Welcome to the 2018 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2018 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. We will be following the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no traded draft picks) and you can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, we will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2018 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed.
What we will be doing is linking you to those articles, as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2018-19 roster of the NHL team in question. We will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later, or was an undrafted free agent signing who we pick as our dark horse to make the NHL. For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played (including playoff games) or is 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
Tampa Bay Lightning Prospects
After missing the playoffs in 2017, the Tampa Bay Lightning were back to being a true Stanley Cup Contender in 2017-18. Steven Stamkos returned to centre the first line and Nikita Kucherov proved that his previous season was no fluke and that he is one of the best forwards in the game. Brayden Point had a breakout campaign. On defence, Victor Hedman won his first Norris Trophy, Mikhail Sergachev had a solid rookie season, and Ryan McDonagh was added at the trade deadline. Andrei Vasilevskiy started the season exceptionally strong but faded a bit down the stretch. He should be even better going forward. The Lightning made the Conference Final before falling to the eventual Cup Champion Washington Capitals.
The off-season saw Steve Yzerman focus more on keeping the team together than making major changes. Kucherov, McDonagh, J.T. Miller and Cedric Paquette were amongst the notables to sign new contracts. Despite missing the playoffs in an injury-riddled 2016-17, the Lightning have been a contender for quite some time now. They look to their prospects to add new talent to the roster and continue to compete for the Stanley Cup.
Top Prospect: Boris Katchouk
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born June 18th, 1998 — Kitchener, Ontario
Height 6’2″ — Weight 210 lbs [188 cm / 95 kg]
Drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2nd round, #44 overall at the 2016 NHL Draft
Katchouk had a solid season with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. He put up 42 goals and 85 points in 58 games. Katchouk was a huge part of the Greyhounds being the best team in the CHL all season long. He was even better in the playoffs with 19 goals and 37 points in 24 games but the Greyhounds fell in the OHL final to the Hamilton Bulldogs. He also put up three goals and six points in seven games with Canada at the World Juniors, helping the team to the gold medal.
Katchouk has good speed, allowing him to play a strong forechecking game. He shows very good acceleration, and the ability to quickly change speeds, allowing him to get by defenders with his change of pace. His agility and edgework are also strong, allowing Katchouk to make quick cuts and get past defenders. Katchouk also has good balance and power in his stride at the junior level but could stand to improve that area of his game before he heads to the next level.
Katchouk is quick to get in on the forecheck and creates pressure on defenders going back to retrieve the puck. He is physical along the boards, looking to finish his checks on those defencemen. He has the willingness to battle in the corners and get himself in front of the net. Katchouk is strong on the cycle, using his body to effectively shield defenders away from the puck. He has a good wrist shot and decent release. He can also score on tip-ins and deflections.
Katchouk has really improved as a playmaker over the last two years. He is now a strong stick handler who can drive the play in the offensive zone. He can make quick moves in order to get around defenders or create space in the offensive zone. Once he is past a defender he loves to take the puck to the front of the net. He sees the ice well and has really improved his passing skills as well. Katchouk finds open teammates and creates scoring chances.
Katchouk plays a strong defensive game. He brings his tenacity and his grit to his own end of the ice, where he is willing to engage in board battles and fight for loose pucks. He supplies back pressure and supports the defence down low when necessary. Katchouk is not afraid to get out on his point man and block shots either. His defensive awareness and hockey IQ are well advanced for a teenager.
Katchouk’s junior career is now over. He heads to the AHL where he will spend a season or two with the Syracuse Crunch. With the depth that the Lightning have amongst their NHL forwards, they can afford to be patient with his development. Katchouk’s power game will eventually bring a unique element to the Lightning forward group.
#2 Prospect: Taylor Raddysh
Right Wing — shoots Right
Born February 18th, 1998 — Caledon, Ontario
Height 6’2″ — Weight 209 lbs [188 cm / 95 kg]
Drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2nd round, #58 overall at the 2016 NHL Draft
Raddysh remained one of the top players in the OHL last season. Traded at the OHL deadline, he split the year between the rebuilding Erie Otters and top regular season team the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Overall Raddysh put up 33 goals and 50 assists for 83 points in 58 games. He also added 13 goals and 21 assists for 34 points in 24 playoff games. Raddysh also played for Team Canada at the World Juniors, scoring two goals and five points in seven games and winning a gold medal.
Raddysh has very good size and good speed. He has good acceleration which allows him to gets in quickly on the forecheck. Once there, he finishes his checks, punishing opposing defenders, causing turnovers and creating offence. He could be even better if he could improve his first step. This would allow Raddysh to win more races for loose pucks than he already does. It is not bad, but it could be just a bit better.
Raddysh has good agility and can weave through traffic, both with and without the puck. He can cut to the outside on a defender and once he gets a step is hard to stop. Raddysh has the power in his stride to fight through checks and get to the net, as well as the balance to be strong on the puck when being hit by opposing defenders.
Raddysh is a goal-scoring threat. He has a very good wrist shot and a quick release. With his strong hockey IQ, Raddysh is able to find openings in the defence to set up for a one-timer. He goes hard to the net and pounces on rebounds. Raddysh protects the puck well down low on the cycle, using his body and his stickhandling to keep the puck away from the opponent. He has excellent vision and has really improved his playmaking, making tape-to-tape passes to teammates and threading the needle through tight spaces to create scoring opportunities. Raddysh uses his size, strength and balance to win loose pucks on the boards, and create increased offensive opportunities for his linemates.
Raddysh’s defensive game has really improved. He comes back on the backcheck and is willing to play a gritty game in his own end. His defensive positioning has really improved over his draft year. He is more disciplined and does not get himself out of position looking for big hits, or by puck chasing as he used to. He also keeps his feet moving when defending in his own end, which was an issue previously. His defensive game is not perfect, but he has improved. It is not a liability.
Raddysh is done his OHL career. He heads to Syracuse to start his pro career. The Lightning will be patient with the power forward prospect. It will be important that he is able to translate his offence to the pros where he will face bigger, stronger, and faster opponents. Raddysh likely needs one to two years in the AHL before being ready for a full-time NHL job but may see some call-ups to replace injured players before that.
#3 Prospect: Cal Foote
Defence — shoots Right
Born December 13th, 1998 — Englewood, Colorado
Height 6’4″ — Weight 212 lbs [193 cm/96 kg]
Drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 1st round, #14 overall at the 2017 NHL Draft
Cal Foote had a huge season in his last year in the WHL. The 14th overall pick one year ago, he put up 19 goals and 70 points in 60 games for Kelowna. Foote was named to the WHL Western Conference First All-Star Team. He only had two points in seven games in the playoffs and the Rockets lost in the first round. Foote also played for Team Canada at the World Juniors, picking up three assists in seven games, and winning a gold medal. He joined the Syracuse Crunch at the end of the season and had one goal in six AHL games.
Foote is a decent skater given his size. He skates well in both directions, with average speed and acceleration. This can get better. He also has solid pivots and edgework which allow him to cover the ice, as well as to transition from offence to defence, and vice-versa. His lateral agility allows him to walk the line, and to open up passing and shooting lanes. Foote is strong on his skates, with good balance and a strong lower body. This helps him in battling for pucks in the corners and in clearing the front of the net. Like most teenagers, there is room to add muscle to his frame, which should only help him as he moves up to the pro game.
There is no real standout skill here, but there is no huge weakness either. Foote will need to improve his skating going forward if he wants to be a top pairing defenceman. Being average or decent in each area might get him to the NHL but he will need a bit more to excel.
Foote has a good slap shot which he keeps low and puts on the net. This allows his teammates to get deflections and rebounds. He has gotten strong and improved the power this year, but could do even more. This can come with more muscle on his frame as well. Foote also uses his wrist shot effectively. He has a good release and gets his shot on net when under pressure. Foote also has good poise with the puck on his stick and the vision to quarterback things from the point on the power play. He reads the play well at both ends of the ice and has extremely good positioning. Foote understands when to sneak down from the point to take a pass, or to pinch in at the line to keep the puck in. His strong skating ability allows him to take chances and get back quickly.
He also makes an excellent first pass out of the zone, starting the transition game. Foote has the stickhandling skill and quick feet to skate the puck out of danger and create plays starting the rush.
Foote isn’t quite as physical as his famous father, but Foote is still willing to play the body. It’s more about battling in the corners and clearing the front of the net than throwing big open-ice hits though. He has good positioning and is willing to block shots. His large size helps him to cut down passing lanes. Foote maintains good gap control and is tough to beat one-on-one off the rush.
Foote has been known to stand up for teammates and to drop the gloves from time to time.
Foote does not turn 20 until December. It is very hard for a teenager straight out of junior to make an NHL team but when we talk about a contender with a strong top-four group like the Lightning, it makes things that much harder. Expect Foote to spend at least a year in the AHL and work on his footwork. Even if things go extremely well, his first realistic chance at a full-time NHL job is at 2019-20 training camp, though he might be called up as an injury replacement before that.
#4 Prospect: Anthony Cirelli
Centre — shoots Left
Born July 15th, 1997 — Etobicoke, Ontario
Height 6’0″ — Weight 180 lbs [183 cm / 82 kg]
Drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 3rd round, #72 overall, at the 2015 NHL Draft
Cirelli made quite the impression in his first professional season. He started out the year in Syracuse and scored 14 goals and 37 points in 51 AHL games. Cirelli was called up to the Lightning where he impressed down the stretch with five goals and 11 points in 18 NHL games. He earned the trust of coach Jon Cooper and played in 17 playoff games, often getting tough assignments for a rookie. Cirelli scored two goals and three points in the playoffs.
Cirelli is a strong skater. He has good speed and acceleration, allowing him to play a strong two-way game. Cirelli can get by an opponent to the outside, and can also hustle back in the backcheck. He plays a 200-foot game. He also has strong edgework and agility. Cirelli has good balance and wins battles in the corners and in front of the net. However, he will need to keep getting stronger as he moves to the NHL full-time. He can be even better in these areas with a bit more muscle on his frame.
Cirelli is good at working the cycle game. He has strong stickhandling ability, protecting the puck down low. He also has good vision and good hockey IQ. Cirelli finds the open man and keeps the puck moving. If an opening presents itself, he is willing to drive to the net. He is also able to feather a pass to an open teammate. Cirelli can make passes through tight spaces. He also creates offence via the forecheck. Cirelli gets in quickly, pressuring defenders into mistakes and turnovers. He is not afraid to finish his checks.
Most of Cirelli’s goals come in close to the net. He has the soft hands and good hand-eye coordination to finish in tight. He pounces on rebounds and can get deflections. Cirelli is willing to stand in front of the net and take the punishment. He does a good job of getting open to one-time a pass to the back of the net. While his wrist shot has a good release, it could use more power.
Cirelli is a strong two-way centre in the AHL and has played some impressive minutes in the NHL already as well. His defensive game is advanced for a young hockey player. He is very strong in the face-off circle and in the past, he has been tasked with taking key draws. While that has not been a huge part of his responsibility in the NHL yet, expect his defensive zone faceoffs to increase as he gains experience. Cirelli backchecks effectively, supporting the defence down low but must bulk up to be more effective at doing so in the pros. He anticipates plays extremely well, cutting down passing lanes, creating turnovers and transitioning to the offence.
Given the trust that Cooper has in Cirelli already, its hard to envision a scenario where he does not start the season with the big club. Cirelli looks like he will be an effective NHL player for a long time. The only question mark is the upside. Is he a third line centre going forward, or could his offensive game continue to develop and allow Cirelli to be effective in a top-six role? Given the Lightning’s current centre situation, it isn’t necessary for Cirelli to play that role right now, but if he can develop that level of offence it would be just another weapon for the team.
#5 Prospect: Mathieu Joseph
Right Wing/Left Wing — shoots Right
Born February 9th, 1997 — Chambly, Quebec
Height 6’1″ — Weight 172 lbs [185 cm / 78 kg]
Drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 4th round, #120 overall, at the 2015 NHL Draft
Joseph had an impressive rookie season for the Syracuse Crunch. He scored 15 goals and 53 points in 70 regular-season games and also added three goals and seven points in seven playoff games.
Joseph is an excellent skater. He is a speedster, with the quick acceleration and high-end speed to create real problems for defences. He can get behind his man and go for a breakaway. Joseph can also beat his man to the outside and cut to the net. He has good agility and edgework. This helps him to make quick cuts and elude defenders both on the rush and when working in the offensive zone on the cycle. Joseph is strong on his skates. He battles hard in front of the net and in the corners. Joseph is a lot stronger than he was in his draft year, and the effect on his game has been noticeable. He can still add even more muscle to his frame which would make him even better in these areas.
Joseph plays a north-south style. He goes to the net and has the soft hands to finish when he is there. He is also more than willing to battle in the corners and to dig out loose pucks. Most of his assists come from his ability to forecheck and create turnovers or to maintain possession in the cycle game. His stickhandling is decent, but it is his skating that is most dangerous to opponents. Joseph’s speed creates breakaways and odd-man rushes when a turnover is created.
Defenders must respect Joseph’s speed when he comes in on the rush. If they are playing too close to him, or if they are a little flat-footed he will beat them and go to the net. As such, they normally back off. This allows Joseph to use the defender as a screen and get off a shot on net. He has a decent wrist shot and good release. His snapshot is also good.
Joseph is strong defensively. He plays a gritty game and agitates opponents. His tight checking and physical play annoy opposing forwards. He is also very good on the penalty kill, cutting down passing lanes and creating turnovers. His positioning is very strong. Once Joseph creates a turnover, he can transition quickly to the offence and is extremely dangerous.
Joseph’s season was extremely impressive for a 20-year-old in his first year in the AHL. In most organizations, he would be talked about as competing for a spot on the NHL club in training camp. With Tampa’s depth, they are likely to wait a bit and continue to let him develop and add muscle while playing in the AHL. While he is unlikely to make the team in training camp, expect Joseph to challenge for NHL minutes soon, perhaps even before the end of this season.
#6 Prospect: Alexander Volkov
Right Wing/Left Wing — shoots Left
Born August 2nd, 1997 — Moscow, Russia
Height 6’1″ — Weight 191 lbs [185 cm / 87 kg]
Drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2nd round, #48 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
When the Lightning drafted Volkov in the second round of the 2017 Draft, it was his third year as a draft-eligible player. They immediately signed him to an entry-level contract and at 20 years old he was sent directly to the AHL. He put up 23 goals and 45 points for Syracuse last season and also added six points in seven playoff games.
Volkov is a very good skater. He has very good speed and pairs it with excellent acceleration. Volkov is dangerous off the rush and gets in quickly on the forecheck. He also has very good edgework and agility. He is elusive both with and without the puck and can create space through quick cuts and changes of direction. Volkov has a stronger lower body. He fights through checks to get to the front of the net and wins his battles on the boards. He is strong on the puck and tough to knock off of it.
Volkov is a pure sniper. He has a vast arsenal of shots that he can use to score goals. His wrist shot and snap shot both have good power and a quick release. He also has an excellent one-timer. He can even score with the backhand. Volkov is a smart hockey player who finds open ice and is always ready to receive a pass from a teammate and fire a shot on net. He also has the soft hands to finish in tight to the goal with quick moves and the hands to get rebounds and deflections.
While he is better known for his goal-scoring and is a shoot-first player, Volkov has some playmaking ability. He sees the ice well and can make passes through open areas. He also uses his body to protect the puck and extend plays, waiting for a teammate to get open. Volkov forechecks hard, causing opposing defenders to rush their play and creating turnovers. He is good at turning these into offensive chances.
Volkov needs to be a bit more consistent though. There are games where he is a dominant offensive force and others where he just does not generate a lot. This is going to be the main cause of any frustration with him as a player but if he can solve it, he can take the next step as a player.
Volkov has a decent defensive game for his age. He backchecks hard and is willing to support the defence down low. Volkov is willing to bring his ability to fight for loose pucks and battle on the boards in all three zones. He occasionally can get caught out of position and needs a bit more coaching in this area as he spent last season adjusting to North American ice and more minutes against professionals than he was given in the KHL.
Volkov was one of the last cuts in Lightning camp one year ago. Like Joseph, his rookie season in Syracuse was very strong, and in most organizations would make him a strong contender to make the lineup this year. Given the Lightning depth situation, he might have to go back to Syracuse with the occasional call-up when there are injuries. If in Syracuse, the Lightning hope to see Volkov emerge as one of the team’s go-to offensive threats every night, building a more consistent game.
#7 Prospect: Erik Cernak
Defence — shoots Right
Born May 28th, 1997 — Kosice, Slovakia
Height 6’3″ — Weight 221 lbs [191 cm / 100 kg]
Drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2nd round, #43 overall at the 2015 NHL Draft
Traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning in February 2017
Cernak is another Lightning prospect who just finished his rookie season with the Syracuse Crunch. The Slovakian defenceman scored five goals and 18 points in 71 games. He also put up a goal and an assist in two playoff games.
Cernak is a decent skater for his size but is by no means a speedster. He has decent speed and acceleration, though he could improve a choppy stride to be even better. Cernak also has decent enough edgework and agility that he becomes hard to beat off the rush. His best asset though is his balance and strength on his skates. This gives him a real edge in battling in front of the net, and for loose pucks in the corners. He can even add more strength to his lower body and continue to get better at this aspect of his game.
Cernak has never put up big points, but he may have some untapped offensive potential. He has a hard slap shot, which he keeps low and on the net. He also makes a decent first pass out of the zone and can make some plays in the offensive zone. However, Cernak is more likely to make the safe play than to take chances trying to create offence. He also could stand to be better at choosing when to pinch and keep the play alive, instead of always playing the stay at home role.
Cernak has excellent size and uses it to play a stout defensive game. He clears the front of the net and uses his size to impose his will in the corners. Cernak is already pretty strong, and he still has room to fill out his frame and add some more muscle, which will certainly help in those battles. He is willing to throw big hits if they become available, and can sometimes get himself out of position looking for those hits. He needs to remain disciplined though so that he does not get into penalty trouble.
Cernak also uses a long, and active stick to poke check the puck away from opponents, and to cut down on shooting and passing lanes. He can learn to be even better with it though, as he sometimes looks a little raw. Cernak keeps opponents to the outside on the rush, and in defending against the cycle, holding them to less dangerous areas on the ice. His positioning is pretty good most of the time but can continue to get better. Cernak’s hockey sense and ability to read the play are important assets to his game. He is not afraid to put his body on the line and block shots.
The Lightning have eight legitimate NHL defencemen on their roster. Cernak will face a battle to make the team this year. He will likely have to bide his time in Syracuse waiting for an injury to give him an opportunity.
#8 Prospect: Mitchell Stephens
Centre — shoots Right
Born February 5th, 1997 — Peterborough, Ontario
Height 5’11” — Weight 190 lbs [180 cm / 86 kg]
Drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2nd round, #33 overall at the 2015 NHL Draft
The Lightning had a very good crop of young players join Syracuse this past season. Stephens is yet another of their strong class of AHL rookies. He put up 19 goals and 41 points in 70 games with the Crunch. Stephens also added a goal and six points in seven playoff games.
Stephens is another speedster. He wins a ton of races whether they be short ones to loose pucks, or being first on the puck on a longer forecheck due to a great first step, tremendous acceleration and great top end speed. He can really fly out there and this also makes him deadly off the rush. If defenders are not careful he will beat them to the outside and cut to the net. As defenceman have to back off him to protect against that speed, he can use them as a screen and get off a strong shot.
Stephens also has very good agility and edgework which allows him to get by defenders both with and without the puck. He has a powerful lower body which gives him good balance and makes him hard to knock off the puck. He can fight through checks, and win board battles in the offensive and defensive zone.
Stephens has an excellent wrist shot and release, which he uses to great effect off the rush. He also has a very good one-timer and works to get open to get it off. Stephens stickhandling is good and he can control the play both in the cycle game and makes plays on the rush. Stephens is not afraid to crash the net, whether it be in trying to score on his own play in close, or looking for a screen, rebound or tip-in. He goes to the net extremely hard and has been known to take a goalie interference penalty or two.
If he wants to be a centre at the next level, Stephens will need to improve on his playmaking skills. He can have a tendency to hold onto the puck a bit too long, missing opportunities to put the puck through a passing lane to a teammate. He can also develop a sort of tunnel vision, where he gets so focused on creating his own scoring opportunity and he takes a bad shot rather than dishing the puck. If he can fix these issues, he could be a dynamic offensive force. If not, he may have to become a winger to find a place in the NHL.
Stephens has developed a strong two-way game. He works to support the defence down low and contain the cycle game. He is always digging along the boards and playing a gritty game in all three zones. Stephens uses his speed and quickness to cause turnovers and quickly transition to the offensive game.
With so many good young forwards on the team and in the system, Stephens will have to fight for a spot in the NHL. At this point, he is likely headed to Syracuse where the Lightning hope to see more development in his playmaking ability.
#9 Prospect: Connor Ingram
Goalie — shoots Left
Born March 31st, 1997 — Imperial, Saskatchewan
Height 6’1″ — Weight 202 lbs [185 cm / 92 kg]
Drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 3rd round, #88 overall at the 2016 NHL Draft
Ingram was yet another Crunch rookie. He had a strong first season, splitting time in goal with veterans Louis Domingue and Edward Pasquale. Ingram earned his starts with a 2.33 goals-against average and 0.914 save percentage in 35 games. He also played three ECHL games for Adirondack, dominating with a 0.960 save percentage. However, Ingram’s form dipped a bit in the playoffs, with a 3.07 goals-against average and 0.904 save percentage in four games.
Skating and Talent Analysis
At just 6-foot-1, Ingram is smaller than the prototypical goalie that teams are looking for today. He makes up for it with excellent reflexes and athleticism. He is also very technically sound. Ingram makes up for his lack of size by coming well out to challenge shooters and taking away angles. Ingram is a good skater and can back up quickly to take away attempts to deke him. He also has an excellent push and good side-to-side movement and puck tracking.
Ingram gets down in the butterfly quickly. He has quick and powerful legs which take away the bottom of the net. He also has a good glove hand and decent blocker to take away the top. One issue is Ingram’s rebound control. This is a typical problem for many young goalies, but it is something that he will need to improve on to make it to the NHL.
Ingram stays composed in the net, even in the face of heavy traffic. His calm and cool demeanour is something that his defenders look to and rely on. Even next to veterans like Dominigue and Pasquale, Ingram seemed like a bigger leader for the young Syracuse team. He does not give up many bad goals but when one gets by him he recovers quickly. Ingram does not let things spiral out of control by dwelling on past mistakes.
Ingram will be back with Syracuse next year, where he will again compete with Pasquale for starts. If things go according to plan, he will become the team’s go-to option in net. Just 21-years-old, and with the Lightning having Vasilevskiy in net, Ingram will be given plenty of AHL time. He is likely 2-3 years away from full-time NHL duty.
#10 Prospect: Dominik Masin
Defence — shoots Left
Born February 1st, 1996 — Mestec Kralove, Czech Republic
Height 6’2″ — Weight 198 lbs [188 cm / 90 kg]
Drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2nd round, #35 overall, at the 2014 NHL Draft
Masin saw a big jump in his offensive numbers in second full season in the AHL. He put up nine goals and 24 points in 72 games for the Crunch. Masin also added a goal and two assists in seven playoff games.
Masin’s skating has improved over his time in the AHL. He still needs a bit of work on his edgework but has improved his speed and mobility. While he’ll never be confused for a speedster, Masin has gotten to a level where his speed is average. His excellent positioning and hockey IQ are able to mask any deficiencies and help him handle speedy players. He is also strong on his skates and able to win battles in the corners and in front of the net.
Offensively, Masin’s game has come a long way. He has gotten better offensively each year since being drafted. Masin was once only seen as a defensive defender but he now makes strong, heads-up passes, both out of his own end to start the rush and in the offensive zone as well. He has become more poised and confident with the puck on his stick as well. Masin has really improved his slap shot. It is not elite but has become very good. He also uses a good wrist and snapshot when pressured at the point. Masin learned how to get his shot through traffic, as well as the importance of keeping it low and on the net for rebounds and deflections.
Masin has good size and plays an excellent defensive game. He played big minutes for Syracuse and against the other teams’ top offensive lines. He has great hockey IQ, and the ability to read the play. His positioning is excellent, and he breaks up plays with a good active stick. Masin maintains excellent gap control and is very hard to beat one-on-one. He is physical in the corners and in front of the net and can use his size to throw big hits. He needs to stay disciplined and out of the penalty box.
Like Cernak and Foote, the depth of the Lightning defence corps makes Masin’s attempts to crack the lineup difficult. While the other two are right-handed shots, Masin is a left-handed shot, meaning that there is less competition for him if a spot does open up on the Tampa blueline. He could see a call-up if injuries hit.
Sleeper Prospect: Otto Sompi
Center — shoots Left
Born January 12th, 1998 — Helsinki, Finland
Height 6’2″ — Weight 188 lbs [188 cm / 85 kg]
Drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 7th round, #206 overall, at the 2016 NHL Draft
Somppi had an excellent final season with the Halifax Mooseheads. He put up 28 goals and 55 assists for 83 points in 59 games. He was injured in the playoffs and only played two games, scoring one assist. Somppi came back in time to play three playoff games for the Crunch.
Somppi has very good speed and acceleration. He can change speeds on the rush, using this as a weapon to fool defenders. Somppi also has very good agility and edgework. He can make quick cuts and beat defenders in one-on-one situations. Somppi needs to improve his core strength, especially as he heads to the pro level. This will help him to fight through checks and to win battles along the boards.
Somppi combines his good skating with nifty puck handling to be very dangerous off the rush. He can create space for teammates to get open and then hit them with a tape-to-tape pass. His speed and shiftiness make him very difficult to defend in open ice. When working the cycle game, he can get pushed off the puck and will need to bulk up. Somppi has a good shot but does not use it often enough.
Somppi has a strong defensive game for a junior player. He is good positionally, cutting down passing and shooting lanes. He backchecks hard and supports the defence down low but can lack the ability to contain bigger and stronger forwards. When a turnover is created Somppi is able to quickly transition it into offence. He is good in the face-off circle and was
Somppi is headed to Syracuse this year. The Lightning would like to see his junior offence translate at the AHL level. They also hope that he can put on weight in order to be ready to play the NHL game. He is likely at least a 2-3 year project before he is NHL ready.
The Lightning have excellent depth in their system and have it at a variety of positions. They could use a little more depth at left defence, but this is a minor complaint given the vast number of prospects they have and the fact that Ryan McDonagh and Mikhail Sergachev have long-term futures in Tampa Bay. If there is a legitimate criticism, the Lightning may not have a true elite blue-chip prospect in their system, even though they have a number of very good ones. Years of drafting at the bottom of the first round and the graduation of Sergachev make that a reality.
In terms of depth, the team also has forwards Alexei Lipanov, Gabriel Fortier, Alex Barre-Boulet, Cole Koepke, and Dennis Yan, as notables in the system. On defence, Alex Green, Nick Perbix, Dmitri Semykin, Oleg Sosunov, Ben Thomas, and Matthew Spencer are prospects of note. In goal, the team adds newly drafted prospects Magnus Chrona and Ty Taylor to a system that lacked goaltending depth behind Ingram.
It appears as though 2014 second-round pick Johnathan Macleod will not be offered a contract after his unimpressive college career. He can be a free agent on August 15th.
The Lightning group is impressive given the circumstances. Despite trading away Brett Howden and Libor Hajek, not having a 2018 first round pick, and graduating Sergachev, Dotchin and Koekkoek, the Lightning still have a highly regarded prospect group. The work of the scouting team and Steve Yzerman deserves major kudos.
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