Blue collar players are essential to any team’s success in the NHL. They are the players that punish their opposition physically, sacrifice their bodies to block shots, work to regain possession of the puck for their team, and take great efforts to be in position to make shots on goal.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are blessed to have some very willing participants in these areas. In no particular order we will review the top five of these “black and blue” players who “bring the thunder.”
He is a 22-year-old 6’0”, 204lb defender from the Czech Republic. He was the 66th pick (3rd round) overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
While he is not as skilled offensively his true value is in his never quit attitude and his penchant for punishing his opponents physically.
Gudas has played in 15 games for Tampa this season contributing 61 hits, 21 blocked shots, 5 takeaways and 24 shots.
He’s a 33-year-old 6’3″, 220lb defenseman from Canada. He was acquired by the Lightning February 18, 2011 from the St. Louis Blues for Brock Beukeboom and a 3rd round pick.
Brewer has become known for his solid defensive play and leadership through the later stages of his career. He is a stabilizing presence on the blue line for Tampa.
He has seen the ice in 40 games this season compiling 69 hits, 77 blocked shots, 11 takeaways and 43 shots.
Ryan is a 33-year-old 6’4″, 215lb forward from the USA. He started his time in Tampa Bay at the beginning of the 2008-09 season.
Malone is well known as a heart and soul power forward and the fans love him for his style of play. He is a key member of the team, however he has had troubles staying healthy.
He has missed 65 out of 328 games between 2008-09 and 2011-12. That is nearly one in every five games. But he is too valuable when he is in the lineup.
This season he has suited up for 18 games providing 40 hits, 7 blocked shots, 14 takeaways and 30 shots.
Hedman is a 22-year-old 6’6″, 229lb defender from Sweden. He was the Lightning’s 1st round (2nd overall) pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
He is a mountain of a man but he does lack a natural mean streak. However he has made strides in turning up the “nasty” in his game since his draft year. He is an integral part of the Tampa Bay defense.
He has played in 36 games this season providing 48 hits, 72 blocked shots, 13 takeaways and 58 shots.
Thompson is a 28-year-old 6’0”, 207lb center from Anchorage, Alaska. He was called up to the Lightning during the 2009-10 season and has become a solid bottom six forward for them.
He’s a good skater and as hard a worker as you will find. He may not be as skilled as others but his dedication to the game makes up for it. He is also about as tough as they come.
This season Thompson has tied the skates up for 38 games allotting 75 hits, 27 blocked shots, 19 takeaways and 52 shots.
Honorable Mention: Vincent Lecavalier
The now 32-year-old 6’4″, 208lb center was the first overall pick in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft.
He has been a key member of this team since the 1998-99 season. While he is often seen as overpaid due to his cap hit exceeding $7.1 million, he has morphed into a solid two way presence. Much like his General Manager Steve Yzerman did later in his career.
In 31 games this year Lecavalier has provided 66 hits, 12 blocked shots, 11 takeaways and 71 shots.
Lecavalier will also be forever known for that classic bout between him and then Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla during the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals.
Covering the Florida Panthers for The Hockey Writers. Women’s Hockey news and statistics for Outlook Hockey.