The Lightning had a disappointing 2014 season, thanks to an injury to their best player, Steven Stamkos, and then coming up rather short at the end of the regular season and into the playoffs, as an injury to their number one goalie, Ben Bishop, hurt the team when they needed some steadiness.
With a healthy Stamkos, a couple fresh new faces and some more promising goaltending, the Lightning are not only a division title favourites, but hockey pool favourites this season. The Lightning should have a lot of options throughout their line-up and the only thing that they are missing is proof that they can finish in front of the opposition's net once again this season.
Will the Bolts be on your radar this season?
|Forwards||14/15 Proj||Cap Hit||Defense||14/15 Proj||Cap Hit||Goaltenders||14/15 Proj||Cap Hit|
|Steven Stamkos||100||7.500||Victor Hedman||60||4.000||Ben Bishop||75||2.300|
|Valtteri Filppula||75||5.000||Matt Carle||35||5.500||Evgeni Nabokov||40||1.550|
|Ryan Callahan||50||5.800||Jason Garrison||35||4.600|
|Alex Killorn||50||2.550||Anton Stralman||20||4.500|
|Ondrej Palat||45||3.333||Eric Brewer||20||3.850|
|Tyler Johnson||45||3.333||Radko Gudas||20||0.992|
|BUYOUTS & OTHER||2.998|
|Jonathan Drouin||50||0.894||Slater Koekkoek||10||0.894|
|Richard Panik||15||0.735||Andrej Sustr||10||0.874|
|Brett Connolly||5||0.851||Jean-Philippe Cote||5||0.550|
First Round Picks
I don't think there is very much doubt that a lot of people are going to think that the Lightning players are going to make for some sexy picks in this year's draft. Steven Stamkos and Ben Bishop will be some hot picks early on and so they should be. I think it will be interesting to see where a few other players get slotted in to the early rounds, because there could be some upside to some names on the list.
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
It may have taken a little while, but for young defensemen in the NHL, there is an extremely small crop of prospects that develop into superstars in their teens/ Victor Hedman, now 23 years old, did take some time to fully develop, and now he's poised to push his numbers even further and he could join the conversation for an early round defenseman pick. The 2nd overall pick in 2009 had 55 points in 2014 and could even improve upon that, especially with a healthy Stamkos to feed all year long. Among every player taken in the 2009 Entry Draft, Hedman ranked 4th in scoring, behind Matt Duchene, John Tavares and Ryan O'Reilly.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
If Stamkos is going to challenge for the 1st overall pick in this year's draft, which he should, he will likely have to carry someone with him on the scoresheet and the leading candidate for the job is Valtteri Filppula. He may sneak down an extra round or two, but someone is going to have to carry the load and should be considered. Ryan Callahan also appears to be a fit for the Bolts and should be a worthy candidate for your team this year, just a little bit later though. Youngsters Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson will all get looks, but don't go too early, especially on the sophomores. The Lightning should also have another entry into the Calder Trophy race in Jonathan Drouin and he should do well this year.
Other Pool Worthy Defense
Beyond Hedman, the Lightning will have scoring options on the blueline and a lot will be dependent on ice-time, but my best bet is that Matt Carle and newly-acquired Jason Garrison will do well in behind, making themselves pool-worthy. Anyone below the top three would be considered a dark horse for enough points, but would be okay gambles.
Obviously this wasn't going to be the year that the Tampa Bay Lightning allow their prospect goaltending try to get into the race, with the signing of Evgeni Nabokov this off-season, but they will be close. Nabokov will be in as the back-up behind Bishop this year, making a good insurance policy down the stretch as well. Bishop will go high and Nabokov should see ample time in behind.
Team To Pick From Late?
I think my high praise of the Bolts thus far should be a good enough indicator that yes, they should be a team to consider late on in the draft. They have plenty of potential in the wings, a few guys that can act as sleepers and this team should be a contender in the end. I wouldn't be surprise if there is a race to get some of the team's younger players late on.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
The Lightning have no one of any impact unsigned on their list, just one minor-league defenseman, so their numbers will be very dependent on who makes the team in October. The team has about $6 million in cap space left for five roster spots, which are likely to be taken by their prospect depth, which should be an easy fit. Drouin should be a lock to make it, like Richard Panik and Brett Connolly, but that's why they have training camps.
The Bolts do have one injury in defenseman Mattias Ohlund, who they may have to force to retire, especially that his knee injury has kept him out of the line-up since 2011. Ohlund still has another year on his deal, but there has been talk about the CBA punishing those teams with players who are collecting a paycheque and staying on LTIR until they finish. Don't expect Ohlund back this season.