I have to admit, one of my favorite exercises in hockey is tinkering with line combinations. Looking at different angles to see what I can come up with. It's often not close to what the coaches decide and there are other aspects like chemistry and just different game philosophies that lower the chances I guess correctly. But it's still a fun exercise in evaluating players, player types, strengths, weaknesses, and imagining the impossible.
|Adam Erne||Matt Peca||Joel Vermin|
|Dennis Yan||Brayden Point||Brian Hart|
|Cameron Darcy||Mitchell Stephens
|Henri Ikonen||Anthony Cirelli
Erne, Peca, and Vermin provide a really good mix of player types on the first line. Peca is a responsible two-way center and a playmaker. The Swiss born Vermin is a pesty player, but showed a surprising amount of skill in the Swiss league. He hasn't translated it well to the AHL, but still provides plenty of finishing especially in the skill and experience level that will be present in the prospect tournament. Erne is the most likely forward the Lightning are bringing to the tournament to play in Tampa Bay this season. He is a power forward that while not very tall at 6'1" is very wide. He'll do the dirty work as well as having slick hands in close. Making space for Peca and Vermin, I expect Erne will product goals and assists.
The second line is packed with skill and sprinkled with grit. Brayden Point is a point machine and when he makes it to the Syracuse Cunch full time in 2016-17, should provide the Crunch with a powerful offensive punch as one of the top two centers. He is both a playmaker and a finisher. Dennis Yan is a Russian player that was born in the United States. At 6'1" and 187 pounds, he will provide skill and size to this line to complement Point on the left side. He put up 64 points in 59 games in the QMJHL to put himself in a position to be drafted in the 3rd round this year by the Bolts. On the right side is former college player Brian Hart. He signed his entry-level contract with the Lightning this summer and provides a power forward presence to this line. He has a solid body and should help to create even more space for Point to do his magic.
The third line takes a bit of a step down in skill. Cameron Darcy is a journeyman center that is probably destined to play the wing in the pro game. He has shown a lot of skill, but also a lot of inconsistency. In a tournament like this, it would be easy to see him go on a streak and put up some goals. 2015 second round pick Mitchell Stephens should provide a solid pivot to the line with underrated skill and decent size, especially considering his age. While he has developed a bit slower, Mathieu Joseph will also provide two way play to round out the line.
The fourth line should be a good group to throw out against opposing top lines. Henri Ikonen will be going into his second pro season and provided good checking-line play alongside Mike Angelidis for the Crunch last season. His experience will be beneficial defensively and with the lower skill level on the tournament, his offensive ability may be more apparent. Anthony Cirelli is a capable pivot with a little bit of size. Cristiano DiGiacinto is an agitator and can get a bit rough. He should be a good complement to this checking line.
The last forward who was left off any lines is Bokondji Imama. Imama is a fighter. He will stick up for his teammates and will play a physical game. I'd expect he'll rotate in on the bottom two lines to provide additional grit in the spots occupied by Joseph, DiGiacinto and Ikonen. I do want to say that I really like Boko's character. He'll need to show more offensive skill this year in the QMJHL as well as point production in the AHL to make it to the NHL as a fourth liner. If he can make it up there, it's easy to see him being a fan favorite in much the same way Radko Gudas was.