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This Week's Question: Training Camp Storylines
Share your thoughts on the most intriguing camp storylines for fans to watch this week.
Obviously -- and for good reason -- there's a lot of focus on Jonathan Drouin, the highly-touted 18-year old selected 3rd overall in this summer's draft, and whether, like Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman, he'll make the big club in his draft year or not. There's a bevy of young forward talent, though, also vying for several spots and this battle who've come up the system together, shared a lot of success with each other and had a taste of NHL action already should be intense and fun to watch. In particular, it will be interesting to see how things shake out for Brett Connolly, who has worked hard on and off the ice to prove he's ready to stick with the Lightning and had a terrific in Syracuse last season. And, given how much head coach Jon Cooper and general manager Steve Yzerman have discussed how competitive this camp will be, there may be some veteran casualties to the influx of youth. Guys like Dana Tyrell and Tom Pyatt strike me as vulnerable up front as does Brian Lee, who wound up assigned to Syracuse before an injury ended his season, on defense.
From our prospect-centric position, we think the most intriguing storylines revolve around which Syracuse players will make the big club. While some like Richard Panik and Mark Barberio seem like near locks, it will be interesting to watch which players further back in the group will get their names into the Lightning conversation. Players like Andrej Sustr, who seems blocked by too many 1-way contracts or waiver-eligible players in front of him; or Nikita Kucherov, who's penciled in for Syracuse but has NHL offensive ability now. He's one to watch. Kucherov was one of just a few players in the QMJHL last year who averaged about two points-per-game. Drouin gets the headlines for that accomplishment, but Kucherov was right there with him - he just missed a lot of games. Regardless, the storylines are nearly all positive, which is good for Lightning followers.
I'm going to be watching the real beginning of the Jon Cooper era. Sure, he took over the team toward the end of last season but with the unfortunate benefit of a long offseason followed by a full training camp, he should be able to implement everything he needs to establish this as his team. I'll be watching everything from line combinations, defense pairings to how conditioning drills are executed.
After a very lengthy summer, Tampa Bay Lightning hockey is back. Thanks to some key off-season changes, there seems to be a renewed sense of excitement surrounding the team as it prepares to head into 2013-14. To me, some of those changes help to form the most intriguing camp storylines for fans to watch this week.
Firstly, it will be interesting to see how Jon Cooper and the team’s revamped coaching staff work to implement a new system now that they have ample practice time to do so. Not unlike the roster Cooper worked with in Syracuse, the current Lightning roster is loaded with mobile, highly-skilled players. With a full training camp and pre-season to make the changes he needs to make, Cooper should have a good handle on things by the time October 3rd rolls around.
Fans should also be excited about the arrival of Jonathan Drouin. After excelling during the Lightning’s prospect development camp earlier in the off-season, Drouin will now be given the opportunity to fight for a spot alongside some of the National Hockey League’s best players. If he develops instant chemistry with players like Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Valtteri Filppula, and Ryan Malone, among others, there’s a great chance that he’ll stick with the big club this year.
I’ve said this many times before, but I’ll say it again. It’s an exciting time to be a fan of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Here’s to a happy, healthy, and successful 2013-14 season.
With so many players in camp, there are so many storylines. Here’s a few:
- Can rookie camp/training camp invitee RW Brady Brassart earn a spot somewhere in the Lightning organization? Brassart, who played in the WHL with the Calgary Hitmen and Spokane Chiefs, has an uphill climb if he’s to earn a spot in an organization deep with forward depth.
- Can G Riku Helenius find his groove? With personal tragedy and so-so play marring his return to North American hockey last season, he faces new pressure for a roster spot in Syracuse.
- Where does Jonathan Drouin fit on this team? Forget the hype for a minute and focus on the fact there are roster spots for role players. Can he find a niche to secure an NHL debut? Who may he displace by doing so?
- Tampacuse breakthrough: Who from last season’s AHL Eastern Conference Champions will push for a spot in Tampa Bay this season?