With the start of training camp just around the corner, the Tampa Bay Lightning have some interesting decisions to make before the season starts on Oct. 11 when they visit the New York Rangers. Free agency, trades, and injuries will require some critical roster decisions before the season starts.
Among the issues are injuries to veterans Anthony Cirelli and Zach Bogosian. Both players had shoulder surgery this offseason and will be out until at least late Nov. or early Dec. This will require the cap-stapped Lightning to look for replacements from their prospect pool.
Three Lightning Prospects to Watch on Defense
The Lightning did bring in Hayden Fleury, Ian Cole, and Phillipe Myers to bolster their defensive corps. However, if any of these players get hurt or do not play up to expectations, three younger players seem ready to step in and contribute.
Nick Perbix made outstanding progress during the 2021-22 season. After returning for his final season at St. Cloud State, the 2017 sixth-round draft pick was selected to represent Team USA at the 2022 Olympics after the NHL pulled out of the event.
After helping Team USA finish fifth and finishing his college career, he signed an entry-level contract with the Lightning. He was then assigned to Syracuse, where he appeared in 12 regular-season games and five playoff games, contributing two goals and seven assists. At 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, Perbix has a pro body, and at the July development camp, he showed the organization that he’s also improved his skating.
Darren Raddysh has impressed many in the Lightning organization, which was why he was re-signed to a two-year, two-way contract in June 2022. The 26-year-old skated in four games for the Lightning during the 2021-22 regular season, notching two shots and a plus-one rating. The right-shot defenseman played 61 games during the regular season for Syracuse, posting seven goals, 25 points, and a plus-four rating. He also contributed two assists in five games for Syracuse during the 2022 Calder Cup Playoffs. The Toronto native came to the Lightning organization after playing previously for the AHL affiliates of the Chicago Blackhawks and the New York Rangers.
Sean Day also re-signed with the club in June 2022, when the Lightning gave him a one-year, two-way contract. The 24-year-old also saw some time with the parent club last season, making his debut in December 2021 against the Montreal Canadiens. He also played in the team’s next game against the Florida Panthers. The native of Belgium skated in 69 games in Syracuse during the 2021-22 season and recorded eight goals and 40 points, ranking first among Crunch defensemen in scoring and fourth among all Syracuse skaters. Day, a former third-round pick by the New York Rangers, signed a free-agent contract with the Lightning in 2020.
If none of the three makes the Lightning roster, they will likely end up in Syracuse, joining other young prospects such as Jack Thompson, Trevor Carrick, and Ryan Jones to form a stout defensive unit for the Crunch.
Three Young Forwards Who Could Crack the Lineup
In Cerilli’s absence, the Lightning have three young prospects who could find themselves skating regular shifts to start the season. Cole Koepke, who tallied 39 points in 69 games with the Crunch last season, spent a great deal of time last Spring in Tampa as lineup players rested between playoff games. The sixth-round draft pick in 2018 was a standout for the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He played in 104 career games in three seasons with UMD, registering 38 goals and 75 points with eight game-winning goals and six power-play goals. He also won a National Championship with the Bulldogs in 2019. The Minnesota native is a fairly decent-sized forward that can skate well and has a heavy shot while also playing well in the Lightning’s counter-rushing style of offense.
Alex Barre-Boulet is a prospect who many feel has the best chance to be a top-six style forward with the Lightning. The Quebec native had a very interesting 2021-22 season, as he was waived by the Lightning before opening night and was claimed by the Seattle Kraken. After two games with them, Barre-Boulet was placed back on waivers, with the Lightning being the only team to claim him. In 14 games with Tampa Bay, he scored three goals and two assists. He scored over a point per game at the AHL level the last two years, notching 63 points (16 goals and 47 assists) with Syracuse in 2021-22.
Gabriel Fortier was the Lightning’s first selection of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft as the 59th overall pick. The 5-foot-10, 173-pounder played in 10 games with the Lightning last season, recording one goal. The Quebec native also skated in 72 games for the Crunch, tallying 35 points (14 goals and 21 assists). His overall skill set suggests that he is a strong fit as a bottom-six player in the NHL, having good defensive skills and the ability to kill penalties.
Usually, most think that a veteran team like the Lightning will have little competition for roster spots heading into training camp. However, in 2022-23 injuries and off-season roster moves will at least give younger players a chance to earn a roster spot to start the season.