Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – Tampa Bay Lightning
For the last 14 years (12 with The Hockey News) Dobber has reviewed each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint and graded them.
This year, due to Dobber’s battle with cancer, he recruited Cam Robinson (of Frozen Pool Forensics fame) to pinch hit. The 15th annual review will appear here on DobberHockey throughout the summer. This is not a review of the likely performance on the ice or in the standings, but in the realm of fantasy hockey.
Gone – Jonathan Drouin, Jason Garrison, Joel Vermin, Nikita Gusev, Mike Halmo, Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, Tanner Richard, Matt Taormina, Kristers Gudlevskis, Greg McKegg, Mike McKenna, Bryon Froese, Luke Witkowski, Bokondji Imama
Impact of changes – Sometimes a relationship is just too dented to bounce back from. We’ll likely never know the extent of the damage done by Drouin and his camp when they sat out of action and demanded a trade out of Tampa back in the spring of 2016. Whatever the prose, we now know the conclusion and Steve Yzerman’s patience paid off. In exchange for wildly-talented winger who was looking for his pay day, the Lightning secured one of the game’s top defensive prospects in Sergachev. The left-shot defender will push for a job in camp and could bring an immediate impact in a secondary role. The team signed three-time cup champion Kunitz to a one-year deal in hopes of using his experience during a deep run. Garrison’s departure to Vegas (along with Gusev to secure the team didn’t lose a quality young forward) is filled by Girardi in what can only be seen a significant downgrade.
Ready for full-time – Mikhail Sergachev didn’t have the best draft-plus one campaign. His point-per-game output increased by the slimmest of margins and he struggled in a leadership role with the Russians at the World Junior Championships. It doesn’t change the fact that he is the owner of some tremendous physical abilities and should be capable of playing in the league this fall. There is a Jekyll and Hyde decision ahead for Yzerman and Cooper to navigate though.
On the one hand, the Lightning currently have seven defenders on one-way contracts that all need to clear waivers to be sent down. This won’t be an easy line up to crack.
On the other hand, part of the deal with Montreal involved a conditional 2nd draft pick. If Sergachev doesn’t play 40 total games (regular season and playoffs), then the Lightning gain a nice pick in a deep draft. Sergachev is ineligible for the AHL this season, so the team would either need to keep him in Tampa or send him back to Windsor. Read more on Sergachev here.
Another defenseman ready to push for full-time duty is Jake Dotchin. The powerful rearguard split his third professional season evenly between Syracuse and Tampa Bay, suiting up for 35 games in each league. Dotchin brings a physical presence to the ice, as evident from his 2.42 hits and one penalty minute per game in the NHL and 339 PIM in 157 career AHL contests. He should be a staple on the team’s bottom pair this fall. Read more on Dotchin here.
Slater Koekkoek marks the third defender on this list. The former 10th overall selection from 2012 hasn’t quite lived up to his lofty draft slot but has shown incremental improvements throughout his developmental time. It’s clear the offensive end of things is unlikely to arrive at the NHL level, but he’s shown enough to warrant a spot amongst the team’s top seven blue liners. Another newly-eligible waiver player, he could be at risk of facing that result if Sergachev surpasses him on the left-side. Read more on Koekkoek here.
Yanni Gourde has had to fight and claw his way up the ladder since his days as a walk-on tryout in the QMJHL. While the owner of some very high-level talent, his 5’8” frame has been a constant deterrent to his perceived success. After being passed over in three consecutive NHL entry drafts, Gourde earned an AHL-only deal and bounced between there and the ECHL before adapting and thriving at each level as he has his entire life. In 56 AHL games, the diminutive forward recorded 22 goals and 48 points. He looked just as good piling up six goals and eight points in 20 games with the big club while seeing limited ice. He’s expected to join the team’s top-nine forward group this fall and push for second-unit power-play time. Read more on Gourde here.
Fantasy Outlook – A healthy Steven Stamkos is going to make a big difference to the Lightning and to many fantasy squads. However, it’s becoming clear that Stamkos isn’t even the most dangerous or sought-after asset in Tampa Bay. Nikita Kucherov scored 40 goals and 85 points 74 games last season as a 23-year-old, yet is still somehow underrated. The dazzling Russian winger was afforded a ton of ice time with the injury to Stamkos and the team pulling out all the stops in an attempt to make the playoffs, but his star is just starting to shine as brightly as it’s capable. He’s arguably the third-most valuable forward in the league. The key will be seeing how Jon Cooper deploys his man advantage units. Does he load up or split up? Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat will both look to rebound after down seasons, while Brayden Point and Vladislav Namestnikov are growing into their secondary roles. Watch out for Yanni Gourde to surprise this year if given opportunities – in a similar manner that Jonathan Marchessault did in Florida last season. Victor Hedman is a top-three defense asset and should be drafted as such. Expect a nice bump from the 230 goals the team scored a year ago. 2017-18 will mark the first time we get a look at what Andrei Vasilevskiy can do as a full-time starter. Thus far, the highly-regarded net minder has put together moments of dominance coupled with mediocrity. He could be a high-end number one for your team or a low-end two/three, so the risk is palpable on draft day.
Fantasy Grade: A (Last year: A)
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