The Tampa Bay Lightning has 12 players (and one Coach) ready to kick off the 2016 World Cup of Hockey today from the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
The time fans here in the Bolts Nation have been waiting for has finally arrived. Just a matter of weeks before the first official puck drop of the 2016-17 season, the best and brightest players in the National Hockey League are headed to the Air Canada Centre, home of the Toronto Maple Leafs, for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
As most of you know by now, the Tampa Bay Lightning are very well-represented at the international tournament, which kicks off later today when Team USA takes the ice at 3:30 p.m. EST to take on Team Europe in the opening matchup.
The Lightning have 12 players and 1 coach representing their native countries in the international tournament. The Bolts would’ve entered the tournament with 13 players; however, Lightning alternate captain Ryan Callahan was forced to withdraw from his position with Team USA due to undergoing surgery to repair a labral tear in his right hip; an injury that will cause Callahan to miss at least the first month of the regular season.
While we anxiously await the first puck drop of the tournament, let’s take a closer look at the Lightning players taking part in the competition and where they fit into the grand scheme of things during the course of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
Since they are involved in the first matchup of the tournament, let’s take a closer look at Team USA. The Tampa Bay Lightning have one lone player on Team USA this year. The aforementioned “lone wolf” is Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop.
While it seems as if Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick will be taking the starting position, if the exhibition games are any indication, there is a good chance we’ll see Big Ben on the ice protecting the pipes for the U.S. of A at some point during the tournament.
During the preliminary rounds, Bishop played in two games, as relief for Jonathan Quick. While Bishop has not be awarded any wins or losses in his two appearances, he does have some stats to put on the board. In the two games he’s played in thus far, Bishop has a Save Percentage of .917 and a Goals Against Average of 3.00.
These are not exactly the kind of stats we would expect from someone the caliber of Ben Bishop; however, as the tournament kicks into high gear, we have a sneaking suspicion we’ll see a little more of the Bishop we have all come to know and love here in the Bolts Nation.
Since Team Canada take the ice in the prime time game this evening, we’ll take a closer look at the “hometown” team next. Much like Team USA, Team Canada has just one Lightning player in their ranks. Unfortunately for Team USA, Canada just happens to have one of the Lightning’s most skilled snipers.
Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who was born in Markham, Ontario, will be taking the ice with his native Canada in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Of course, he’ll be joined by some pretty amazing talent. Stamkos will be joined by players like Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, New York Islanders captain John Tavares, and many more.
So far, the young Lightning captain has not been able to find the back of the net himself; however, he has acquired two assists in the three games he’s played thus far. This placed Stamkos in the center of the pack when it comes to forwards; however, we have a feeling once the tournament kicks off, Stamkos will quickly “turn it on” and leave it all out in the ice.
Team Czech Republic
Team Canada’s opponent in tonight’s prime time contest will be Team Czech Republic. It only makes sense that we take a closer look at them next.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have two players representing them on Team Czech Republic. Lightning winger Ondrej Palat and defenseman Andrej Sustr were chosen to represent their native Czech Republic in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
Ondrej Palat, who is one of the three players known to Lightning fans as “The Triplets,” has already started making a name for himself in the tournament. Palat has played in three preliminary matchups with Team Czech Republic.
In the three games Palat has played in thus far, he has scored one goal and two assists for a total of three points. Given what we know of Palat and his skill on the ice, this comes as no surprise. While Palat may not be the most ardent goal-scorer on the team, he has an innate talent in making a play happen.
This is the same kind of special skill former Tampa Bay Lightning captain Martin St. Louis had before announcing his retirement at the conclusion of the 2014-15 season.
Things are a little quieter on the defensive front. Andrej Sustr has never been much of what would call a two-way defenseman. While he can get the job done on the defensive side, he is a little lacking in terms of offense, and that’s ok…at least for now.
With defensemen like Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman, who are both incredibly two-way defensemen, and defensemen like Slater Koekkoek and Luke Witkowski clawing tooth and nail to earn themselves a spot on the Lightning’s main roster, Sustr is going to have to kick things up a notch if he wants to keep his position.
If Sustr can find a way to play his height and his tremendous reach to his advantage, Andrej Sustr could be a formidable opponent for the other 29 teams in the National Hockey League.
Team North America
Now, let’s take a closer look at Team North America. The Tampa Bay Lightning have two members representing the Bolts Nation on Team North America. Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin and Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper are holding things down for Team North America in regards to Bolts players.
Unfortunately, Jonathan Drouin is not turning out to be the breakout player one would’ve hoped for heading into the tournament. Drouin has played in three games thus far with Team North America. In that amount of time, he has scored one lone assist, but he does come away with a plus-2 rating.
On the bright side, these games were just exhibition. Something happens when a player hits the ice for a tournament and every action begins to truly mean something. We can’t wait to see what kind of effect this has on a young player like Jonathan Drouin.
As for Lightning Coach Jon Cooper, he sees to be doing a pretty darn good job behind the bench of Team North America. Of the three games Team North America played during the exhibitions, they have walked away with a win in all but one. Needless to say, that’s a pretty good way to kick off a tournament.
It will certainly be interesting to see a team comprised of mostly young players take on some of the most skilled players in the National Hockey League.
The Tampa Bay Lightning has but one player on the Team Finland roster, but the aforementioned Lightning player has a pretty big role coming into the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Lightning center Valtteri Filppula, who was born in Vantaa, Finland, has been named an alternate captain for Team Finland.
It makes perfect sense that Team Finland would put Filppula in a leadership role. Filppula is heading into his 12th season in the National Hockey League and has his name engraved on the Stanley Cup from his time with the Detroit Red Wings.
Unfortunately, Filppula hasn’t had his breakout moment of the tournament. In the three exhibition games he’s played with the team, he has yet to register a single point. Again, these were only exhibition games, but one would hope things will kick up a notch when his country’s reputation is on the line.
Despite his performance or lack thereof on the ice, Filppula brings a lot of leadership with him to Team Finland and is still an incredible asset to his team in that respect.
Now, we take a look at Team Sweden. Sweden is one of the most privileged teams in the tournament when it comes to Tampa Bay Lightning players. The Lightning’s dynamic defensive duo will be taking the ice with Team Sweden. In case you can’t guess, this means Lightning defensemen Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman will be suiting up for Team Sweden.
Victor Hedman is arguably one of the best defensemen in the National Hockey League. Most Lightning fans will not argue with the assertion Hedman is the best defenseman on the team. Of course, his Swedish partner in crime isn’t far behind him.
In addition to his skill on the ice, Anton Stralman brings some experience to the defensive core of Team Sweden. Stralman will be heading into his 10th season in the National Hockey League. Stralman hasn’t made his way to the scoreboard yet, but given he’s a defenseman, that’s not the worst thing in the world.
On the other hand, Victor Hedman has two assists in the three exhibition games he’s played. Team Sweden will hit the ice on Sunday afternoon when they take on Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and Team Russia. Needless to say, we can’t wait to see how this one plays out.
Last, but certainly not least, we take a look at Team Russia. The Russian team has the most Tampa Bay Lightning players of any other country in the tournament. Team Russia has laid claim to four of the Lightning’s 12 players in the tournament.
Those four players include the Lightning’s 2015-16 leading point scorer, Nikita Kucherov. Team Russia also includes Lightning forward Vladislav Namestnikov, defenseman Nikita Nesterov, and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Unfortunately, there is a bit of unfinished business that seems to be overshadowing the international tournament. Both Nikita Kucherov and Nikita Nesterov are without a new deal in place for the upcoming 2016-17 season. At the same time, Tampa Bay Lightning Vice President and General Manager Steve Yzerman has hopes of signing Kucherov, as well as Nesterov, upon their return from the World Cup of Hockey.
Nikita Kucherov finds himself in a three-way tie for second place on the team through the exhibition with two goals and one assist for a total of three points. Unfortunately, Namestnikov has yet to make it onto the scoresheet.
As some of you may know by now, Team Russia has not had much luck during the exhibitions. So far, the Russians have lost all three games they’ve played. This comes as a horrific surprise when you consider how much talent they have on their team.
Hopefully, when they hit the ice tomorrow afternoon, things will start to take shape and they’ll be able to bring home their first win of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
No matter which team you’re rooting for at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey there is one thing we can assure you. The World Cup is going to be quite the rollercoaster ride for Tampa Bay Lightning fans. We don’t know about you, but we don’t want to miss a moment of the action.