There's a reason why I like this choice of alternate look that Tampa went with. I couldn't place my finger on it at first, normally I find simple script to be a little too... simple. When Colorado or Pittsburgh did it, or even the Rangers, I found it boring and lacking in imagination. Not that this is overly creative but it is different in one sense; it's not the team's name but rather its nickname.
It's like Montreal using 'Habs' or Toronto opting for 'Buds'. Choosing 'Bolts' is unique and I like that.
1st pick last year: Victor Hedman (2nd overall) - On a team that’s picking inside the top-10 again, and has had the 1st or 2nd overall pick the last 2 years, being -3 isn’t that bad for a rookie defenceman. Hedman either hit a wall down the stretch or the Lightning held him back as only once in the final 16 games did he play more than 22 minutes, but soon enough he’ll take over the reins as the number one blueliner in the Sunshine State.
The Good: Steven Stamkos (1st overall, 2008) - To quote Kevin Karius of Global Sports in Edmonton, I’ll put on my surprise face for this one. Stamkos was all world in his second year scoring 51 goals to tie Sidney Crosby for the Rocket Richard trophy. His 94 points were 5th best in the NHL and a lot of people thought he should have worn the Maple Leaf at the Olympic games. Enough said.
The Bad: Riku Helenius (15th overall, 2006) - Helenius might end up being a very good goaltender, but I’m not sure it will be with Tampa. The 2nd goaltender taken in the 2006 draft, ahead of last year’s Calder trophy winner Steve Mason, Helenius has had anything but a smooth ride since coming to North America. After playing just 41 games with Seattle of the WHL 3 years ago, he wore 5 different jersey’s last year (3 of them in the ECHL) and put the Lightning sweater on just once. This past season he started in Norfolk but was on the outside of the crease looking in at Dustin Tokarski and Jaroslav Janus, so he ended up in Sweden. Word is he plans on playing in Sweden again next year, meaning he might be fading from Tampa’s memory.
The Unknown: Vladimir Mihalik (30th overall, 2005) - The Slovakian giant stands 6'7 and weighs in at 240 lbs, but has yet to barge his way into a full time position in the NHL. He has played 15 games, but has spent the majority of the last 3 seasons in the AHL. This should be the year Mihalik grabs a roster spot, if not you have to wonder if he ever will.
Coming Down the Pipe: Along with Mihalik, Tampa will be looking for forward Dana Tyrell and D-man Ty Wishart (acquired in trade with SJ) to be battling for a roster spot next season. Richard Panik is a winger from Slovakia they drafted last year and after getting traded from fully loaded Windsor he put up 23 points in 27 games with Belleville of the OHL. Panik also played 5 games in the AHL collecting one point. It’s in goal where Tampa really has some riches. It will be interesting to see if Dustin Tokarski or Jaroslav Janus start the season with the big club next year. Tokarski should have the edge after a 52 game season with a 2.51 GAA and a .915 save percentage in Norfolk this season. (Photo: John Wright/NorfolkAdmirals.com)
Draft Trends: The trend that Tampa is starting to get away from is terrible drafting. Other than Stamkos, only 2 Tampa 1st round draft picks have played more than 100 NHL games - Both are Russians and both are no longer with the team in Alexandr Svitov and Nikita Alexeev taken in 2001 and 2000 respectively. Tampa seems to draft from everywhere, although they have plucked just 3 QMJHL players in the last 5 years. They have taken a goaltender in 8 straight drafts.
Dean Millard: Brett Connolly (Prince George) - More than a few scouts told me if Connolly would have been healthy this year then there likely would be 3 players we'd be debating about when it comes to the first overall pick. He wasn't healthy and played only 16 games. However he put up 19 points in that span and insists he's now 100 per cent healthy. Tampa can't resist the full package and a wing man for Steven Stamkos will have arrived.
Guy Flaming: Brandon Gormley (Moncton) - The balanced, two-way blueliner helped the Wildcats claim the QMJHL title and represent the league at the 2010 Memorial Cup. The native of Prince Edward Island looks to be one of the few from the Province to make it to the NHL but with his maturity and poise, he's well on his way. Gormley is a terrific skater and can transition the puck extremely well. He'll contribute to a power play but also feature on the penalty kill as well; an all around player and solid personality that any team would be pleased to have in their system.