The Tampa Bay Lightning have announced the recall of defenseman Jake Dotchin from the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL. The Lightning achieved a victory against the Los Angeles Kings Monday afternoon, but did it without defenseman Victor Hedman in the lineup. It was reported that Hedman was out with illness. He came out for warm-ups but did not finish, and Luke Witkowski took his place in the line up.
If it’s not Hedman, then the only other conclusion would be that another defenseman was injured against the Kings. Frankly, that wouldn’t be surprising, especially given the record number of hits (41) the team laid on the Kings during the game.
The one area that the Lightning haven’t had to deal with any major injuries has been the defense. Anton Stralman has missed nine games. Other than that, the blue line has been remarkably healthy. Hedman, Andrej Sustr, Jason Garrison, and Braydon Coburn have missed a game here and there, but nothing serious. It’s been a stark contrast to the forward group that has been decimated by injuries all year.
Jake Dotchin is in his third year of professional hockey and the last year of his entry level contract. He was a 6th-round selection by the Lightning in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. He spent his junior career playing in the OHL with the Owen Sound Attack and the Barrie Colts. Over three seasons in the OHL, he had 77 points in 193 games. When he was drafted, there was a hope that his offense would develop and he would become a two-way, third pair defenseman in the NHL. That forecast has dropped a bit, and he’s transitioned more towards being a physical, stay at home defenseman.
In his first season with the Crunch, Dotchin had 20 points in 55 games. He saw a decline in his sophomore campaign as he dipped to 11 points in 67 games. He also put up 114 and 120 penalty minutes in those two years. So far this season, he has 12 points in 33 games, a significant improvement. He also has 77 penalty minutes.
Dotchin isn’t afraid to mix it up physically. He reminds me a bit of Luke Witkowski in the way he plays the game. He has 16 fights over his three years in the AHL, but only two fights this season. At 6’3” and 210 pounds, there is plenty of meat on his bones.
However, it is still a bit of a surprise that he is getting the call-up. Unless he is replacing Witkowski on the third pair or playing as a seventh defenseman, there is no clear spot for him in the lineup. This is his first NHL call up, and if he plays, it will be his NHL debut. Witkowski isn’t anything to write home about in the skill department, but he at least brings a level of experience that Dotchin doesn’t have.
The other side of the coin is going back to a thought that we had here not too long ago. Is Yzerman auditioning prospects for next year? Is this just the latest in the conga line of different players making their way from Syracuse to Tampa (33 different players have dressed so far this season)? It also begs the question, why not Slater Koekkoek? He is a clearly better player and prospect than Dotchin, but is being left in Syracuse after his recent demotion. It makes you wonder.
We’ll wait and see as the day goes on to see if Dotchin will make his NHL debut against the Anaheim Ducks or if he’ll be serving popcorn. We may know more soon when coach Jon Cooper is available to the media. Or we may have to wait until the players take the ice for warm-ups to find out what’s going on.