The votes are in and we have the final ranking for the Raw Charge Top 25 Under 25 players in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. Over the next couple of months we’ll publish the list in order as determined by you, our readers, and the Raw Charge writing staff. It’s a good, in-depth look at how the young players in the organization are developing and how some of the recent additions rank in comparison.
As is normal with these year-to-year lists there have been some changes. So today we are going to look at five players that were on the list when we last did this exercise way back in the summer of 2019 but have since departed the organization. If a player that is still in the organization dropped off the list because his ranking fell under 25, we’ll discuss that later. No spoilers just yet!
Three of the players below were traded away from the organization while the other two were not re-signed by the Lightning. It’s a reasonable turnover for an organization that is in a “win now” mode and looking to use assets to improve their chances at winning the Stanley Cup. In the case of the Lightning one of these players was directly involved in such a trade.
The benefit of players leaving the list is that it opens up spots for new players and for existing players to move up. None of the players listed below were among last year’s top ten, but all of them are solid players who should, at the least, play full time in the AHL.
2019 Ranking - #11
This one is kind of a cheat. Technically Erne wasn’t part of the organization last year when we released the rankings as he had been traded to Detroit after the rankings were completed, but before we reached his spot. Erne was probably a lock to make the Lightning’s roster last season before the trade and the deal opened up a spot for Carter Verhaeghe to make the team.
Knowing what we know now about how General Manager Julien BriseBois was constructing the 2019-20 Lightning roster, moving Erne seems a little odd. A player that was physical and played well defensively seemed like a perfect fit for the grittier team that Mr. BriseBois was envisioning. Perhaps it was his relative youth or struggle to stay healthy that led to him being moved to Detroit.
Erne, who turned 25 in April, would have aged out of this list if he hadn’t been traded, but is still a young player with a lot of potential. If he’s healthy he should get plenty of playing time on a Red Wings team that is still rebuilding. While he’ll probably never reach the 40-goals a season heights that he enjoyed in junior hockey he could still develop into a depth forward on a shutdown line that can chip in 5-10 goals a season. You know, the type of player that Stanley Cup contenders love to acquire at trade deadlines.
By the way, the fourth round pick in 2020 (93rd overall) that the Lightning received from the Red Wings was traded to the Flyers at this year’s draft for the 115th pick (Eamon Powell) and the 146th pick (Jaydon Dureau). Will either of those players crack the Top 25 this year? Stay tuned to find out.
2019 Ranking - #12
Another player who would have graduated off of the list since he turned 25 in August, Verhaeghe is the poster child for perseverance as a prospect. He has the distinction of appearing on Top 25 Under 25 lists for three different organizations (Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Islanders, and Toronto Maple Leafs) yet it took him seven seasons to make it to the NHL. He was traded twice before his 22nd birthday and saw time in the ECHL as recently as 2017. Yet he never stopped playing and ended up with his name on the Stanley Cup as a rookie.
When given the opportunity to make the Lightning out of training camp (on the heels of a 36-goal season with the Crunch) he seized it and never gave them the excuse to send him to the AHL. While the goal scoring wasn’t as prolific at the NHL level as it was at the AHL level, he contributed in other ways, mainly as a key part of the fourth line for most of the season.
While he was often the 12th forward during games when Coach Cooper went with an 11/7 rotation he did appear in 8 games during the playoffs, including 3 Stanley Cup Final games. Despite off-and-on usage he never complained about his role, simply going out and doing the job he was assigned.
He has NHL-level speed and a wrist shot that is a lot sneakier than it should be. With increased ice time in Florida it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that he could score 15-20 goals and see some time on their power play.
2019 Ranking - #13
This one was hard to take. While he was only ranked 13th last season, a strong 2019-20 season with the Kelowna Rockets (33 points in 27 games) and a breakout performance in the 2020 World Junior Classic (3 goals, 2 assists in 7 games) would have had him moving up the charts this year.
Unfortunately for the prospect ranks he was included in the trade deadline deal to New Jersey for Blake Coleman and is now a bright spot in another organization. All About the Jersey is in the middle of their prospect run down, having posted the bottom half of their Top 25 so far and Foote hasn’t appeared yet. So chances are he’s probably somewhere in their Top 10.
The younger Foote will most likely make his AHL debut this season and it would have been a nice story if he could have shared some ice time with his brother, Cal. Now, it appears that if they share the ice, they will do so as rivals with Nolan suiting up for Binghamton and Cal for Syracuse (if he doesn’t make the Lightning roster).
While the trade paid off for the Bolts as Coleman was a key part of the Stanley Cup run, it cost the organization something they don’t have a lot of - a big, strong, young forward. At 6’4” he would have been the tallest forward on the Lightning roster. His style of play would have fit well with the direction the team has been going in regards to being tougher on the puck.
It would have been interesting to see how quickly he adapted to the pro game (personally I think his stop in Syracuse would have been a quick one). That’s the price an organization sometimes has to pay for the final pieces of the Stanley Cup puzzle, though.
2019 Ranking - #19
There is still a chance that Dennis Yan ends up in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s system, but as of right now he’s a free agent after the organization decided not to tender the Restricted Free Agent a contract this offseason. Now he will most likely get a change of scenery on an AHL contract with another organization
The Lightning’s decision to non-tender him shows that they may think his development has stalled. The organization has a ton of prospects that slot into a middle-six position in the NHL and the chances of Yan vaulting to the top of that pack was slim at best. From a tool standpoint, it seems Yan would be able to make it, but for some reason he just hasn’t been able to put it together.
He put up 18 points (10 goals, 8 assists) in 50 games last season with the Crunch, the lowest totals of his career. Injuries throughout his pro career have hampered his development along the way and last season was no different as he missed some games due to a concussion. When he was on the ice something else that has followed him in Syracuse reared its head - inconsistency.
Some games he would look like the best player on the ice, skating smoothly and dishing the puck with ease. Other nights he would disappear from the ice, leaving viewers to wonder if he had been a healthy scratch. He never seemed to adjust to his role as a bottom-six forward, but never put forth the type of effort that would earn him more minutes on a Ben Groulx-coached team.
Last year when we ranked him 19th (he had been 14th in 2017 and 19th in 2018) Allokago wrote that it was a make-it-or-break-it season for the young forward:
“Finding consistency in his game is something Yan will be looking to do as he enters the final year of his entry-level contract this upcoming season. Yan played in ten more games for the Crunch last season than he did the season before, but ended up totaling one less point. The streaky play that plagued him during his first year in the AHL also marked his second.”
That pretty much described his 2019-20 season as well. With players like Boris Katchouk, Taylor Raddysh, and Alex Barre-Boulet passing him on the depth chart and his entry-level contract expiring it seems like this was a good time to part ways with him.
2019 Ranking - #21
Danick Martel’s tenure in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization was an odd one. He was claimed off of waivers from the Philadelphia Flyers in September of 2018 but only played nine games that season. He wasn’t hurt, just caught in a kind of limbo. It was hard for him to crack the Lightning line-up, but had they put him on waivers he probably would have been claimed by another team.
So they just kind of held onto him. In the offseason he re-signed with the Lightning knowing that he’d have a shot at making the club as a bottom-six forward. He was one of the last forwards in camp, but didn’t survive the final cuts. He did manage to clear waivers and played on one of the top lines in Syracuse. In 52 games he put up 16 goals and 14 assists while acquiring 42 penalty minutes.
In February, just prior to the trade deadline, he was dealt to the Florida Panthers for Anthony Greco. He played eight games for the Springfield Falcons putting up four goals and five assists. He didn’t make the Panthers expanded roster for the playoffs and is currently an Unrestricted Free Agent.
At 25, his days as a high-end prospect are fading a bit, but he’s a solid contributor at the AHL level (160 points in 263 games) with the potential to bounce back and forth to the NHL. He has speed and plays a heavy game for someone who is listed at 5’8” and 176 lbs.
Five spots opened up on the Top 25 Under 25 list for the Lightning. Over the next few months we’ll see who fills up those spots.