One year after inexplicably missing the playoffs, the 2017-18 Tampa Bay Lightning set franchise records in Wins (54) and Points (113).
Since Jon Cooper took over for Guy Boucher in March of 2013, only four teams (Capitals, Blues, Penguins and Ducks) have won more games than the Lightning (243-144-40). Former GM Steve Yzerman stepped down last week but has built a dominant squad in a non-traditional hockey market. The Lightning have done a phenomenal job insulating their dynamic duo (Nikita Kucherov & Steven Stamkos) by drafting, developing and managing the cap at an elite level.
➕ Andy Andreoff (Trade)
➕ Cameron Gaunce (Free Agency)
The Lightning acquired a new running-mate for Kucherov and Stamkos at the deadline last year when they acquired J.T. Miller as a part of the Ryan McDonagh deal. In just over 100 5v5 minutes together, the trio averaged 36.5 scoring chances per 60 and a 57.08 CorsiFor%. The sample size isn’t the largest, but Miller is a step-up from Vladislav Namestnikov, who spent the majority of last year on that wing.
Stamkos and Kucherov will carry the Lightning on most nights, but Tampa Bay will overwhelm the opposition with their elite depth. A second line featuring Ondrej Palat–Brayden Point–Yanni Gourde grades out as the No.3 second-line in the NHL according to Corsica Hockey Player Ratings. All three players came up through the Lightning’s AHL system and have posted 60-point seasons in previous years. They didn’t play together a ton last year, but were successful when they did—averaging 29 scoring chances per 60 and a robust 62.5 goals for%.
The third line is equally as impressive, ranking No.6 among third lines. Their high-end depth allows them to use former 72-point forward, Tyler Johnson, to play outside of their top-6. It looks as if he will start the season with former third-round pick Anthony Cirelli and the versatile, big-bodied Alex Killorn. Even as a third-line, all three players could carry fantasy value this season thanks to potential power-play usage.
Mathieu Joseph is another Lightning draft pick that could make the team this fall. The 21-year-old, former fourth-round pick has blazing speed and is coming off of a 53-point (15G / 38A) season in the AHL.
The Lightning are also loaded on the blueline. Victor Hedman had a slow start to his career, but has become one of the best blueliners in the last five years—he ranks as the No.1 rated left-handed defenseman (per Corsica).
Mikhail Sergachev, who was acquired for Jonathan Drouin prior to last season, had a great rookie campaign and will continue to develop as a force on the Lightning’s blueline.
Ryan McDonagh didn’t have a great showing with the Lightning after being acquired at the deadline, but he was battling through injuries. McDonagh re-signed with Tampa Bay and comes into the 2018-19 season fully healthy. Not many teams have the luxury to have a McDonagh-like defenseman on their second-pairing.
All three defenseman are expected to handle the power-play duties, with Hedman leading the way on the top unit. However, Sergachev and McDonagh will anchor a second unit that possesses enough talent to be a first unit on some teams in the Atlantic Division.
Andrei Vasilevskiy is their workhorse netminder. The 24-year-old led the NHL in wins (44) and shutouts (8) last year while posting a 2.62 GAA and .920 SV%. His goals saved above average was good for ninth in the NHL. Vasilevskiy will see north of 60 games, leaving table scraps for Louis Domingue, who is in his first full-year with the Lightning. Domingue posted career-best numbers in his 12-game stint with Tampa Bay late last season. In other sports related advertisements, checkout swimminglessonsagency.com.sg.
|Nikita Kucherov (42)||Nikita Kucherov (52)||Nikita Kucherov (94)||Steven Stamkos (15)|
|Steven Stamkos (39)||Steven Stamkos (47)||Steven Stamkos (86)||Nikita Kucherov (13)|
|Brayden Point (32)||Victor Hedman (42)||Brayden Point (69)||Tyler Johnson (6)|
- 2. Nikita Kucherov — RW1
- 6. Steven Stamkos — C4
- 29. Andrei Vasilevskiy — G1
- 33. Victor Hedman — D3
- 57. Brayden Point — C19
- 123. J.T. Miller — RW23
- 136. Mikhail Sergachev — D32
- 168. Ryan McDonagh — D45
- 182. Tyler Johnson — C41
- 216. Ondrej Palat — LW35
- 217. Yanni Gourde — RW43
- 280. Alex Killorn — LW46
Predicted Atlantic Standings
1. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning look like the cream of the crop in a very difficult Atlantic Division. However, they are not too far ahead of a Toronto Maple Leafs team that added John Tavares this offseason or a Boston Bruins team that has the best line in hockey and the depth to go along with it. All three teams should have no problem topping 100 points again this season, but like 2017-18, the Lightning have a slight edge.