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31 in 31

Top prospects for Tampa Bay Lightning

Foote, Cernak expected to make impact at defenseman next season

by Corey Long / Correspondent is providing in-depth prospect analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the top five prospects for the Tampa Bay Lightning, according to


[Lightning 31 IN 31: Season preview | 3 Questions | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the Numbers]


1. Anthony Cirelli, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 72 pick in 2015 NHL Draft

Last season: Tampa Bay: 18 GP, 5-6-11; Syracuse (AHL): 51 GP, 14-23-37

Cirelli was promoted from Syracuse of the American Hockey League on March 1 and proved to be a crucial piece for the Lightning during their run to the Eastern Conference Final. The 21-year-old plays a game bigger than his size (6-foot, 180 pounds) and quickly found a role as a defensive forward, relentless forechecker and reliable penalty killer.

Cirelli's commitment to both ends of the ice should make the Lightning a better defensive team and better on the penalty kill (28th last season). He's expected to center the third line with Alex Killorn and Yanni Gourde, where he will be matched up against opposing top-six forwards.

"It just seems that [general manager] Steve [Yzerman] and [director of amateur scouting] Al [Murray] find a way to find these guys that are coming up," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Does Cirelli count as a guy that might have an impact next year? No question. Are there other guys coming up from Syracuse? No question. And I think that is what has really helped our organization. ... You don't know who the next person is going to be."

Projected NHL arrival: This season

Video: 31 in 31: Tampa Bay Lightning 2018-19 season preview


2. Callan Foote, D

How acquired: Selected with No. 14 pick in 2017 NHL Draft

Last season: Kelowna (WHL): 60 GP, 19-51-70; Syracuse (AHL): 6 GP, 1-0-1

Foote will play full-time pro for Syracuse this season after having his best numbers with Kelowna last season. The 19-year-old scored on his first shot on his first shift in his AHL debut last season.

The son of former NHL defenseman Adam Foote, Callan has exceptional awareness on the ice and an understanding of how to use his size (6-4, 212) on defense.

If he plays well in Syracuse, Foote should be a candidate to compete for one of Tampa Bay's open spots at defenseman next season.

Projected NHL arrival: Next season


3. Alexander Volkov, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 48 pick in 2017 NHL Draft

Last season: Syracuse (AHL): 75 GP, 23-22-45

Volkov took a little while to adjust to the AHL but showed quick learning skills and finished the season leading Syracuse with 23 goals. The 21-year-old (6-1, 191) has a good skill set that should only improve his offensive numbers in his second season now that he has familiarity with his coaches and teammates.

Although he has plenty of upside, the Lightning depth at forward will give Volkov additional time to develop.

Projected NHL arrival: 2020-21


4. Erik Cernak, D

How acquired: Trade with the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 26, 2017

Last season: Syracuse (AHL): 71 GP, 5-13-18

Cernak is a stay-at-home defenseman who showed an ability to play a lot of minutes and provide a physical presence for Syracuse in his first season. Although he is limited offensively, Cernak (6-3, 203) has a style of play that could eventually be a complement to one of the more offensive-minded defensemen with the Lightning.

Projected NHL arrival: Next season


5.Taylor Raddysh, F

How acquired: Selected with No 58 pick in 2016 NHL Draft

Last season: Erie (OHL): 30 GP, 15-29-44; Sault Ste. Marie (OHL): 28 GP, 18-21-39

Raddysh is likely to be one of the top six forwards for Syracuse this season after a prolific career in juniors. The 20-year-old (6-2, 207) has a knack for making the right play around the net. Raddysh had plenty of scoring opportunities with Erie on a line with Arizona Coyotes prospect Dylan Strome in the Ontario Hockey League from 2014-17, including 109 points in 2016-17. 

"Taylor could always score," Murray said. "Taylor is a natural goal-scorer with a great release and a big body. Whether it was Anthony Cirelli or Dylan Strome as his center, he could find openings, get himself free and then get his shot away."

Projected NHL arrival: 2021-22

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