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With Boyle ailing, Richard is ready for his debut

Fourth liner Brian Boyle missed the game against the Flyers, and Tanner Richard has been on fire.

2012 NHL Entry Draft - Portraits Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

For the past year or so, Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Tanner Richard is someone that we have been looking at as a Brian Boyle replacement on the roster. Boyle is an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2017 after finishing a three year contract.

While there is still some chance that general manager Steve Yzerman brings Boyle back, there may not be the salary cap room to do so. Richard would represent a cheaper option to replace him on the fourth line either as a left winger with Paquette in the middle or as the center with Paquette on the wing.

The Swiss-born Richard was drafted in the 3rd round of 2012 as a 19 year old, in his second time through the NHL Entry Draft. In his original draft year, he put up 43 points in 23 games in Switzerland’s top U20 junior league. He then moved to the OHL and played for the Guelph Storm in 2011-12. He put up 48 points in 43 games including 35 assists as a 18 year old most of the year. He did enough to get the attention of the Lightning’s scouts.

Richard spent another year in the OHL adding another 51 assists and 62 points in 52 games for Guelph. Guelph was not a great team, and both years were out of the playoffs after the first round. That allowed him to make his AHL debut in 2012-13, getting 3 assists in 8 games. He did not take part in the playoffs, since the Syracuse Crunch were loaded on their way to the Calder Cup finals.

Starting full time in the AHL in 2013-14, he had a slow start to his AHL career with only 17 points in 65 games. He has steadily improved since then adding 38 points in 70 games in 2014-15, and upping that to 54 points in 2015-16 to lead the Crunch in scoring last season.

Through 10 games this year, he’s found a bit of scoring touch, and has had a hat trick putting him at five goals to only two assists. That scoring split is quite the oddity for Richard. Wherever he has gone in his career, he has just vomited out assists every where. Including international play, all levels of play, and playoffs, he hasn’t hit 20 goals in a season since 2011-12.

In a recent interview with Dan D’uva during a Syracuse Crunch broadcast, assistant general manager Julien Briesbois talked about call-up philosophy. The organization considers not only fit for the spot the player is taking, but also how they have been playing recently. Over the past four games, going back over the past week and a half, Richard has five goals and one assist including a hat trick. All five of his goals have come at even strength while his one assist was on the power play.

With Brian Boyle a late scratch for Saturday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Richard could be a call up over the next 24 hours to replace him for Monday’s game at the Nashville Predators. That’s if Boyle isn’t good to go, though he took warm ups before the Flyers game and was a game time decision. Richard was called up during the 2015-16 season and even skated for warm-ups of a game, but has yet to make his NHL debut. If Boyle can’t go, Richard is one of the better options in the organization right now to take his place on the fourth line next to Paquette and J.T. Brown.