Note: This is our first foray into rankings of any kind. Future installments are planned, at this point, for the start, middle and end of each season. To be (hopefully) clear, these rankings are not an assessment of the overall pool of prospects and may be a bit unconventional since only those already under contract (or RFA) are considered and ranked based on a combination of perceived NHL-readiness, potential and recent performance. For comprehensive rankings, see BoltProspects and Hockey’s Future. Let the debate begin!
The Tampa Bay Lightning’s Top-10 Prospects #6-10
For years, BoltProspects considered Killorn the Lightning’s best-kept secret but he’s not flying under anybody’s radar now having completed a stellar senior campaign at Harvard (46 PTS in 34 GP) and quickly distinguishing himself as a professional with Norfolk (6 PTS in 10 regular-season GP; 11 PTS in 13 playoff GP).
The buzz around Killorn really began to build, though, at the 2011 Lightning prospect development camp where Killorn’s physical and on-ice maturation made him stand out, along with Brett Connolly and then-Lightning prospect Carter Ashton, as a man amongst boys. His build (6’2″, 205) would indicate he’s NHL-ready and the vision , creativity and awareness he’s displayed this far with the Admirals certainly suggest he could be a dark-horse candidate to earn a roster spot with the big club next season.
That said, even with a strong training camp, look for Killorn to spend at least an additional year seasoning in the minors, getting lots of ice-time and further developing as a leader in and out of the locker-room.
Radko Gudas is meat and potatoes hockey at its finest. After being drafted as an overager in 2010, he has put together two solid seasons in the AHL in which he been able to assert himself physically with punishing body checks without become a defensive liability.
Perhaps he’s not polished, but Gudas is craftier than one might expect with the puck (11 G, 25 A in 149 AHL GP) and, given that his physical development is pretty much complete, he should be in contention for a bottom-pairing role soon enough, perhaps as early as 2013-2014.
If Panik can follow up what turned out to be a solid conclusion to his rookie year as a professional (41 PTS in 64 GP) by establishing a bigger role for himself in Norfolk and playing, as has always been the knock, consistently, he could vault into himself into the mix of candidates for a promotion.
Panik should get plenty of chances to do just that beginning next season. I’m not sure the smart money would be on him to suddenly “put it all together” for an extended period of time but, let’s hope he does, for both his and the Lightning’s sake.
Another undersized (5’9″, 175) forward, any concerns about Johnson’s transition to the professional game have dissipated for now. given his impressive rookie season (67 PTS in 76 GP) that he managed to put up fairly quietly while the spotlight mainly stayed on Cory Conacher.
Johnson’s speed and skill-level is superb but expect the Lightning to be very patient with him and allow him to continue flourishing in a (hopefully) winning, but developmental, environment for the immediate future.
The second-half of formidable goalie tandem, Janus had a very good year (23 W, 8 L, 2 T, 2.36 GAA, .914 SV%) backing up Tokarski and was absolutely brilliant temporarily holding down the fort in March, preserving the Admirals historic win-streak, while Tokarski was away after being called-up.
He’s been brilliant in 3 of the 4 playoff games he has started (3 W, 1 L, 1.69 GAA and .937 SV% overall ) but Tokarski, of course, has gotten the bulk of the work. It will be interesting to see if Janus will stick around after this season (he’s currently up for a new contract) or whether he will seek a more lucrative opportunity, and more starts, in Europe. It’s hard to imagine he’ll be content having facing very long-odds to move up the ranks unless a goalie ahead of him is moved.