Tampa Bay Lightning Prospects: 2015-16 Expectations For Syracuse Crunch


Last season, the Syracuse Crunch were swept in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs. What should we expect from the Tampa Bay Lightning‘s AHL affiliate this upcoming season?

The Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League has been the Tampa Bay Lightning minor league affiliate since the 2012-2013 season, and has been a spot where some of the organizations brightest young prospects have gone to develop their skill so they may one day crack the NHL roster. The team, led by head coach Rob Zettler, went into the 2014-2015 season with expectations to continue this trend.

The 2014-2015 Syracuse Crunch team performed well under what sometimes seemed to be impossible circumstances. As the injury bug struck time and time again in Lightning land, it was up to players from the Crunch roster to fill in for a depleted Lightning roster at different points throughout the season.

Injuries forced the Lightning to bring up some of Syracuse’s top players such as Vladislav Namestnikov, Cedric Paquette, and Nikita Nesterov. With all three players performing well with the big club, the trio at different points of the season saw themselves permanently entrenched into the NHL roster leaving big holes in Syracuse.

With a team that was already desperate for scoring help, the absence of Namestnikov and Paquette, who were part of the top-6 fowards coach Rob Zettler relied on to provide scoring punch, took its toll on the team throughout the season.

However, what may have carried the offense all the way to the first round of the playoffs were Yanni Gourde and Jonathan Marchessault.

Marchessault was acquired the previous year in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets for Dana Tyrell and Gourde was signed to an entry-level contract after being released from his player tryout with the San Jose Sharks AHL affiliate in Worcester. The duo combined to score 25% of the team’s goals during the regular season.

The Crunch blue line also took a hit due to NHL call ups. Along with Nikita Nesterov, Crunch defensemen Slater Koekkoek and Luke Witkowski made the leap to the NHL roster for periods of time and left the Syracuse blue line in rough shape.

RELATED: Tampa Bay Lightning Re-Sign Philippe Paradis 

The loss of Andrei Vasilevskiy to the NHL forced the team to scramble and find a replacement as their run towards the postseason continued. The team turned to the tandem of Kristers Gudlevskis and Allen York to man the crease for the undermanned Crunch.

Gudlevskis took over as the team’s number one option between the pipes and led the team to a 41-25-10 record, which was good for second in the Northeast Division and a berth to the postseason. However, the team was quickly bounced from the playoffs after being swept by the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

The team was outscored 14-3 during the three game sweep, and what looked to be a fatigued Kristers Gudlevskis went 0-3 with an abysmal 4.96 GAA and .833 SV%.

Looking forward to the 2015-2016 season, the Syracuse Crunch roster will have many young skillful prospects injected into the lineup after Lightning training camp breaks in September.

Sep 18, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Adam Erne (46) scores the final goal of the shootout to win the game against the St. Louis Blues for the Lightning at the Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

Some of the players that will look to help the Crunch during this upcoming season are Anthony DeAngelo, Adam Erne, Cameron Darcy, and Adam Wilcox. The group of talented young prospects have finished their junior and college careers, signed their entry-level deals, and are ready to start begin their pro careers in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization.

Daniel Walcott should also be getting an entry-level contract offer from the team, and will end up in Syracuse to help the team’s blue line.

The organization has also brought back much of the group from last season’s team including captain Mike Angelidis, Philippe Paradis, Jonathan Marchessault, and Luke Witkowski who will once again look to lead the Crunch back to the Calder Cup playoffs.

Marchessault will become waiver-eligible next season, and must get through waivers in order to play in the AHL. With the NHL roster being so deep at the forward position, the team will most likely attempt to sneak the 24 year old through waivers in order to help the Crunch offense.

Related: Tampa Bay Lightning Sign Jeff Tambellini To One Year Deal

Many important additions were made to the Crunch roster this offseason by the organization. This includes signing former Crunch player and AHL veteran Matt Taormina and proven AHL scoring winger Jeff Tambellini. These veteran players will help mentor a young group of prospects that make up the core of the Crunch roster and will play an important role in each players development.

With the addition of skillful forwards and defensemen to the Crunch roster and the veteran members of the team re-signed and ready to play, the biggest question for the Crunch this upcoming season is: How good will the team’s goaltending be?

Kristers Gudlevskis and Adam Wilcox will battle each other for the number one position between the pipes, but each player has question marks. Gudlevskis has a problem with consistency as he can dominate and shut out an opponent one night, but completely implode and give up five or six the next. Wilcox is entering his first year as a pro and his inexperience may cause some growing pains while he adjusts to the AHL level.

Predicting the Syracuse Crunch Opening Night Roster:


Yanni Gourde-Tanner Richard-Adam Erne

Jonathan Marchessault-Matthew Peca-Joel Vermin

Henri Ikonen-Cameron Darcy-Jeff Tambellini

Philippe ParadisMike AngelidisDavid Broll

Dalton Smith


Slater Koekkoek-Luke Witkowski

Matt Taormina-Anthony DeAngelo

Jake Dotchin-Dylan Blujus

Daniel Walcott


Kristers Gudlevskis

Adam Wilcox

The Syracuse Crunch has the chance to once again make it to the Calder Cup Playoffs. With a revamped roster infused with a mix of skillful young players and AHL veterans, the team should be able to make it to the second round of the playoffs if their goaltending can hold up.

With many changes to the roster potentially coming due to injuries or changes to the NHL roster nothing is for certain, but this group is talented and will be a force in the AHL.

Next: Tampa Bay Lightning Year In Review: Steven Stamkos

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