April 2, 2012; Tampa FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Martin St. Louis (26) talks with right wing J.T. Brown (19) during the second period against the Washington Capitals at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Lineup Predictions Part 2

March 17, 2012; Tampa FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Brett Connolly (14) shoots against the St. Louis Blues during the second period at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

After looking at the Goaltenders and the Defense in my previous lineup predictions article, it is now time to look at which forwards under contract will make the Tampa Bay Lightning.   Looking at the forward group, it is by far the most complicated out of the three to speculate based on how many 1-way contracts, and how many great young players the Bolts have. Guaranteed spots would have to include Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos, Ryan Malone, Teddy Purcell, Benoit Pouliot, Tommy Pyatt, and Nate Thompson. That is already eight players at forward so when we add in the two goalies and the eight defensemen I have making the team, there are only 5 spots left to fill out the 23 man final roster. I think that newly acquired defensive, tough-guy B.J Crombeen has a spot because he brings a physicality element to the team that is sorely lacking. Adam Hall has fit in to the fourth line very well and can win face-offs while providing great penalty kill duty. I see Crombeen and Hall interchanging spots on many nights.

Now that we are down to three spots, the contracts have to come into play because no team wants to lose a player for nothing so players that do not need waivers are at a huge disadvantage. Just as Dana Tyrell did not make the team last year because of waivers, he will most likely make the team for that same reason this year. He will just be starting a new three year deal and would have to go through waivers to go the minors so he would have to have a terrible camp to not make the team.  The only concern about Tyrell this year will be the surgery he had last season to repair his torn ACL for the second time.  The final two spots will be taken by two of the following players: Brett Connolly, J.T Brown, Cory Conacher, Alex Killorn, Richard Panik, Tyler Johnson, and Kyle Wilson.

Kyle Wilson has the upper hand over every player that is left because he is on a one-way deal which would pay him the same amount of money whether he is in the minors or in the NHL. He also is a center and could slot into the 3rd line center spot. Personally, however I see Brett Connolly and J.T Brown making this team. Connolly played all season with the big club last year, except for the Junior World Championships, which gives him a major experience advantage over the others. He also will have another off-season of training which should make him stronger and hopefully able to lock down a top six forward job. J.T. Brown on the other hand was signed out of college late last year to play in only five games with the Lightning. I feel that with only one year remaining on his contract, the Lightning would not have signed him to play five games with the NHL team and then have his deal be over. They signed him because they believe that he can play. This is who I believe will make the team but it would not surprise me if Conacher or Wilson made the team over one of the others because they are definitely capable of playing in the NHL.  Conacher especially, because he was so close to making the team last season.  He brings a top 6 presence that could blend well when put with some bigger and stronger players who could create space for him. It would surprise me if Killorn, Panik, or Johnson made the team because they could use another year in the minors to grow a little more. As with the defense, the offense has tremendous depth which will come in handy if injuries arise as they did last year. There are so many options with this team that it would be extremely hard for anyone to pinpoint the exact roster. I feel like this is a good starting point but it all will come down to who shows up to have a good camp, and who does not. This should be one of the most interesting training camp battles the Lightning have ever had and I cannot wait for it to start.  Next week look for an article on who I think will be starting on which lines but for now feel free to let me know your opinions on who will make the 23 spots on the team.

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Tags: 23 Bolts Brett Connolly J.T. Brown Kyle Wilson Lineup Martin St Louis Part 2 Predictions Tampa Bay Lightning Vincent Lecavalier

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