Welcome to the 2021 Raw Charge Top 25 Under 25 series. It’s everyone’s favorite offseason series. Right? This year was pretty interesting. There was a definitely a clear top five, but after that things got a little muddled. All of the 46 players (now 45*) received at least one Top 25 vote from the readers and only 10 players were left off of the writers ballots. That’s a pretty good spread.
It also means that we have a ton of questions about the non-top tier talent. A lot of that goes to the fact that the young players drafted into the organization over the last two years haven’t really played that much. It’s hard to evaluate their abilities when they aren’t on the ice. There is a good chance, that if the leagues that comprise the CHL have a full season, that this list will look drastically different next summer then it does this year.
The bottom of the rankings were a mixed bag indeed as the final tally for votes was pretty close. So one could expect a lot of shuffling over the next season based on how the players perform over the next few months. Today’s post will look at a few players that just missed the cut, but have a strong possibility of appearing on the 2022 version of this list.
*Kris Oldham was technically still part of the organization when we put the list out for ranking, but since has become a free agent since the Lightning did not offer him a contract.
Defense, 18-years-old, drafted 3rd round 2021
2020-21 - U.S. National Development U18 team: 45 games, 3 goals, 11 assists, 49 PIM
The Lightning’s first pick of the most recent draft is a large, right-side defender who will play for the Kitchner Rangers this season. Already 6’6” and 209 lbs, Schmidt profiles as the ideal shutdown defender. His skating is better than expected for a large man, but will be challenged more in the OHL than when he was playing for the developmental team. If he holds his own with Kitchner this season, he could skyrocket up these rankings based on the lack of depth the Lightning have in the organization on the right side.
Center, 22-years-old, drafted 6th round 2017
2020-21 - University of Denver: 23 games, 8 goals, 14 assists, 12 PIM
Guttman is entering his fourth season with the Denver Pioneers after a decent but not great season last year. That was pretty much in keeping with the rest of the Pioneers, who struggled to meet their pre-season expectations. The 22 points Guttman put up did lead the Denver hockey squad so he will be expected to pace the team again this season. Five of the eight goals he scored were on the power play, which shows he is opportunistic, but it would be nice if he pumped up his even strength scoring as well.
He was ranked 25th the last time we did these rankings. As Geo mentioned in his write-up the offense is the biggest question mark about his game. He is solid in his own zone and can win more than his share of face-offs. At this point he does seem to follow the mold set by players like Ross Colton and Mitchell Stephens.
Left wing, 21-years-old, drafted 7th round 2019
2020-21 - Gornyak Uchaly (VHL): 25 games, 8 goals, 12 assists, +4
It was a bit of a surprise that Shalagin came over to the US and played with Orlando as a young 20-year-old. During that season with the Solar Bears he struggled with consistency in posting a 7 goal, 3 assist season in 41 games. He was also a team worst -21 in those games. It’s not a great stat, but anytime you see something that stands out like that, it raises some eyebrows.
Shalagin was moved a few times and will suit up for Yurga Khanty-Mansiysk in the VHL. It could be good if he spends a season or two over in Russia before giving North American hockey another shot. The Lightning will hold onto his rights for a few more years so there is no real rush to bring him back over. It seems he is off to a strong start to the season having posted 6 points (3 goals, 3 assists) in preseason play last month.
He has decent size at 6’4”, 194 lbs but his lack of foot speed was apparent even at the ECHL level. If he can improve that, there is a chance he could become a decent scorer as he has a nice heavy shot and some pretty slick puckhandling skills. Oh, and he’s pretty lethal in the shootout as well.
He’s done it again! Mikhail Shalagin pulls off another Kucherov goal in the shootout! pic.twitter.com/hvGGJIQ4TX— Future Bolts (@LightningProsp1) February 11, 2021
Defense, 23-years-old, signed as free agent
2020-21 - 29 games, 3 goals, 12 assists, 38 PIM
It’s strange to see a player not drafted by the Lightning (or signed as an undrafted free agent) make these lists. Day was originally drafted by the Rangers in the 3rd round back in 2016. He was a highly touted prospect in junior hockey having been granted exceptional status, meaning that he was able to play as a 15-year-old. Other recent players to have that status are Connor McDavid, John Tavares, and Aaron Ekblad. That’s pretty good company to keep.
Unlike the other three, Day has struggled a bit making the transition to pro hockey. He has tremendous offensive instincts but coverage in the defensive zone can be lacking at times. The Lightning/Crunch took a flyer on him last season and his play improved as the season went on. They re-signed the restricted free agent this summer and he should slot in as one of the top bluelines in Syracuse this year.
It might be a bit of a longshot, but with a strong season he might even get a chance to play with his old Windsor Spitfires teammate, Mikhail Sergachev.