Tampa Bay’s ‘Centers’ of Attention

At the beginning of each season when training camp opens, it’s always exciting to see when new players come in to fill the void of players you lost during the offseason and who is going to be together on the same line.

For the Tampa Bay Lightning, it’s the centers with all the attention, especially when they aren’t playing the position they have been used to playing most of their careers. For these seven players making up most of the top nine forwards, it means they are capable of being versatile, adapting to new roles and meeting expectations every time they hit the ice. Plus, think of it this way, if your center gets kicked out of the faceoff circle, it’s nice to have someone to your left or right that’s able to jump in.

Tyler Johnson: Star in the Making?

We all know what Steven Stamkos is capable of consistently each year, and we’re starting to see that same consistency and growth out of Tyler Johnson who went undrafted that the Lightning signed back on March 8th, 2011. Johnson, 24, has 51 goals, 67 assists and is a career plus-56 in the 159 NHL games he’s appeared in. His ‘Triplets Line’ accompanied by Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov was a success story at the AHL level, and has transitioned well here at the NHL level resulting in a combined 164 points so far this season. You have to remember this is the second line that teams are up against, so if you’re putting your best defensive line out against Stamkos’ line, who are you putting out on the ice to match up Johnson’s line?

The Power at Center

It doesn’t end there, Brian Boyle stands tall at 6’7” who is helping isolate the chances of opponents top offensive threats, and assisting on the penalty kill, but has really chipped in on the offense as well. Boyle, 30, has recorded 20 points (13 G, 7 A) in 65 games this season, surpassing last season’s total (18) and could have his second-highest point total of his career by seasons end.

The third line before the Brett Connolly trade, also consisted of Valtteri Filppula and Cedric Paquette which equated to three centers on the ice at the same time. Filppula has been a great product of secondary scoring with 45 points and helping out on the power play for Tampa Bay, while Paquette has been a pleasant surprise producing 12 goals and nine assists thus far this season.

Current Tampa Bay Lightning Centerman:

Player Draft Year Round Pick Country
Steven Stamkos 2008 1st 1st CAN
Tyler Johnson N/A Undrafted Undrafted USA
Valtteri Filppula 2002-DET 3rd 95th FIN
Brian Boyle 2003-LAK 1st 26th USA
Vladislav Namestnikov 2011 1st 27th RUS
Cedric Paquette 2012 4th 101st CAN
Alex Killorn 2007 3rd 77th CAN


Now that we a look at the number of centerman truly on this roster and within the organization, it’s easier to understand the move of Connolly before Monday’s trade deadline in exchange for two second round draft picks from the Boston Bruins to use toward the future of this organization—likely not going to be centerman, right?

Here’s a full history of centerman selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning:


Vladdy Making Strides

Behind Jonathan Drouin, the Lighting’s next top prospect might just be Vladislav Namestnikov. He was drafted from the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League where he played 131 games, tallied 52 goals, 88 assists and was a plus-27

Namestnikov, 22, has spent some time up with the big club earlier in the season, but has 35 points in 34 games played with the Syracuse Crunch this season and its only a matter of time before he sticks up here in Tampa.

Wednesday evening, the Tampa Bay Lightning recalled Vladislav Namestnikov on emergency basis

The depth this team has up the middle is remarkable, someone goes down, someone is ready to step right in. The only consequence may only be that it could continue to cause some limitation on the roles of players like J.T Brown and Brenden Morrow with 17 regular season games remaining, but is that really a concern at this point of the season and heading into the playoffs?