As the Tampa Bay Lightning look to win their third-straight Stanley Cup in 2022, the franchise has seen a number of new and familiar faces find their way onto their starting roster. Given the popular names they were replacing, it would have been easy for fans to write off these new starters as they were heartbroken to see some of their favorite players depart the franchise.
However, as the season has progressed, many of these new forwards have endeared themselves to the franchise with their tough, dependable play that everyone loves to see. So, as the Lightning start the second half of the 2022 season, which players have fans rightfully fallen in love with?
Perry Brings the Perfect Energy to Tampa Bay
In many ways, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Corey Perry has already found his way into Lightning fans’ hearts. He is the ultimate tough-as-nails veteran presence that you hate playing against but love to have on your side of the ice.
The Lightning are well acquainted with his style of play as well, as he squared off against Tampa Bay in back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals, laying it all on the ice in order to try and put his team over the top. Even if his efforts weren’t enough to defeat the Lightning, it was impossible to ignore his play, as he often left the ice battered and bloodied, but also with a meaningful goal or assist.
While he started slowly this season, Perry has 12 goals and 23 points playing in the Lightning’s bottom-six, so he is on pace to break 20 goals and 40 points if this play continues. Given his low cap-hit, there’s no fan in Tampa Bay that won’t be smiling about that output. Plus, if he keeps up with recent trends, his best play may still be yet to come in the postseason.
Raddysh Is Another Strong Rookie for Lightning
Since he was drafted in the second round by the Lightning back in 2016, the expectation was that Taylor Raddysh would, one day, be a starter for the team. At 6-foot-3, he had the build of a true power forward, and with his 109 points for the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), he showed flashes of top-end offensive talent as well.
While he would take the long route to the NHL, Raddysh showed that he was ready to join the team in a full-time starting role during training camp. So far this season, he’s played in 43 games, registering four goals and 10 points, throwing down 48 hits, and showing solid defensive play while taking on 11 minutes of ice-time each night.
Are those mind-blowing statistics? No. But they are a really solid foundation for a rookie player to build upon. Given the Lightning’s current cap situation, they need these young players on entry-level contracts to step up and take on meaningful ice-time each night. Most importantly, Raddysh still has a lot of room to grow within the organization and should continue to impress fans with slick goals and big hits for years to come.
Lightning Can’t Ignore Bellemare’s Impact
Finally, we have the other veteran free-agent addition during the 2021 offseason, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. While he has played for four different teams in his eight-year NHL career, he never left a fanbase feeling negative about his play, as he brought a strong, dedicated game to the ice every night. Sure his point totals weren’t anything to write home about, but sometimes a player is more than his scoring.
Since joining the Lightning, Bellemare has been better than advertised. Not only is he on pace to set a career-high in both goals scored and points, but he is also averaging close to 15 minutes of ice time night while going plus-13 on the season, which is tied for second-best on the team.
To put it simply, Bellemare brings a little bit of everything to the ice, as he can both play a defensively responsible game while chipping in a few key points as well. Like Perry, he is the perfect player to have on your roster for a postseason run, and he is a name that fans around Tampa Bay will continue to fall in love with over the next two seasons.
New Faces Have Kept Lightning in Contention
After an exodus of talent, it would have been easy to write off the Lightning as a competitor for the Stanley Cup, but no longer a favorite. However, with the play and talent of the players mentioned above, the team hasn’t missed a beat throughout the 2021-22 season.
With so much talent, it can be hard for new players to carve out their niche with the franchise, but the Lightning had the perfect opportunities for these three players. If they continue to play this well, it will go a long way to helping the team on another deep Stanley Cup run.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.