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Most recent NCAA rankings bode well for future of Lightning

by Peter Pupello / Tampa Bay Lightning

For those in doubt about the future of the Tampa Bay Lightning, look no further than the most recent NCAA Men’s Division I ice hockey rankings.

Of the top 10 teams, five feature a Lightning prospect, while two other schools, ranked 17th and 20th respectively, have two additional Bolts hopefuls.

In all, teams ranked in the current top 20 include a total of seven Lightning prospects, each of whom are expected to be a big part of the Lightning’s future down the road.

Among the hopefuls making a big impact on their respective school’s squad this season are goaltender Adam Wilcox of the No. 2 Minnesota Golden Gophers, forward Jimmy Mullin of the No. 3 Miami (Ohio) RedHawks, forward Brendan O’Donnell from the No. 4 North Dakota Fighting Sioux, defenseman Kirill Gotovets of the No. 7 Cornell Big Red, and defenseman Luke Witkowski of the No. 10 Western Michigan Broncos. Forward Brian Hart, meanwhile, currently plays for the No. 17 Harvard Crimson, while forward Matthew Peca centers a line for the No. 20 Quinnipiac Bobcats.

We like the young guys who are up and coming. They’re all at different stages of their development, and we know we have to be patient with them, but we’re pleased to have them here. - Lightning GM Steve Yzerman

“We like the young guys who are up and coming,” Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said. “They’re all at different stages of their development, and we know we have to be patient with them, but we’re pleased to have them here.”

And with good reason, too.

Recently, Lightning assistant general manager Julien BriseBois noted that there is something to be said about the organization’s prospects who play on championship-caliber teams. The idea, according to BriseBois, is that if players can help their teams win at the collegiate, junior, or at even the AHL level, they will be better groomed to do much of the same by the time they reach the NHL.

Not to mention, succeeding at such a competitive level also has a positive impact on a player’s more subtle and intrinsic qualities, such as breeding a desire to win, certain leadership capabilities, and the value of being a professional.

All of that, will certainly be put to use when the prospects finally do reach the NHL, which for the Lightning’s sake, hopefully comes sooner rather than later.

Of course, however, as Yzerman stated, the path to the NHL for the team’s hopefuls is likened to more of a marathon rather than a sprint.

“For now, all of our prospects will continue to develop and work to become better hockey players,” BriseBois said.

Where They Rank:

1. Boston College

2. Minnesota – Adam Wilcox

3. Miami (Ohio) – Jimmy Mullin

4. North Dakota – Brendan O’Donnell

5. Denver

6. Michigan        

7. Cornell – Kirill Gotovets

8. Union

9. Notre Dame 

10. Western Michigan – Luke Witkowski

11. UMass-Lowell           

12. New Hampshire       

13. Boston University

14. Minnesota-Duluth

15. Northeastern            

16. Northern Michigan  

17. Harvard – Brian Hart

18. Ferris State 

19. Colorado College      

20. Quinnipiac – Matthew Peca

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