Some young Lightning players to keep an eye on...
The Tampa Bay Lightning had a stellar outing from the club’s crop of rookies this season. Even when counting out the contributions of deadline-dealt Cory Conacher, Lightning rookies scored a combined 46 points, putting them in the top 10 in rookie scoring upon the completion of the truncated season.
March 22, Prospect Schopping took a look at rookie forwards Richard Panik, Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson, all of whom saw significant time in the NHL this season and cracked the top 50 in rookie scoring. It’s no coincidence that upon the Lightning’s elimination from playoff contention and these players subsequent call back to the American Hockey League, that the Lightning affiliates Syracuse Crunch find themselves in the Calder Cup Final for the first time in the franchise’s 21-year history. Filling holes left by injury during the NHL regular season, these four rookies would go on to lead the Crunch to playoff success in the American League, displaying the tremendous depth of the Lightning organization up-front.
3.) Richard Panik – Round 2, 52nd Overall 2008 NHL Entry Draft
Finishing 29th in rookie scoring in 25 NHL games, 21-year-old right wing Richard Panik’s NHL season ended April 24th, when he was sent back down to Syracuse to aid his AHL squad in the opening playoff series against the Portland Pirates. Panik finished the AHL regular season scoring a solid 41 points in 51 games and would continue a solid effort in the playoffs, scoring 8 points in 10 games in the Crunch’s march to the Calder Final. In Tampa, Panik impressed coaching staff, touted for his effective use of size and great skating ability. In due time, Panik has the potential to be a point-per-game player in the NHL. The primary concern surrounding Panik has been his consistency, which after a solid outing the American League playoffs, appears to be developing nicely.
2.) Ondrej Palat – Round 7, 208th Overall 2011 NHL Entry Draft
Filling in for injured Benoit Pouliot during the NHL season, Palat developed outstanding chemistry with AHL line mate Tyler Johnson, carrying that synergy back to the American League and through the Calder Cup playoffs. Scoring a meager 4 points in 14 NHL games this season, Palat was a point-per-game scorer in the American League, finishing third overall in regular season scoring with 52 points in 56 games and has exploded in the playoffs, currently tied for first in playoff scoring with 5 goals, 15 assists, 20 points in all 12 of Syracuse’s playoff games. The concern surrounding Palat has been his size, which in the AHL, has had little impact on his creative playmaking and passing abilities. The Lightning have found themselves a dynamic duo in Palat and Johnson. If they could keep them together and if Palat can bulk up, they could find themselves skating together on Tampa’s third or fourth line as early as next season.
1.) Tyler Johnson – Undrafted
After a hot start in the NHL (four points in four games) 22-year-old center Tyler Johnson would go on to play 10 more NHL games and score only two more points before being sent back down to Syracuse, where he would not only climb the Lightning depth chart at Center, but emerge as the American League MVP. Johnson finished off the regular season leading the league with 37 goals, eighth overall in points with 65 in 62 games. Currently sitting third in playoff scoring with 17 points, Johnson should surpass eliminated leader Mark Arobello of the Oklahoma City Barons (20 points) and emerge as the a favorite to win the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player of the AHL playoffs.
Inking a deal with the Lightning as a undrafted free-agent after an explosive 2010-2011 WHL season, Johnson has more than proven his capabilities at the pro level. Johnson is no stranger to playoff hockey, a member of the defending champion Norfolk Admirals, he has shown fantastic upside as two-way center. The Lightning remain fairly shallow at Center and with Johnson being such a force in the AHL season and playoffs, expect him to easily crack the big club’s lineup pending a good training camp. A second straight Calder Cup Championship couldn’t hurt either, as the Crunch begin the final series against Red Wings affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins tomorrow night.
More information on all of the above players (as well as hundreds of other prospects you need to know about) is in our 2013 Fantasy Prospects Report.. And for only $2.50 more, pick up the 2013 DobberHockey Keeper League Pack, which includes the 2013-14 Fantasy Guide and the 2013-14 Draft List.