The Tampa Bay Lightning released their opening day roster for the 2013/2014 season on Sunday, and it turned out they had at least a couple of surprises in store for us.
The first wasn’t all that big. It shouldn’t shock anyone that Jonathan Drouin was sent back to his junior team.
Midway through the summer, Drouin looked like a lock for opening night, but by midway through training camp it was clear he was an underdog to make the team. It should be stressed that Drouin’s demotion was not a result of poor play – he played fine for an eighteen year-old – but was rather the result of unprecedented organizational depth.
There were simply too many older, more experienced prospects ahead of him in line, and those prospects forced their way onto the team with outstanding play.
Perhaps the most outstanding of them, however, was returned to the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch – Brett Connolly. And that was a shock. Connolly was a standout from training camp’s start to finish, and he tied for the team’s preseason lead in goals (4) with Steven Stamkos.
GM Steve Yzerman talked to Damian Cristodero about it.
“I feel he played extremely well throughout camp,” he said. “Well enough to earn a spot on this team. I want him playing in the top nine. We decided to keep Palat, Panik, and Johnson together. I want Brett playing a lot of minutes. I don’t want him playing on the fourth line.”
The chemistry of the aforementioned line (Palat/Johnson/Panik) appears to have been the major wrench thrown into the plans of many a would-be rookie. But the Lightning hope that same chemistry will provide them with something they haven’t had in years – a third line that can play a key role for the team, game-in, game-out.
So who did stick with the team? And where will they fit? Will they stick with the team all year?
The truth is I don’t know the answer to any of those questions, but I’m always willing to make a couple of (somewhat) educated guesses.
Welcome to my 2013/2014 Tampa Bay Lightning season forecast: Forwards Edition.
(Players listed numerically…/Stats listed GP-G-A-PTS)