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THN.com Blog: No talent relief in sight for Lightning, Leafs

Goalie Riku Helenius is one of the few bright spots in Tampa's prospect list. (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)

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Goalie Riku Helenius is one of the few bright spots in Tampa's prospect list. (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)

Two of the NHL’s weakest teams, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs, won’t be much better next season if they’re relying on youth to come to the rescue.

Hot off the press, THN’s Future Watch 2008 shows the Lightning have the poorest report card grade of prospects and 21-and-under NHLers, while the Leafs aren’t much better at 28th.

Tampa Bay has no players in its lineup less than 22 years of age and its top prospect, No. 68 ranked Riku Helenius, is a 19-year-old goalie who’s at least two years away from contending for an NHL job.

The Lightning’s No. 2 prospect, goalie Karri Ramo, is now in the NHL and has played 15 games. However, our panel of 21 scouts didn’t rank Ramo among the top 75 NHL-affiliated prospects with the best five-to-10-year upside.

Toronto has just one player 21 or less, that being Jiri Tlusty. It has two prospects ranked among the top 50, left winger Nikolai Kulemin at No. 24 and goalie Justin Pogge at No. 43, but there’s a sharp drop-off in young talent after that.

At the bottom of the NHL standings, the Los Angeles Kings have the fifth-best Future Watch grade and have four prospects in the top 75, including Jonathan Bernier, Teddy Purcell, Thomas Hickey and Brian Boyle.

The Detroit Red Wings have five prospects in the top 75, while Boston, Columbus, Montreal, Phoenix and St. Louis each have four. New Jersey is the only team without a top-75 representative.

RAYCROFT DILEMMA
Some members of the Toronto media are chastising Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice for not using struggling backup Andrew Raycroft more during the final month of the season in an effort to get a higher draft pick.

The Leafs are ultra-extreme long shots for the playoffs, so why not put together a lesser lineup – led by starter Vesa Toskala watching from the bench – and maybe Toronto will slip to 28th, 29th or 30th overall. Or so goes the argument.

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Problem is, that edict should be handed down by interim GM Cliff Fletcher, whose primary responsibility since replacing John Ferguson has been to rebuild the franchise by securing assets.

Maurice is a coach trying to win games and maintain his job. He’s going to play his best players. Should Fletcher use his authority to effectively make decisions that contribute to losing games? That’s the real issue.

CAMERA TECHNOLOGY

The Calgary Flames beat the Phoenix Coyotes 3-1 last Saturday, but with the latest camera technology, the score would have been 4-0 Flames.

Calgary was up 2-0 in the second period when Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov mishandled a dump-in and had the puck dribble through his legs toward the net.

Just as it was crossing over the line, Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski swiped it out of harm’s way. Play continued and moments later Shane Doan scored for Phoenix.

The Flames called for a review of the almost-goal and overhead video showed a fraction of the edge of the puck still touching the inside edge of the goal line, with Jovanovski’s stick a few inches away. The next video frame showed Jovanovski’s stick making contact with the puck.

Video officials made the correct call – there was no white space between the puck and goal line yet – but better camera technology would have ruled it a goal, thereby wiping out Doan’s goal later on the shift.

Imagine the Konica Minolta Bizhub camera, the kind you see all the time on PGA Tour golf events. The camera takes so many more frames per second that it would have showed the puck moving another millimeter in the time it took for Jovanovski’s stick to travel those final few inches.

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