We are three days away from the start of the NHL season. The scheduling of your Fantasy Hockey drafts have begun. The DraftKit is on sale and it is time to start previewing the 2016-17 NHL season.
I will be previewing two teams every day and each preview will consist of: Projected Line Combinations, a breakdown of each team’s top Fantasy assets, a look at their goaltending situation and 2016-17 NHL Standings projection.
If you don’t want to wait for the previews, buy our 2016-17 DraftKit—which has previews for every team as well as projections for over 300 players and goalies. You will get rankings and projections on here over the next few weeks, but why wait, when you can get it all right now for just $4.95?
Let’s take a look at the Tampa Bay Lightning.
|Jeremy Morin – LW – (from SJS)||Matt Carle – D – (to NSH)|
|Michael Bournival – LW – (from MTL)||Jonathan Marchessault – C – (to FLA)|
|Cory Conacher – C – (from Swiss-A)|
The 2015-16 season was the third straight season that the Tampa Bay Lightning qualified for the playoffs and the second straight season that they’ve made it as far as the Eastern Conference Final.
The Lightning won just four fewer games than they did in 2014-15, despite seeing their goals per game drop from 3.16 (1st in the NHL) to 2.73 (t-12th). During the summer, the Lightning were strapped up against the salary cap, which limited them to make very minor moves. At the same time, they did not lose much—only Matt Carle (to Nashville) and Jonathan Marchessault (to Florida).
Up front, the Lightning remain one of the strongest units in the NHL, thanks to a pair of snipers, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. The Lightning were able to sign Stamkos this summer, despite a ton of speculation that he would leave. However, signing Kucherov has not been as easy. Last year he led the team in points (30G / 36A), but right now he remains in Russia as contract talks are ongoing. As the regular season nears, it looks more and more like Kucherov won’t be in the lineup to start the year. Tampa Bay goes much deeper than Stamkos and Kucherov though. The other two members of the “Triplets” line, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat are coming off of disappointing years, but can both be trusted for a bounce-back in production. Alex Killorn and Jonathan Drouin are expected to make up the first line with Stamkos and Drouin comes in with massive expectations. He had a tough 2015-16 thanks to a team suspension, but looked great in the playoffs after being reinstated. He is a great playmaker on the wing and could develop great chemistry with Stamkos. In their bottom-6, Valtteri Filippula and Vladislav Namestnikov would likely play in the top-6 of a lot of NHL teams and are fantasy sleepers, especially as the season wears on and injuries start to mount.
On the blueline, the Lightning have a rock-solid top-pair in Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman, who both also lead the unit in power-play time and the top fantasy assets. The rest of the blueline remains the same as it was last year, with Jason Garrison and Andrej Sustr making up their second pair and Braydon Coburn along with a full-dosage of Nikita Nesterov round out the group. The 23-year-old has a lot off offensive ability, but only appeared in 57 games last year and has just 16 points (6G / 10A) in 84 career NHL games. Back to Hedman, the Lightning’s No.1 defenseman ranks 12th among blueliners in points over the last three years with 140 (33G / 107A).
The goaltending crease is where the Lightning are truly loaded. Their No.1 netminder is 29-year-old Ben Bishop, who is tied for first in the NHL in wins (112), tied for second in save percentage (.922) and third in goals against average (2.20) over the last three years combined. Behind him is Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was a first round pick (19th overall) in 2012 and has a solid .913 career SV% throughout his young, 40-game NHL career. And their No.3 Kristers Gudlevskis, who is borderline NHL-ready. He has posted solid numbers at the AHL-level and has been a standout in international play for his native country of Latvia. This year, Bishop will probably start closer to 55 games than the 60-plus he has been accustomed to, which will limit his fantasy value a little.
Overall, the Lightning are the basically the same team they were last year, which is a good thing. The absence of Kucherov to start the year certainly hurts, but it shouldn’t be long before he’s back in blue and white.
Lightning in the DFO Top 275:
- 11. Steven Stamkos – C
- 19. Nikita Kucherov – RW
- 44. Ben Bishop – G
- 62. Victor Hedman – D
- 98. Tyler Johnson – C
- 138. Jonathan Drouin – LW
- 156. Ondrej Palat – LW
- 182. Anton Stralman – D
- 228. Andrei Vasilevskiy – G
- 260. Alex Killorn – C
2016-17 Season Projection:
The Lightning should have no problem making the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, especially with the Florida Panthers starting the year without Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad. Look for them to fight with the Montreal Canadiens and Panthers for Atlantic Division supremacy.