|Brian Boyle – C||Anders Lindback – G|
|Anton Stralman – D||Sami Salo – D|
|Evgeni Nabokov – G||Pierre-Cedric Labrie – LW|
|Jason Garrison – D||Ryan Malone – RW|
|Brenden Morrow – LW||Mike Kostka – D|
|Mike Blunden – RW||Keith Aulie – D|
|Tom Pyatt – LW|
The Tampa Bay Lightning were back in the playoffs in 2013-14 after missing the postseason in the two previous years. The Lightning are currently listed at 16/1 odds to win the Stanley Cup this season (per mytopsportsbook.com) tied for eighth in the NHL.
The Lightning are led by captain Steven Stamkos, who missed 45 games last season with a broken right tibia. He miraculously returned for the final 20 games of the season, where he unsurprisingly scored 11 goals (6 PPG) and 17 points. The NHL’s most pure goal scorer will be at 100 per cent to start training camp and is the pre-season favourite to win the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy. Stammer will be joined by 2013 third overall pick Jonathan Drouin, who narrowly missed making the team last year. Drouin, 19, has electrifying hands and great on-ice vision that should allow him to contribute right away. His 108 points (29G / 79A) ranked him third in the QMJHL, despite him missed 21 games.
Two 2013-14 rookie of the year finalists Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson will be expected to take on bigger roles this season as well. Palat, 23, was a seventh round pick in 2011. He has scored at every level, so last season was no fluke, and another season with mid-20’s goal production should be expected. As for Johnson, he was undrafted and undersized (5-foot-9 – 182lbs) but played very well in his rookie campaign. In the 45 games that Stamkos missed, Johnson scored 14 goals and 17 assists (31 points) and later added 12 points in 20 games while playing with Stammer. He has a shot to land a spot on his wing again this season, making him a definite candidate for 25-plus goals.
Veterans Valtteri Filppula and Ryan Callahan round-out a solid group of forwards. Filppula is a stable second-line centre, who set a career high with 25 goals in his first year with the Lightning. He’ll be a key part of Tampa’s success as a provides secondary scoring and handles the point on the power-play. Callahan, 29, signed a six-year, $34.8 million dollar deal this offseason, but brings more to the Lightning than he does to your fantasy team. He has averaged 24 goals and 22 assists per 82 games (per NHL.com), so don’t expect more than a 25-25 season with modest penalty minutes and power-play production.
On the blueline the Lightning also possess a few great fantasy options. Victor Hedman, 23, finally had his breakout season in 2013-14. He tallied 13 goals and 42 assists (55 points) in 75 games. The 2009 second overall pick was a solid contributor prior to last season, but now that the previously untapped potential has been tapped, Hedman is a top-end fantasy commodity. This summer the Lightning signed former Panther and Canuck D-man Jason Garrison. The 29-year-old defenseman has an absolute bomb from the point and will be a huge help to the Lightning power-play. Garrison averaged 20:54 TOI with the Canucks last season, but his shooting percentage was down from his career 6.5 to 3.9 (per ESPN.com), which led to just seven goals (4 PPG) in 81 games. He is sure to rank near the top in shots on goal for defensemen and if his shooting percentage bumps back up to the norm, expect 10-15 goals. Matt Carle, 29, is also still in Tampa Bay. He didn’t miss a game for the fourth straight season and recorded at least 30 points for the fourth straight 82-game season. He is durable, dependable and consistent and he won’t cost you much on draft day.
Between the pipes, Ben Bishop proved to be an high-end fantasy netminder last season. In his first season as an NHL number-1, Bishop won 37 games with a 2.23 GAA and .924 SV% with five shutouts. He enters 2014-15 as a preseason top-5 fantasy option. With a boatload of fire-power in front of him, a second straight 35-plus win season should be on its way. He will have 39-year-old Evegeni Nabokov as his back-up this season. The veteran netminder should only help grow Bishop’s game.
Look to the Draft (Ranking Lightning Fantasy Players)
- Steven Stamkos – C
- Ben Bishop – G
- Victor Hedman – D
- Jonathan Drouin – LW
- Valtteri Filppula – C
- Tyler Johnson – C
- Ondrej Palat – LW
- Ryan Callahan – RW
- Jason Garrison – D
- Alex Killorn – LW
Click HERE for the Lightning’s potential line combinations heading into the 2014-15 season.
Season prediction: Stamkos and Bishop will lead the Lightning to second place in the Atlantic, narrowly behind the Boston Bruins.
Other Season Previews: Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames,Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars,Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators,Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues