2013-14 Tampa Bay Lightning Season preview part 6: Line projections and depth

Rob Carr

Twenty-three men fill out the Lightning roster, here's the projected lines and some depth discussion.

The Tampa Bay Lightning roster is largely settled. In fact, unless there's an injury or transaction before Wednesday, the opening night roster is complete, even if we don't know what the actual lineup the exact lineup will be. We do know the players and where they fit on the depth chart, and so it's not exactly a total guessing game.

Before Sunday, there was still a guessing game to be had: How many defensemen would Tampa Bay carry, and who? Could the "Top Gun" line of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Richard Panik all make the team, and at who's expense? Where would Jonathan Drouin fit on a team not needing a top line wing?

Drouin, as you should know by now, was cut yesterday. The "Top Gun" line is intact, and the Bolts kept 8 defensemen... Either one of those latter two points could be pointed at as the reason Brett Connolly didn't make the team despite an excellent camp and preseason.

Connolly's time will come though, as Steve Yzerman wants him back. But for now, here's where we stand with the 2013-2014 Tampa Bay Lightning lineup:

Forwards

Ryan Malone - Steven Stamkos - Martin St. Louis
Alex Killorn - Valtteri Filppula - Teddy Purcell
Richard Panik - Tyler Johnson - Ondrej Palat
Tom Pyatt / Pierre Cedric Labrie - Nate Thompson - B. J. Crombeen

The first and second lines are absolutely no surprise as they've been mused about and basically concluded upon since earlier this summer (though many projected Drouin on the top line left wing, or 2nd line left wing; that was contingent on him making the team). The third line is surprising in that not one or two members of a line combo successful in the AHL made the team, but the entire trio.

The fourth line is more interchangeable than the above listing gives it. Pyatt can also play center, and Nate Thompson has had a knack for spending time with the other lines and playing in many situations. Also of note is that coach Jon Cooper likes playing seven defensemen, so only two of the four listed fourth liners may play on certain nights.

Defense

Victor Hedman - Sami Salo
Matt Carle - Radko Gudas
Eric Brewer - Keith Aulie
Mark Barberio - Andrej Sustr

These defensive projections are less set-in-stone than the offensive ones... Also, in part, because of the potential 11/7 roster splits on any given day. Gudas and Barberio could be paired on a third pairing, or either Barberio or Sustr may serve as the seventh defensemen on any given day. Sustr's inclusion on the Lightning roster after camp was the biggest surprise in the end, not so much because he had a bad camp, but more because the organization has been slow with player development. This will be the former colligates first full season as a pro, and instead of spending that season in the AHL (as J.T. Brown did last year), he made the big club.

Goaltending

Ben Bishop - Anders Lindback

Normally I'd list one goalie after another to denote who the #1 netminder is, and who is his backup. That is not clear as of this writing and may not be clear for some time. Bishop and Lindback will share starting duties for the Lightning until so much of a time where one of the other proves to be the starter.

Depth

I won't try to make up line projections for the Syracuse Crunch, or gauge where other players will be put in the organization (read: those destined for the Florida Everblades or the Brampton Beast), but I will note again that Lightning GM Steve Yzerman plans on bringing back wing Brett Connolly as soon as possible. Other depth players of note are as follows.

Forwards: Connolly, Mike Angelidis, Dana Tyrell, J.T. Brown, Vladislav Namestnikov, Nikita Kucherov, Cedric Paquette, Philippe Paradis, Tanner Richard

Defense: Brian Lee**, Matt Taormina**, Dmitry Korobov, Joey Mormina, Jean-Phillippe Cote*, Nikita Nesterov, Artem Sergeev, Luke Witkowski

Goalies: Cedrick Desjardins, Riku Helenius, Kristers Gudlevskis

* On an AHL contract at current

** On Injured Reserve currently

The depth listed is not concise organizational depth at each given position (for that, trust in Bolt Prospects please), but depth pertaining to who could play in Tampa this season (which explains why Drouin is not on the list).

Some of the above listed depth are making their pro and North American debuts this season, so there is less of a chance of a call up when you apply the organization's general M.O. with player development, but with how long forward Nikita Kucherov made it through camp, and how Andrej Sustr made the team, there is potential that the team could break from their habit of waiting.

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