The Tampa Bay Lightning are trying to repeat as Stanley Cup champions, and the focus has been on captain Steven Stamkos and winger Nikita Kucherov. Those two, specifically, have more attention on them than usual considering they both returned from injuries for Game 1 against the Florida Panthers and had strong performances. However, when the spotlight is not on them, the team’s other top talents, including defenseman Victor Hedman and forward Brayden Point, are highlighted, an indication of the team’s depth.
However, a few dark-horse players on the Lightning could push the needle with stellar performances in the playoffs. If they can carry the team, the Bolts will be even more dangerous. These players have contributed to the team’s success, including last season’s Cup victory, and they will be crucial again in these playoffs.
Many players have made a name for themself after signing with a team as an undrafted free agent. There might be stiff competition to be considered the greatest undrafted players of all time, but Gourde has been excellent since he joined the franchise in early 2014 and continues to develop his game.
After playing with the Victoriaville Tigres of the QMJHL, Gourde spent a few seasons in the AHL with a couple of stints in the ECHL. Before joining the Lightning’s organization and starting with the Crunch, Gourde joined the Worcester Sharks for parts of three seasons. During two of those, he went down to the ECHL’s San Francisco Bulls and the Kalamazoo Wings.
Gourde finally got his big break when he signed a contract with the Lightning. He went down to Syracuse and had a breakout season. The difference in production is below:
- 2011-12 (Worcester): 1 goal and 2 assists for 3 points in 4 games
- 2012-13 (Worcester): 8 goals and 6 assists for 14 points in 54 games
- 2013-14 (Worcester): 4 goals and 20 assists for 24 points in 25 games
- 2013-14 (Syracuse): 2 goals and 6 assists for 8 points in 18 games
- 2014-15 (Syracuse): 29 goals and 28 assists for 57 points in 76 games
- 2015-16 (Syracuse): 14 goals and 30 assists for 44 points in 65 games
- 2016-17 (Syracuse): 22 goals and 26 assists for 48 points in 56 games
He made his NHL debut during the 2015-16 season playing in two games. Since then, he has become a valuable piece of the Bolts’ forward core. He might not lead the charge like Stamkos or Kucherov, but he can hold his own. Here are his regular-season numbers:
- 2015-16: 1 assist in 2 games
- 2016-17: 6 goals and 2 assists for 8 points in 20 games
- 2017-18: 25 goals and 39 assists for 64 points in 82 games
- 2018-19: 22 goals and 26 assists for 48 points in 80 games
- 2019-20: 10 goals and 20 assists for 30 points in 70 games
- 2020-21: 17 goals and 19 assists for 36 points in 56 games
In addition, Gourde accumulated 10 goals and 12 assists in 46 playoff games from 2018-2020.
If Gourde went to some other clubs in the league, he would be a top player for them. He brings a lot to the table. He just happens to be on arguably the deepest team in the NHL. Even with all of the talent around him though, he still finds ways to shine. He got an assist in Game 1 and can possibly rack up more points throughout the rest of the series.
Since Coleman joined the Lightning via a trade with the New Jersey Devils last season, he has made an impact. He is a fast skater and provides offensive stability. He was a threat during his time with the Devils, and though he never led the team in points, he was a complementary asset. While other notables like Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri, Nico Hischier, and Travis Zajac would be more of the faces of the offense in New Jersey; Coleman flew a little more under the radar to a degree accumulating his share of points in his role.
He posted the following regular-season stats during his days as a Devil:
- 2016-17: 1 goal and 1 assist for 2 points in 23 games
- 2017-18: 13 goals and 12 assists for 25 points in 79 games
- 2018-19: 22 goals and 14 assists for 36 points in 78 games
- 2019-20: 21 goals and 10 assists for 31 points in 57 games
Coleman was dealt to Tampa Bay in exchange for Nolan Foote (Cal’s brother) and a first-round pick in 2020. He fit right in when the NHL returned from their break due to the COVID-19 pandemic and started their 24-team tournament for the Cup. He accrued five goals and eight assists in 25 postseason contests en route to the championship, and he was another weapon for opponents to worry about and has made good on the Lightning’s investment.
In Game 1 against Florida, Coleman proved his work. After a Panthers goal was waived off in the first period that would’ve made it 1-0, he received a pass and sent a backhanded shot past goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to make the game 1-0 Tampa.
His contract right now will be up after this season and time will tell whether he is re-signed. Since arriving in Tampa Bay, Coleman has provided production as a complementary forward with his strong hands and previously mentioned good speed. He will potentially cause Florida’s defense fits the rest of this series if he gets on top of his game.
The forward ranks are not the only position where the Bolts have excellent depth. There is a lot of talent on the blueline as well, and one player who could help run the show against the Panthers and any other playoff opponent is Sergachev.
Ever since he was acquired from the Montreal Canadiens back in June 2017 for Jonathan Drouin, Sergachev has developed into a solid defenseman that can also provide some points as well. He was regarded highly as a top prospect in the 2016 Draft, and was selected by Montreal ninth overall. He suited up in four games with them in 2016-17, while spending the majority of the time with his Ontario Hockey League (OHL) team the Windsor Spitfires.
Those four games would be the only ones Sergachev would play for the Habs. After what was a tough situation between the Lightning and Drouin, both players were dealt for one another. The full package was Drouin and a conditional sixth-round pick in 2018 to the Canadiens for Sergachev and a conditional 2018 second-round selection.
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Tampa gave Sergachev NHL time right away in the 2017-18 campaign. He chalked up nine goals and 31 assists for 40 points in 79 contests. Ever since joining the team, he has fit right in and is able to just play his game. He does not have to lead the blueline with other defenders like Hedman and Ryan McDonagh also taking charge. While making an impact defensively, he also consistently contributes offensively as well. He has put up the following regular-season stats during his career in the Bay Area so far:
- 2017-18: 9 goals and 31 assists for 40 points in 79 games
- 2018-19: 6 goals and 26 assists for 32 points in 75 games
- 2019-20: 10 goals and 24 assists for 34 points in 70 games
- 2020-21: 4 goals and 26 assists for 30 points in 56 games
In his playoff career, including Game 1 against the Panthers, Sergachev has six goals and 11 assists for 17 points in 47 matchups. Game 1 saw him go pointless, but he racked up three shots on goal, four hits, three blocked shots, and over 21 minutes of time on the ice.
While other defensemen might gain more attention for the Bolts this postseason, Sergachev can be dangerous too. He has a lethal skill set that can make the Panthers pay. He can make a significant difference for the Lightning and fans will see what else he brings as this series continues.
These three players mentioned above were brought in by either former general manager Steve Yzerman or current GM Julien BriseBois. Both of them have found ways to make Tampa one of the deepest teams in the entire NHL, and as a result, led them back to championship glory last season. They both have found ways to hit on trades, draft picks, and signings; and that is how they have stayed as dangerous as they have been.
Yzerman and BriseBois deserve a lot of praise for finding and picking up talents like Gourde, Coleman, and Sergachev. The management staff has continued to find and acquire talent who fit in with their group. Those three specific players might not steal the spotlight as much as Stamkos, Kucherov, or Hedman; but they find ways to contribute and help the squad out. They can have just as an important role in defeating the Panthers and other playoff teams on this run as much as anyone.
I have been a hockey fan for most of my life, and have played the game myself for more than six years. I graduated from the State University of New York at Oswego in 2018, with a bachelor’s in Broadcasting & Mass Communication. Previous positions held include being a Sports Analyst for Oswego’s student-run TV station, WTOP-10; News/Sports Intern for WIVB-TV Channel 4; and Sports Beat Writer Intern for Pro Player Insiders.