. But he’s a goalie, and goalies generally take more time. He’ll likely get another year in SuperElit in Sweden before having an opportunity to move into Sweden’s professional leagues. The Lightning control his rights for three seasons beyond this year so they have time to let him develop before attempting to bring him over to play in North America.

Signing Possibility: None

NCAA Prospects

The NCAA Prospects section is the largest here. The Lightning have used a good number of draft picks on NCAA bound players over the past three or four drafts. For many of these players, they are long shots. There’s also a lot more variance for when players decide to come out of school and move to professional hockey. In the Yzerman era, the Lightning have generally not put a lot of pressure on NCAA players to leave school before they are ready. NCAA prospects also have some more control since they can decide to leave school and become unrestricted free agents in August if they wish to.

F Ryan Lohin

Current Team: UMass-Lowell

Lohin was a seventh round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry draft. He turns 23 years old this summer, so he’s already getting to be a bit on the older side for prospects. He has 12 goals in 30 games and 26 points. He needs one more goal, four more assists, and four more points to set NCAA career highs. His production has been similar to Ross Colton’s two years at the University of Vermont before Colton signed an ELC. Lohin could be on the same track, but he also has another year of eligibility if he wishes to continue playing NCAA hockey.

Signing Possibility: 50/50 chance

F Cole Guttman

Current Team: University of Denver

A 2017 6th round pick, Guttman is in his freshman season at Denver. He lost much of last year in the USHL to injury, but is having a pretty decent season with 11 goals and 21 points, putting him third on the team in goals and tied for fourth in points. Denver sits fourth in the NCHC and starts their conference tournament in a couple weeks.

Signing Possibility: None

F Sammy Walker

Current Team: University of Minnesota

Walker turned heads at development camp this year putting on a show during drills and the three-on-three tournaments. The Lightning took him in the 7th round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. After his draft year, he couldn’t break into the USHL to start the year and returned to Edina High for his senior season. At the end of the year, he made it back to the USHL and finished with nine points in 17 games. For the Golden Gophers though, he has put up 10 goals and 25 points in 36 games as a 19 year old freshman. He sits tied for 11th in the NCAA among U20 players and is fifth on the Minnesota roster.

As much as Walker has impressed, there is still a lot of room for him to grow, both figuratively and literally. The Minnesota hockey web site lists him at 5’11” and 160 pounds, but he was previously listed at 5’9” and 150 pounds. Brayden Point was listed at around the same height and weight when he was drafted, but the Lightning now list him as 5’10” and 166 pounds.

I’m not trying to draw too many comparisons here between Walker and Point, but it’s more to highlight that sometimes all a player needs to get over the hump and overcome being a small player is to get just a little bit bigger and stronger so that their skills can stand out. It’s still impressive that Walker was able to break in with a very strong Minnesota roster and play well instead of heading back to the USHL for a post high school season. He’s definitely a prospect to keep an eye on.

Signing Possibility: Next to none

F Cole Koepke

Current Team: University of Minnesota-Duluth

A sixth round pick in 2018, Koepke was an overage draft pick by the Lightning. He was already 20 years old when he was drafted and turns 21 this summer. Scoring 28 goals and 39 points last year in the USHL got the attention of the Lightning’s scouts. His goal scoring has taken a step back as he has just four goals and 14 points in 34 games. He’s got good size at 6’1” and 196 pounds, but he still needs to round out his game.

Signing Possibility: None

D Alex Green

Current Team: Cornell University

Green was an interesting pick for the Lightning as he had already played a season at Cornell University before he was drafted. The more usual pattern for the Lightning with overage NCAA bound players was to find players that had broken out in the USHL and were set to head off to NCAA hockey the next year. Green was taken in the fourth round after scoring 10 points in 29 games for Cornell. So far this season, he has just three points, all assists, in 13 games. However, Green’s strength is his hockey IQ. I’m not overly concerned with his lack of offensive production this year, but I would like to see it tick up a bit more for him to get a serious look as a pro.

Signing Possibility: None

D Nick Perbix

Current Team: St. Cloud State University

Perbix is a player I’ve been a fan of since the Lightning took him in the sixth round of the 2017 draft. Perbix was passed over in his draft year and the Lightning took him a year later after a pretty strong senior season of high school hockey in Minnesota. He moved to the Omaha Lancers the following season in the USHL and put up 29 points in 56 games.

This year for St. Cloud State, Perbix has put up five goals and 20 points over 34 games. St. Cloud State has also been the best team in the NCHC with a 27-4-3 record. He is the ninth leading scorer on the team and the third leading defenseman.

One comparable that I found with Perbix when he was drafted was Braydon Coburn. Coburn showed a lot more offensive ability in the WHL as a prospect, but there were some other aspects that looked similar to me. Perbix has been praised for his hockey IQ and good positioning as a defenseman. He’s also listed at 6’4” and 200 pounds, which is pretty ideal size for an NHL defenseman.

If Perbix wanted to leave NCAA now and start playing in the NHL, I think that he has shown enough that the Lightning would be interested in signing him. He’s also a right handed defenseman. With Cal Foote potentially moving up to the NHL next season, the Crunch are looking to be light on right handed defenseman next season which may give him a decent path to playing time and developing. But it will be up to him of if he wants to turn pro or continue his education.

Signing Possibility: Unlikely, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s signed

D Ryan Zuhlsdorf

Current Team: University of Minnesota

Zuhlsdorf was drafted by the Lightning in the fifth round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft as an offensive defenseman. He spent another season in the USHL before joining the Golden Gophers. Unfortunately, his offensive side has not shown up through his first three season in NCAA hockey. He had five points as freshman, nine as a sophomore, and has eight points in 34 games this season. Despite a number of strong defenseman moving on from Minnesota following last season, Zuhlsdorf has not taken over as one of their top defensemen. It’s looking more and more unlikely that he has a future as a prospect.

Signing Possibility: None

G Ty Taylor

Current Team: University of New Hampshire

Taylor was drafted out of the BCHL last summer as a seventh round pick. With New Hampshire, he has been a back-up goaltender as a freshman this year with just an .853 SV% in seven games. He turns 20 this summer and has plenty of time to continue to develop in NCAA hockey. Mike Robinson, the goalie ahead of him, is only a sophomore. However, he was a third round pick of the San Jose Sharks and turns 22 in a couple weeks. There’s some potential that Robinson could leave early for the pros after putting up a .920 SV% in 29 games this year which would open room for Taylor to play more.

Signing Possibility: None

G Kristian Oldham

Current Team: Clarkson University

Oldham was a sixth round pick of the Lightning in 2015. He spent another season in the USHL before moving to NCAA hockey with the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He did not play very well in 16 games over his first two seasons as a back-up and was stuck behind a player that was just a year older than him. He decided to transfer to Clarkson University, where he finds himself in pretty much the same situation (which makes the decision weird) and red shirted this season because of his transfer. He has two more years of NCAA eligibility.

Signing Possibility: None