Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Jon Jordan on 09/27/10 at 04:27 PM ET
With 21 cuts announced on Sunday, the Tampa Bay Lightning are left with 28 players in training camp. While nothing is certain, it appears there are six players vying for three roster spots at forward and three in the mix for the seventh and eighth slots on the defensive depth chart, with goaltender Cedrick Desjardins remaining with the big club, while Mike Smith recovers from an injury to his right ring finger.
Barring anything drastic, which would be a major surprise at this point, it looks like ten forwards can be penciled in to remain with the Bolts come opening night. In that group, I have Sean Bergenheim, Steve Downie, Simon Gagne, Vincent Lecavalier, Ryan Malone, Dominic Moore, Teddy Purcell, Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and Nate Thompson. On defense, six men appear to have a spot on the Lightning blueline out of the gate: Brett Clark, Victor Hedman, Randy Jones, Pavel Kubina, Mike Lundin and Mattias Ohlund.
That means position battles play out as follows:
Up front, the six-pack of Chris Durno, Adam Hall, Johan Harju, Marc Pouliot, Dana Tyrell and camp tryout Eric Perrin are pitted against each other for the final three forward spots.
On defense, Mathieu Roy, Matt Smaby and Mike Vernace remain, with two likely to stay with coach Guy Boucher’s preference to keep eight defensemen.
I haven’t been around the club since last Saturday, what with their second annual marathon preseason road adventure and all but, from what I’ve seen and heard, my predictions for how this will shake out go a little something like this:
I like Hall, Harju and Tyrell to grab the forward spots and Roy and Smaby on defense.
Hall was consistently lauded for his work ethic, attitude and leadership during last season’s year-long stint at AHL Norfolk and he has been solid throughout camp and in preseason games, scoring a pair of goals and playing with an edge. He managed 16 goals for the Admirals last year and has hit the teens in goal-scoring three times at the NHL level. Having been there before, Hall can do it again and, though his first stint in Tampa didn’t go as planned in 2008-09, whose did, quite frankly?
Harju hasn’t exactly excelled, in my opinion, but the general consensus was that one of he or fellow Swedish import Niklas Persson would make this club out of camp. With Persson reassigned to Norfolk, that leaves Harju. Harju has managed an assist to this point in a pair of exhibition games and, in the goal-deprived KHL last year, put up four goals and 18 points in 55 games with Moscow Dynamo.
Tyrell was called by Admirals teammate, goaltender Dustin Tokarski, the player most likely to make the jump to the NHL this season and his speed has always impressed. This preseason has been no exception, with the swift-skating winger creating several chances on offense, resulting in a pair of helpers in two exhibition contests.
These three making the club would put Durno, Perrin and Pouliot on the outside looking in. Perrin, as a PTO camp invite, hasn’t been bad but my opinion remains that tryout players more than likely have to wow a club to get a contract and I don’t think that’s been the case for the once-and-(almost)-again Bolt. Management’s thoughts could differ, of course, and the Lightning could do far worse than add a vet like Perrin but it’s a maybe, at best, at this point. If demoted, Durno and Pouliot were shrewd depth signings by general manager Steve Yzerman this off-season and would provide production at Norfolk as well as serve as worry-free call-ups as the need arises for the Lightning.
It’s long been said that Boucher wants to go with eight d-men on the roster, instead of an extra forward and, for a team with some question marks on the back end still, a little experience outside the top-six is probably their best bet. Smaby has 90 NHL games to his credit and Roy 61, whereas Vernace has only 12. Perhaps that’s the edge here.
Should be interesting to see how it all shakes out as we aren’t that far away from opening night now, believe it or not.
I’ll be stepping away for a bit this week, as my wife and I are set to welcome our second son on Wednesday. Assuming the signal in the hospital is functional, I’m sure I’ll offer some opinion via Twitter (if only as a relief from assured sleep depravity).
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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