Tampa Bay Lightning Fantasy Forecast: Forwards

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With rookie camp upon us, and with the pre-season and then the regular season right around the corner, predictions about player performances are hot and heavy all over the internet, but very few of those center around, or even pay much attention to, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

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There’s a lot more certainty around this year’s Lightning team than there was at this time last year—last year, remember, we had little idea not only who would make the final cut, but also who would be slotted into which role.  And in some cases where we thought we knew (i.e. Brett Connolly), it turned out we were wrong.  This time around, it’s no secret who should wind up on the Lightning’s opening night roster.

Under Coach Jon Cooper, the Lightning tend to carry 13 forwards.  That allows Cooper to easily dress 11 forwards and seven defenseman (as opposed to the standard 12 and six, respectively).  This year, because of players’ established role with the team, combined in some cases with their waiver status, at least 12 of those players are cemented into their spots.  There’s not a lot of wiggle room.  Loosely sorted by their positions (some players can, and will, play more than one position throughout the year), they are as follows:

At Center: 1. Steven Stamkos 2. Valtteri Filppula 3. Tyler Johnson 4. Brian Boyle

At Left Wing: 1. Ondrej Palat 2. Alex Killorn 3. Jonathan Drouin 4. Brenden Morrow

And at Right Wing: 1. Ryan Callahan 2. Nikita Kucherov 3. J.T. Brown 4. Richard Panik 5. Brett Connolly

In the following pages, I’ll take an in-depth look at each of those players, discuss what expectations we should have for them (along with their likelihood of meeting those expectations), and then make predictions for their offensive statistics.

Of course, there could always be surprises.  Cedric Paquette or Adam Erne could have such a dynamite camp that they become this year’s Andrej Sustr—the guy no one thought had a chance to make it, but somehow did.  But, unless the Lightning are willing to waive a player, or trade a player, or demote Nikita Kucherov (the only waiver exempt forward), your 2014/2015 opening night roster will include the thirteen forwards listed above.

The Tampa Bay Lightning scored a total of 233 goals last year.  With a healthy Steven Stamkos, that number should go up.  I believe, at year’s end, the Lightning will finish up with somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 goals–good for a top-5 offense in the NHL.  How do I think those goals will be divvied up among the forwards?

Let’s find out.

Players are listed numerically.