The Tampa Bay Lightning have a team with few holes in the roster. They appear playoff ready and their early exit from the postseason last year may be the motivation it takes to step up their game to make an extended run towards the Stanley Cup this year.
Related: Tampa Bay Lightning Top 4 Prospects
In the salary-cap era, it is very difficult to keep a group of high-quality, highly compensated players together. The Lightning has succeeded in structuring contracts to stabilize their lineup and keep a solid core capable of winning the Cup.
However, change is inevitable at some point. Injury, advancing age, player defections all can open spots that need to be filled with new faces. Free agency and trades are options to bring in new skaters — often these are only short-term fixes. A healthy farm system stocked with young talent is the surest way to ensure continued success in the NHL.
Let’s take a look at the top three prospects the Bolts own and how they might impact the club short and long term.
The Lightning’s number one pick in the 2019 Entry Draft (27th overall), Nolan Foote seems like the prototype forward for an NHL club. He is 6-foot-4 and weighs 200 pounds with a powerful left-handed shot. Nolan has good bloodlines, the son of Adam Foote, and his brother, Cal, is also in the Lightning system.
Scout’s Take – “Foote has an excellent wrist shot and a very quick release. When teammates have the puck, he finds open areas to get that shot off. When the other team has the puck, he is quick to get in on the forecheck, causing pressure and creating turnovers. Foote also is a good playmaker with puck protection and passing skills. Foote is willing to work in the dirty areas of the ice. He gets to the front of the net and uses his size to create havoc. He also battles well on the forecheck, as well as in his own end of the ice. He could stand to improve his skating over the next several years, however. He particularly needs work on his first step and early strides.” Ben Kerr, Last Word on Hockey
Impact Potential – Probably not a call-up the Bolts would make this season, barring a rash of injuries. A strong training camp next year could result in a look during the season, especially if he continues to put the puck in the net as he did in 2018-19 for the Kelowna Rockets in the Western Hockey League: 36 goals, 27 assists (63 points) in 66 games played.
At 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds, the first description of Alex Barre-Boulet is small. Fortunately, that is often followed by skilled. Martin St. Louis and Tyler Johnson have proved that the size of your frame is secondary to the size of your heart, skill, and work ethic.
Scout’s Take – “Barre-Boulet is a very smart and creative player. He combines his strong skating ability with excellent stickhandling. He can control the puck and extend possession, waiting for teammates to get open. His quick changes in direction can also create space for him to get a shot off or to make a pass to a teammate. He is especially effective on the power play where he can quarterback the play from the half boards. He has very good vision and can pass the puck through tight passing lanes to set up a scoring chance.
“Barre-Boulet is also a goal scorer. He has an excellent array of shots. His wrist shot and snapshot both feature deceptively quick releases. He has quick hands and is able to change the angle on that release, further fooling goalies. His shots are also very accurate and have good power. Barre-Boulet can even score with his backhand. He is good in tight to the net, deking goalies with his quick hands and using his hand-eye coordination to bang in rebounds and get deflections. Barre-Boulet is not afraid to get to the dirty areas of the ice and battles for his spot but needs to be stronger.” Ben Kerr, Last Word on Hockey
Impact Potential – The only reason for not bringing Barre-Boulet up to the playoff roster would be if the Bolts want to take another year to work on his strength. Still, his scoring in 2018-19 with the Syracuse Crunch, 34 goals and 34 assists led the American Hockey League. Signed as an unrestricted free agent, the Lightning can afford to be patient with him. His future is solid gold.
Like his younger brother Nolan, Cal Foote carries those great hockey genes that he displays with his game sense. Plus, he is a defenseman. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, he is an imposing skater on the blue line and capable of carrying the play to the net if needed. A year older than Nolan, Cal is likely to make his NHL debut first.
Scout’s Take – “Cal Foote made an excellent transition from junior to pro hockey. He put up 10 goals and 21 assists for 31 points in 76 AHL games for the Syracuse Crunch in 2018-19. Foote was one of the top rookie defensemen in the AHL.
“Foote is a decent skater given his size. He skates well in both directions, with average speed and acceleration. This improved slightly this year but can still get even better. He also has solid pivots and edgework which allow him to cover the ice, as well as to transition from offense to defense, and vice-versa. His lateral agility allows him to walk the line, and to open up passing and shooting lanes. Foote is strong on his skates, with good balance and a strong lower body. This helps him in battling for pucks in the corners and in clearing the front of the net. He has added muscle to his frame since being drafted and could still add even more.” Ben Kerr, Last Word on Hockey
Impact Potential – An injury on the blue line could put Cal Foote on the playoff roster. If he continues to work on his game, and add bulk and strength, he may crack the lineup next season for the Lightning. He would be a welcome addition who is capable of extended minutes.
Playoff Depth in a Pinch
Tampa Bay’s depth chart is solid and there is no need to tinker with the personnel heading into the playoffs. However, it good to know that prospects in the wings are working their way toward the parent club when change becomes inevitable.
Hopefully, the Lightning can stay healthy and make that deep run in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. If they need a late-season addition to the third or fourth line and another blueliner to carry them further, these three guys might be the place to look for a worthy substitute.