3 Syracuse Crunch That Could Crack the Lightning Lineup

The Tampa Bay Lightning had some significant roster changes over the offseason. They were unable to keep significant members of their Stanley Cup championships teams due to salary cap restrictions, such as Alex Killorn and Ross Colton. Their positions and a few other roster spots that were opened to free up cap space were filled with veteran free agents Conor Sheary, Luke Glendening, and Calvin de Haan.

While the players who have been brought in will be front runners to make the team’s roster when the season starts in October, they will be challenged by a handful of players who played most of last season with the Lightning’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate in Syracuse. The Crunch had a very successful season, qualifying for the playoffs before being eliminated in the Game 5 overtime loss to the Rochester Americans in the second round. From that Crunch team, three players will have a very good chance to make the Lightning during the upcoming training camp.

Alex Barre-Boulet

All the 25-year-old forward did last season was become the all-time points leader in Syracuse franchise history. He also was second in the AHL in assists (59) and points (82), both career highs, over his 67 games with the Crunch. The fifth-year pro also tied for third in plus/minus among AHL forwards with a plus-25 rating. He was named to the AHL’s First All-Star Team along with former Crunch teammate and current Lightning defenseman Darren Raddysh. Barre-Boulet will look to make the same kind of impact that Raddysh did when he was called up from the Crunch last season.

Alex Barre-Boulet Syracuse Crunch
Alex Barre-Boulet, Syracuse Crunch (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Quebec native hopes to follow a similar path to the Lightning roster as Yanni Gourde, another undersized forward out of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) who developed in Syracuse and spent five seasons in the AHL before blossoming with the Lightning. Barre-Boulet had a brief NHL opportunity last season with the Seattle Kraken after being claimed off waivers, only to land back with the Lightning organization after only 11 days. He appears to be ready to make that jump on a permanent basis next season, so don’t be surprised to see him on the Lightning roster when camp breaks.

Gage Goncalves

The 22-year-old has been quietly improving his game with the Crunch and may be on the verge of making a run at a roster spot with the Lightning. Gage Goncalves was third on the Crunch with 54 points last season. While his goal numbers went down from 17 in 2021-22 to 13 last season, he has established himself as a key playmaker on the Crunch with 41 assists. He established good chemistry with linemates Barre-Boulet and Simon Ryfors, which has helped increase his productivity.

Gage Goncalves, Everett Silvertips
Gage Goncalves playing for the Everett Silvertips (Mandatory Credit: Chris Mast/Everett Silvertips)

The native of British Columbia has started to figure his game out at the AHL level outside of his goal-scoring. He has always had a good shot, and adding some diversity to his attack patterns while utilizing his passing game more has led to the Lightning organization taking notice of this improvement. Goncalves has been a player who has been known for working hard to improve his game, such as he did while playing in the Western Hockey League for the Everett Silvertips. Goncalves started out with the Silvertips as a fourth-line player but worked his way up to the first line the next season, which eventually led to him being drafted by the Lightning in the second round in 2020.

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If he does not make the opening night roster, it is almost a sure bet that Goncalves will be one of the first people called up if the Lightning need to make a move.

Philippe Myers

Despite some inconsistent play in the last two seasons, the Lightning still have faith that the 26-year-old can develop his game to be a consistent NHL blueliner. Acquired as part of the deal that sent Ryan McDonagh to the Nashville Predators, the Lightning chose to keep Philippe Myers instead of taking advantage of a wrinkle in his contract that could have saved them some value salary cap space. They are hoping to see the skill set that was displayed when he played for the Philadelphia Flyers when they played in the pandemic-induced bubble in 2020.

Philippe Myers Philadelphia Flyers
Philippe Myers, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The 6-foot-6 defenseman appeared in 11 games last season with the Lightning and had a goal and three points. He cleared waivers in December 2022 and spent the rest of the season with the Crunch. Myers played very well for the Crunch at the end of the season and in the playoffs, highlighted by scoring the overtime-winning goal against the Americans in Game 1 of their playoff series. This is an important season for Myers and the Lightning, as the native of Moncton, New Brunswick, will be an unrestricted free agent in 2024.

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Last season, defensemen Nick Perbix and Darren Raddysh earned promotions to the Lightning after starting the season with the Crunch. They ended the campaign playing important minutes and are now important pieces on the roster. This season, the Lightning may see the same thing happen as there are a handful of players who played important roles in Syracuse last season and could find their way to Tampa Bay in 2023-24.

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