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McKeen’s 2020-21 Hockey Yearbook: Tampa Bay Lightning Top 20 Prospects

McKeen's Top 20 New York Rangers prospects for the 2020-21 season. You can read an organizational assessment prior to the draft in Ryan Wagman's article found here. Following the draft we provided a review on each teams performance based on our rankings found here.

  1. Cole Koepke, LW (183rd overall, 2018. Previous ranking: 1)

Passed over in his first two runs through the NHL draft, Koepke overcame an injury-ravaged season to finish fifth in USHL scoring, with 28 goals in 60 games in his third year of eligibility. Couple that scoring touch with good wheels and a sixth-round pick was reasonable. The winger played a defensive-minded game with speed and showed a nice shot as a college freshman, failing to move the needle on his prospect status. However, after a near point-per-game sophomore campaign, he impressed. Koepke is still defensively responsible. He still has multiple gears to his skating stride, with fantastic acceleration. The shot is still strong. But now, he is also demonstrating very nice puck skills of the type that allow him to run the offensive game. He is expected to return to UMD for his junior campaign and I would expect Tampa Bay to make a big push to get him under contract next spring. The late bloomer might not be more than a third liner, but he looks like a good one, and not too far off into the future either. He could be playing regularly in the NHL by the 2022-23 season. - RW

  1. Samuel Walker, C (200th overall, 2017. Previous ranking: 2)

Drafted out of Minnesota powerhouse Edina in 2017, Walker took the rare step of going back to school in 2018, earning numerous accolades. He then exploded onto the scene with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, winning the Big 10 Rookie of the Year. He improved a touch as a sophomore, both in terms of his production (26 points to 30, playing 37 games both seasons) as well as in the assessment of his still developing skill set. Despite his size, Walker attacks the offensive zone through the middle, with speed that demands respect. He sees the ice tremendously well, is patient with the puck and has very skilled hands, capable of changing angles at the last instant and executing tricky passes. In addition to his speed, he has great edge work and knows how to create room for himself and time for his teammates to get open. He projects as a playmaker center who can play in a bottom six role as well for a team unconcerned with size. He has put on muscle since being drafted, but still looks slight. He will never be even average size, but he could be big enough to succeed in his style of play. - RW

  1. Hugo Alnefelt, G (71st overall, 2019. Previous ranking: 3)

In his first post-draft season, Alnefelt earned a spot in the SHL and performed well at the WJC. On the downside, he spent more time on the bench than on the ice. He is a calm goalie with the vision and positioning to make spectacular improvised saves. He can quickly react to a surprising bounce or to recover from being out of position. His tracking ability is good, and he plays square to the puck. His edge plays can be impressive, which he demonstrated with some memorable saves in the WJC. His glove hand is good, albeit unspectacular. He works with the glove upwards, covering the hole between the leg and arm in his basic position. He has impressive composure and has stepped up in big situations. His athleticism is good if not elite. He plays deep in the crease which reduces his need for movement. Alnefelt will need to mature physically and add strength to improve his endurance. His upper body strength has increased but he still falls down a bit when tired. He is a long-term project but has all of the desired tools for an NHL outcome, if not necessarily that of a top tier starter. - JH

  1. Alexander Volkov, RW (48th overall, 2017. Previous ranking: 4)

Despite the strong forward group already in place in Tampa, Volkov looks like the right choice to fill the next opening, when it arrives. He has managed to adapt well by reaching a more mature focus with his game and working to create more time and space for himself when carrying the puck. He has learned to be more patient and has the confidence to play further up in the lineup with the improvement of his overall two-way play and his playmaking. Last season, he was given time on the powerplay as his game showed improvements and he proved himself to be an asset with the puck, making plays that would not look out of place at the next level. His hands and the ability to carry the puck with strong with intent remain the key driving factors for his individual play. While a bottom six role is most likely, it is still unsure as to where Volkov will fit in long-term in the NHL, however he should receive a look, however look to see him back up in the lineup this coming season regardless. - SC

  1. Dmitri Semykin, D (90th overall, 2018. Previous ranking: 5)

For the team that leveraged Russian talent more than most during the Steve Yzerman regime, Semykin was the final Russian reward of that era. At the time his name was called out at the end of the third round, it was a bit of a surprise. He was a bulky defender who had only spent one season in the top junior league in Russia, had almost no international experience, did not add much offensively and spent a ton of time in the penalty box. We may have been the only public outfit to list him at all as a draft possibility, but even we only saw him as a late seventh rounder. Two years later, and Semykin is still very tough to play against, with a great physical game, but he has learned to do a much better job of staying disciplined. He likes to play the puck and will not limit himself to the blueline for doing so. His lack of international exposure may make his transition to North American hockey a bit slower, but if he can overcome his average skating and remain hard to play against, he could still develop into a solid #4. - RW

  1. Cal Foote, D (14th overall, 2017. Previous ranking: 6)

Foote may have seen one of the largest drops out of the prospects on this list, going from number one last season to number six after completing his second season in the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch. This past season Foote looked a little too comfortable in the minors and seemed to lose focus at times where his play was inconsistent. Yes, Syracuse sat at the bottom of the standings and climbed a little bit towards the end of the season, but Foote’s occasional sloppy play cannot be excused. This coming season Tampa Bay will be looking to suit him up, but it is hard to tell if he is ready to play at that speed or if he will simply be dead weight. Despite being slow on the puck, Foote has many things to offer Tampa Bay with his first-round play making abilities and his high hockey IQ. He will simply need to come back after the break as though he has something to prove, the ice is thin for Foote to make it and he will have to keep mistakes to a minimum in order to crack Tampa’s lineup as a bottom four defender. - SC

  1. Alex Barre-Boulet, C (Undrafted Free Agent, signed Mar. 1, 2018. Previous ranking: 7)

Every organization has a dark horse prospect that comes as a pleasant surprise, which applies to Tampa Bay and Alex Barre-Boulet. Barre-Boulet has made more progress throughout his second season in the AHL finishing with nearly a point per game and leading Syracuse in scoring yet his small size may be his only limiting factor when it comes to earning a callup. He is by far the quickest and most dynamic skater in Tampa Bay’s AHL system and he has proven himself to be an asset rather than a burden. The race will be tight to see if a small, quick, well positioned forward who is diverse enough to play in many different roles will be given the chance he deserves this season with the Lightning. Barre-Boulet’s redeeming factor is his work ethic and his ability to kill penalties. That, combined with his skill and quick play will be what gets him a spot in Tampa’s bottom six. – SC

  1. Eamon Powell, D (116th overall, 2020. Previous ranking: NA)

Powell is not just fast; he is effortlessly fast. He gets blueline to blueline in a flash and has agility and edges to help him get through the defense as well. Furthermore, he churns at the same high rate when he needs to return to the defensive end. The skating may be his best tool, but the rest of his offensive toolkit is also notable. He has very soft hands and is masterful at activating from the blueline, either by stickhandling through layers of the defense into a high danger scoring chance, or by creating a seam for a pass. He doesn’t play the puck with much flash, but he is sure-handed and can handle it at top speed. The right-hander is also a threat to shoot. Powell has a strong wrist shot with a quick release that can score from the point. He is small and slight and does not play a very physical game, but he doesn’t shy away from the corners and is trustworthy in defensively critical shifts, including the penalty kill. He positions himself well and frequently uses his stick to break up plays. He is raw but has exciting upside. – RW

  1. Jack Finley, C (57th overall, 2020. Previous ranking: NA)

The son of longtime NHL defender Jeff Finley, Jack is a behemoth playmaking center who also happened to be one of the youngest players eligible in the recent draft. Perhaps due to his NHL pedigree, he thinks the game at a high level. He is strong on his skates and willing to play a pro-style game in the hard areas of the ice, excelling as a distributor from below the hash marks. He drives the play from along the wall and is difficult to separate from the puck. He is also strong off the puck, excelling in all three zones with his reach and anticipation. His skating is still quite raw, lacking power and grace, but he is still able to control play and create with pace because of his poise with the puck. Ultimately, the allure here is a big man who thinks the game well, but who is still growing into his body. He is not a natural goal scorer, however, there really is no limit on his upside as those areas could improve considerably once he bulks up and grows into his frame. Players with his physical attributes just don’t grow on trees these days. – BO

  1. Taylor Raddysh, RW (58th overall, 2016. Previous ranking: 8)

For a team with many young forwards of moderate talent, the Syracuse Crunch have a tight race to reach the next level among their offensive prospects. Taylor Raddysh is known for his offensive play and his shot, however his tendency to relax and become lazy in his own end has made this past season rather poor in comparison to previous seasons. Raddysh is typically a strong player on the puck and a strong skater but with his ice time cut from last season his play with the puck has become shaky and costly in certain situations. He still managed to score more than create showing that he is still an high level shooter and often well positioned in the offensive end, however those plays do not come often enough. With better lines and more ice time next season he can bounce back and reclaim his reputation from major junior. The future is not sealed yet for Raddysh who would make a good third line winger and there is still hope that this season he will earn his first call up with Tampa Bay. - SC

  1. Gabriel Fortier, C/RW (59th overall, 2018. Previous ranking: 9)

Fortier saw a move to the contending Moncton Wildcats from the reeling Baie-Comeau Drakkar where he had to take a support role instead of a leading one, and he thrived. Always a favorite of fans and coaches, he was a captain with the Drakkar and never takes a shift off. He is always revving at max cylinders no matter the score or circumstance. At various times in his junior career, he has shown abilities to play as a sniper, a playmaker and an energy forward, and has succeeded at each. The best word to describe him is relentless; he has a dogged determination for the pursuit of the puck. Fortier’s feet are always moving, which keeps him in position, but it makes him look faster than he actually is. His skating is what ultimately could hold him back as an NHLer. Regardless, he has the skills and smarts to play useful NHL shifts up and down the lineup. – MS

  1. Sean Day, D (UFA: Jul. 17, 2020. Originally: 81st overall, 2016 [NY Rangers]. Previous ranking: UR [NY Rangers])

Day’s history in the game is fascinating. Famously granted “exceptional status” to join the OHL one year early, his junior career featured one stumble after another, and by the time his draft year came around, it was no surprise that he lasted until the third round before hearing his name called. Since turning pro, he has occasionally flashed the talent that earned him the heavy distinction at age 15. Despite a beefy, broad-shouldered frame, Day is an impressive skater, with impressive pace and balance. He has a strong shot when he lines it up. He also is a smart puck mover and can demonstrate a keen understand of the game. The downside is the same as it ever was. His inconsistency is maddening, making it very difficult for coaches to trust him. After two years in the Rangers’ system – split evenly between the AHL and ECHL – he saw his career petering out and asked for a release to try his luck in another system. The hope here is that new voices giving him instruction will unlock the potential that is still lurking within. Day is only 22, but time is running out. - RW

  1. Maxim Cajkovic, RW (89th overall, 2019. Previous ranking: 10)

Cajkovic has had trouble with injuries and consistency throughout his North American career, but it is clear that he is a very good offensive player when he is on full tilt. Contrary to most European players, Cajkovic is a North-South winger who loves to get dirty and bang bodies in pursuit of the puck. He possesses a very strong shot and loves to score goals, and he has the skating that will get him there. The coach that can unlock his defensive potential will be crucial in his development, as he has shown the effort defensively, but it has not led to positive results. Traded to a contending Val-d’Or team should help Cajkovic further hone his skills in a more sheltered environment. Cajkovic will need to improve his play away from the puck but has a ceiling of a middle-six goal-scorer. - MS

  1. Ross Colton, LW (118th overall, 2016. Previous ranking: 11)

After finishing second in points for the AHL Syracuse Crunch this past season, Colton has made a lot of progress since coming over from NCAA Vermont. With Syracuse, he fits in well as a top forward, earning both power play and penalty killing opportunities giving him the proper chances and experience to bring with him to the next level. Colton will have to work hard and keep up his high intensity and strong effort. Despite Tampa Bay having just moved Mitchell Stephens up the ranks, Colton has a similar playing style so he will have to work harder to prove his worth and will have to stay better focused when emotions run high. Colton will need to maintain consistency throughout next season to earn a call up. That being said he is known to play well under pressure and is adaptable. Colton fits in well as a third line grinder for Tampa Bay capable of killing penalties more so than being reliable on the powerplay. - SC

  1. Alex Green, D (121st overall, 2018. Previous ranking: 12)

Alex Green is a defensive defenseman. The Chicago native was drafted in the fourth round and spent two seasons in the USHL before attending Cornell, where he was drafted after his freshman season, in his third year of eligibility. As a freshman he fared better than expected offensively, adding 10 points, which contributed to his draft stock. He finished his junior season netting a career high in points, while also being named the ECAC’s best defensive defenseman, a reminder of his strengths. He doesn’t have the quickest release on his shot, but he puts a lot of power behind it when he takes one. Green needs to pump his legs a bit but he skates well for his 6-2” size. There is power on his passes and he can dish it off quickly. Green won’t necessarily be able to catch up to the speediest players, but he can backcheck well. He projects as a lower-pairing defender if he continues to develop as a senior and later, as a professional. - JS

  1. Gage Goncalves, C (62nd overall, 2020. Previous ranking: NA)

One of the most improved players in the WHL last season, Goncalves’ production jumped from one goal to 33. Finishing the season as the second leading scorer for Everett, the talented two-way center put himself on the map for NHL scouts in his second year of draft eligibility. With a high IQ and a high skill level, he controls the pace of play leading the charge across the blueline, showing poise and patience as a facilitator. He also excels on the powerplay, where he is great at finding scoring lanes and getting himself in shooting position, even though he shows more talent as a playmaker than as a sniper. His 14 powerplay goals were fifth in the WHL. As he continues to upgrade his skating – currently a weakness in his game - and improve his strength on the puck, look for his production to keep improving as he receives more and more high-level experience. Because of his age, Goncalves will be eligible to turn pro after the conclusion of this upcoming season. – BO

  1. Jack Thompson, D (93rd overall, 2020. Previous ranking: NA)

Thompson combines good size, mobility, puck skill, and a booming point shot from the right hand side, to have a large impact on the game offensively, and giving him higher upside than many other middle round defensive draft picks. In particular, he shows great potential as a powerplay quarterback with how well he searches out scoring lanes. His strong point shot was already mentioned, but his ability to distribute the puck is just as impressive. On the other hand, his game lacks consistency and his decision making are questionable. As a defensive player, he needs to play with greater intensity – even if playing a physically heavy game is not in the cards - in order to become less of a liability. These facets of his game can be improved, and there is hope that as he matures, his game will settle down. Even if his potential upside is high, patience will be critical as Thompson works through the holes in his game. – BO

  1. Dominik Masin, D (35th overall, 2014. Previous ranking: 14)

At 24 and ending prospect eligibility Masin has one more season to prove that he deserves a chance with Tampa Bay. With the continuing drafting of defensemen and the Lightning attempting to strengthen their blueline talent, Masin’s name has been moved quite far down the list. This past season was better than previous ones for Masin, with an improved turnover rate and few mistakes or giveaways. His control has improved as has his maturity with the puck in order to be counted on to play the power play and quarterback the play at even strength. He will have to remain disciplined and not let his developmental frustration show on the ice or impede further development. Masin still has the potential to be a bottom four defenseman in the NHL but at this late stage in the game the question has to be asked if Tampa Bay is still the right fit for him or whether a change of scenery will be more beneficial. - SC

  1. Boris Katchouk, LW (44th overall, 2016. Previous ranking: 15)

For second rounder Katchouk finding much success in the AHL has been harder to come by compared to his major junior career. That being said, with fifteen fewer games played and ten more points than last season, last year was a success for Katchouk who is managing to adjust. He does need to get stronger on the puck and win more of his puck battles. Although he works hard, at times he is just in the wrong position, whether it be body positioning or location on the ice, and in order to play at the next level he will have to win more battles and see the play better. Katchouk has the skill with his skating and stickhandling as well as the adaptability to manage at the next level; it is just his technical and positional game that needs work. With more ice time this year the competition between friend and longtime teammate Taylor Raddysh to earn the first call up will have him working harder than ever. Katchouk is not a terribly flashy player but he gets the job done at a potential third line NHL level. – SC

  1. Declan McDonnell, RW (217th overall, 2020. Previous ranking: NA)

2020’s Mr. Irrelevant, McDonnell was noticeable for the Kitchener Rangers early in his daft year, even if he wasn't hitting the score sheet consistently. His speed, tenacity, and work as a puck hound were both evident and impressive. As the first year OHL’er became more comfortable, his production really started to come as well. In his final 23 games, he had 13 goals and 23 points. While not huge (5-10”), he is extremely versatile and sure to be a coach’s favorite moving forward. He can kill penalties. He forechecks and backchecks hard, playing with the requisite grit that will ensure he can contribute to his team even if he isn’t scoring. His ability to acclimate quickly to the OHL one season after playing in the OJHL is indicative of his ability to mentally process the game. Even though his offensive game is simple and basic, he excels North-South as an attacker and has enough skill to execute down low. McDonnell shows potential to be a bottom six forward in the NHL. - BO