The Big Four
Veterans Dan Boyle and Paul Ranger give the Lightning a strong top defensive pairing. Boyle has consistently ranked among the NHL's top point-producing defensemen and Ranger is a solid all-around defenseman who moves the puck well and has some offensive capability. Rugged Shane O'Brien will be paired with Filip Kuba, who is coming off a career year. Brad Lukowich is back and will challenge these four for ice time.
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Andy Rogers -- Tampa Bay's first pick, 30th overall, in 2004, is the most advanced defenseman in the system. He played a full season at AHL Springfield last season and had no goals and seven assists. Rogers is 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds and is a solid defensive defenseman.
Vladimir Mihalik -- Huge at 6-foot-7 and 235 pounds, Mihalik made a smart decision to play two seasons of Canadian juniors and greatly improved his skating. He also became stronger and meaner.
Matt Smaby -- Another battleship at 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds, Smaby plays a defensive role. He played for Shattuck-St. Mary's and the University of North Dakota before playing for Springfield last year, where he had two goals and 14 assists.
Mike Egener -- Several prospects have moved past Egener, the 34th overall pick in 2003. He had three assists in 75 games for Springfield last year and went minus-29.
Brad Lukowich -- The veteran had his best NHL season in 2003-04 when he helped the Lightning win the Stanley Cup, scoring five goals and 14 assists. The veteran also won the Stanley Cup as a rookie with the Dallas Stars in 1999. Lukowich is a smart defensive defenseman who excels on the penalty kill. He'll keep the pressure on the top four and provide solid work as the fifth defenseman.