Connect with us


Tampa Bay Lightning moves to reduce camp underway to set up final week of roster competition






by Erik Erlendsson |  @Erik_Erlendsson |  Like us on Facebook
October 1, 2021

TAMPA – As the Tampa Bay Lightning look toward the final week of the preseason and three consecutive games against the Florida Panthers, a more detailed approach to preparation begins with Monday’s practice at Amway Center in Orlando.

A big part of that is reducing the number of players in training camp to a more manageable group that now requires just one practice group instead of two three as it’s been since camp opened on September 23.

Those moves began on Sunday with a handful of players placed on waivers and others assigned to minor league training camp.

A look at those moves and handicapping the competition for the final roster spots heading to the regular season roster deadline in less than a week.

First, the moves that began on Sunday.

The three players who were placed on waivers on Saturday cleared on Sunday – goaltender Maxime Lagace and forwards Daniel Walcott and Otto Somppi.

Four more players were placed on waivers on Sunday – defensemen Darren Raddysh and Sean Day along with forwards Gabriel Dumont and Charles Hudon. Assuming they clear on Monday, they will be assigned to the Syracuse Crunch along with Lagace, Walcott and Somppi.

The Lightning also assigned another handful of players to the Crunch, which have not yet been announced.

According to Cap Friendly, Tampa Bay assigned D Alex Green, C Gage Goncalves, C Jimmy Huntington and C Gabriel Fortier.

Those moves are all expected to be made official on Monday, along with others that will include sending D Jack Thompson back to Sudbury of the Ontario Hockey League and F Jaydon Dureau back to Portland.

That would reduce the number players in camp by at least 13 players. 

Officially, at the moment it leaves 22 forwards, 13 defensemen and five goaltenders.

Of the 40 players, Cal Foote, Ryan Jones and Odeen Tufto have been injured since the start of camp, with Foote expected to miss at least the first two weeks of the regular season after recovering from surgery on a tendon in his hand that was suffered during off-season training. In addition, Gemel Smith has been out since Tuesday and there is not a current timeline for his return at this point.

That brings the number down to 37 active players, assuming Anthony Cirelli returns to practice this week as expected.

Five players still remain in camp on tryout contracts – defensemen Brandon Crawley, Wyatt McLeod and Jones, forward Shawn Element and goaltender Eamon McAdam.

That brings the number down to 32 as of Sunday night of what is likely the main group.

Which sets up the competition for the final spots on the roster, which remains rather unclear through the first four preseason games.

No clear cut favorite has emerged to this point with the major contenders seeing three games to this point.

So, based those three games, what might the opening night roster look like?

Let’s try to handicap it.

First, the known.

The defensemen are all but wrapped up, with the exception of when Foote will be ready. The top six defensemen are: Victor Hedman, Jan Rutta, Ryan McDonagh, Erik Cernak, Mikhail Sergachev and Zach Bogosian. The only question will be whether or not Tampa Bay will carry a seventh defenseman with Foote out. If so, Andrej Sustr or Fredrik Claesson have the inside track to take that open spot. With just five games in the first two weeks of the season – and eight in the month of October – it is conceivable the team carries just six to start until Foote is ready.

The goaltenders will be Andrei Vasilevskiy and Brian Elliott.

Up front, 11 spots are already spoke for with Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, Anthony Cirelli, Corey Perry, Pat Maroon, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Ross Colton and Mathieu Joseph.

That leaves the aforementioned to available spots, assuming the Lightning will carry 13 forwards on the roster to start the regular season.

The candidates are: Alex Barre-Boulet, Boris Katchouk, Taylor Raddysh, Simon Ryfors and Gemel Smith with long shots being Remi Elie, Cole Koepke.

Of those candidates the only two that do not require waivers to be sent to Syracuse are Ryfors and Koepke. That leaves five players who do require waivers, and Tampa Bay risks losing if they try to send them down.

With that in mind, it’s hard to see the team trying to sneak Barre-Boulet, a former AHL Rookie of the Year and second team All Star who has a goal and nine shots on goal in preseason, through waivers after just 16 games at the NHL level. So, let’s just assume, Barre-Boulet has one of those spots already locked up because even though the idea of everything being done on meritocracy, the business side sometimes come in to make the decisions. So unless a trade is made, he’s here.

That leaves the rest of the group essentially competing for one spot.

And the only player who has really done anything to separate from the pack might be Katchouk, who has been put in all situations – including the power play and penalty kill – in his three games. He scored the only in Saturday’s game at Nashville, stripping a puck and skating in alone on Jusse Saros, has two points and five shots on goal. Katchouk can play a two-way game and has some offensive upside after leading the Crunch in scoring last season.

Raddysh has not registered a point in three games, has four shots on goal and is a minus-4. The former second-round pick has an NHL shot and has improved at getting in to high traffic areas where he can utilize his shot, but hasn’t shown that enough to this point in camp.

Ryfors, coming off a 25-goal campaign in Sweden last year, has shown he can think the game at the NHL level, can make plays and has the speed to play in the Lightning system. The biggest adjustment for Ryfors is getting used to the smaller ice surface in North America, and it might make sense for him to play some games in Syracuse, as he does not require waivers, to make that adjustment.

That, realistically, leaves Smith, who is now in his third season with the Lightning and every time he has been called upon he’s delivered. He can play a fourth-line role and kill penalties. But his injury appears to have knocked him out of the competition for the time being until he returns. But he’s in the mix to again see playing time with the Lightning at some point if he doesn’t get back in time during the preseason to make his case.

Elie is in his first season with Tampa Bay after spending last year with Rochester in the Buffalo system and the previous four seasons in the Dallas system and has 106 combined games of NHL experience. Elie was a teammate of Taylor and Darren Raddysh with Erie in 2014-15.

Koepke, meanwhile, is entering his rookie season after three years at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and has shown he can keep up with the pace to this point in his two preseason games. He has perhaps earned at least another game, but in all likelihood he won’t make the immediate jump to the NHL and will start with Syracuse.

So, as we handicap the final week of preseason, I’d give the inside track on the final two spots for forwards to Barre-Boulet and Katchouk, with the understanding that carrying three extra forwards to the start the season with Foote out.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it until things change and I reserve the right to change the predictions.

Training camp schedule is below, all practices at TGH IcePlex in Brandon unless otherwise noted (all sessions closed to the public):

Monday: Oct. 4

Practice 11:30 a.m. at Amway Center in Orlando

Tuesday Oct. 5

Morning skate: 10:30 – 11:15 a.m.

vs. Florida, 7 p.m. at Amway Center in Orlando

Wednesday Oct. 6

Day off

Thursday Oct. 7

Morning skate: 10:30 – 11:15 a.m. at Amalie Arena

vs. Florida, 7 p.m.

Friday Oct. 8

Practice, 12 p.m. at Amalie Arena

Saturday Oct. 9

Morning skate: 10:15 a.m. at Amalie Arena

at Florida, 6 p.m.


Copyright © 2021 National Hockey Now and Erik Erlendsson. Tampa Bay Hockey Now is an independently owned and operated site and is not affiliated with the Tampa Bay Lightning organization or the National Hockey League.