When the Tampa Bay Lightning traded for Mikey Eyssimont a week ago, the trade seemed at first to be more about clearing some cap space in order to make another move rather than actually adding an important player. Since then, Eyssimont has played in three games with the Lightning and has made a very strong case for him to stay in the lineup.
Eyssimont has come in and provided energy to the Lightning’s fourth line. It has been evident early on that he skates well and plays with the sort of edge that the Lightning covet in their bottom six. He is not afraid to go into the corners and get his nose dirty and win a puck battle and seems to be able to be a spark plug in this lineup in his limited minutes.
Tuesday marked Eyssimont’s debut in front of the Amalie Arena crowd and he left a mark in those limited minutes. Eyssimont ended the game tied for the team lead in shots on goal with four in just over 10 minutes of play. On top of the energy he brought to the game, Eyssimont would go on to earn third star of the game honors.
When the Lightning eventually were bounced from the playoffs a season ago against Colorado, the most glaring disparity between the two teams was speed. Colorado skated circles around the Lightning as that series wore on, in part because the Lightning just did not have the legs left that Colorado did. The fourth line the Lightning put out there last season and much of this season is simply not a threat to beat you with their speed and exhibited a glaring lack of skating compared to some other teams.
The combination of Corey Perry, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Pat Maroon have been effective as the Lighntning’s fourth line for the last year and change they have played together. The truth is, these guys are all slower players who could benefit from having somebody with more speed alongside them. Eyssimont provides an element of speed that can help make this group go and find more balance.
Having some speed on the fourth line has been something the Lightning have found success with in year’s past. During the 2020 playoffs, the Lightning had Carter Verhaeghe, Mitchell Stephens and Alex Volkov take their cracks on the fourth line when the team dressed a full allotment of forwards. In 2021, Ross Colton, Tyler Johnson and Mathieu Joseph all had time on the Lightning’s fourth line as well. All of these players brought speed to the line to go along with the heaviness of Maroon who has been a mainstay on the fourth line.
Since Eyssimont has arrived, Bellemare has found himself as the odd-man-out of the lineup twice and Maroon has once. It’s reasonable that Jon Cooper will keep a rotation going of these players to keep everyone sharp.
In all likelihood, Bellemare is probably the team’s 13th forward now with Eyssimont impressing early on. Over the course of a playoff run, you are going to need 13 forwards at the minimum because people will get hurt. We have not seen the last of Bellemare and he can still have an impact on this team, particularly in the face-off circle and on the penalty kill.
Ultimately, the word that keeps coming to mind is “energy” when thinking about Eyssimont’s game. He has only played just over 40 games in the NHL and really seems to be taking full advantage of the opportunity to play for a Stanley Cup contender. The way things look right now, it will be very difficult to take him out of the lineup down the road.