Another season of Syracuse Crunch hockey kicks off today, marking the team’s 12th season as the American Hockey League affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The new season means fresh faces and new opportunities, especially with Joel Bouchard taking over behind the bench after Ben Groulx previously led the team for the past seven seasons.
So, with that said, let us dive into some names of Tampa Bay Lightning prospects on the Crunch to keep an eye on this season.
Declan Carlile, LD
2022-23 Stats: 69GP | 8G | 16A | 24P
Carlile became one of my favorite Crunch players to watch last season. The 23-year-old, 6-foot-1 defenseman was signed as a free agent out of NCAA hockey last summer with a reputation for blocking shots, and while he proved himself in that manner, his work of tying up opponents around the net and shutting down plays at the defensive blue line were equally as impressive.
The standout defensive work led to Carlile leading the team with a +28 rating, the highest by a rookie defenseman since Erik Cernak’s +30 rating during the 2017-18 season.
Towards the end of the season, Carlile began to show an added offensive playmaking touch to his game. With his defensive game already solid, and his offensive ability improving, watch for Carlile to develop into a steady two-way defenseman this season that could challenge for the Lightning’s third left defenseman role in the future.
Felix Robert, C
2022-23 Stats: 55GP | 18G | 16A | 34P
Robert had a respectable first season with the Crunch last year as he recorded 34 points, doing so mostly as the third-line center.
Last season’s first line center, Simon Ryfors, returned to play in Europe, so the opportunity to take on an expanded role could produce a sizeable increase in scoring. No clear replacements were added over the offseason, so it will likely come down to Robert and captain Gabriel Dumont.
With the potential to help lead the offensive charge, and a play style that resembles Yanni Gourde’s, Robert’s name could be one we hear often.
Gage Goncalves, LW
2022-23 Stats: 71GP | 13G | 41A | 54P
The Goncalves to Barre-Boulet connection on the Crunch’s top line was hot last year and it helped increase his scoring from 32 points, as a rookie, to 54. However, with Alex Barre-Boulet potentially jumping back-and-forth between the NHL and AHL this season, Goncalves will need to continue to produce without the holder of multiple Crunch franchise scoring records being consistently on his line.
This should not be an issue as Goncalves’ ability to create a play and deliver tape-to-tape passes was not limited to just Barre-Boulet.
Jack Thompson, RD
2022-23 Stats: 69GP | 8G | 15A | 23P
Thompson will play a larger role on the Crunch’s blue line this season after mostly playing behind Darren Raddysh and Phil Myers, as a rookie, last season. His 23 points were impressive as the power play only contributed one assist to his total.
With his puck shooting ability being one of his greatest assets, a larger role on the power play should deliver many more goals like this.
Lucas Edmonds, RW
2022-23 Stats: 49GP | 15G | 12A | 27P
Edmonds’ goal scoring total looks primed to explode this season. After struggling to find a spot in the lineup where he could showcase his shooting talent early on, he eventually settled in and ended the season with 12 goals in his final 22 games.
His 22.4% shooting percentage may prove hard to maintain, but with his knack for finding the back of the net, and a greater opportunity in the lineup, he could realistically push towards the 30-goal mark.
Cole Koepke, LW
Koepke started last season with 17 games in the NHL with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he never seemed to settle into a role with the Crunch upon returning to the team. With a full AHL camp behind him this year, look for Koepke to bounce back.
Maxim Groshev, RW
The highlight of the rookie showcase, for the Lightning, Groshev made his name known in no-time during his first season of North American hockey. He has a ton of potential, but it remains to be seen just how large of a role he will play in his rookie season.
Jack Finley, C
Finley was a top faceoff taker for the Crunch as a rookie but look for him to do more scoring this season as he only recorded 21 points last year. However, he will miss time early as he is still recovering from an injury.