The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Raw Charge community. Ten writers and 106 readers ranked players who were under the age of 25 as of September 1, 2017, in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. Each participant decided upon their own metric, weighing current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. Now, we’ll count down each of the 25 players ranked, plus Honorable Mentions.
Goaltender Connor Ingram had one heck of a rookie season, and his jump up our countdown from last summer’s debut at #21 to #12 this summer reflects it. Clearly both our readers and our writers find value in what the rookie netminder was able to do in AHL Syracuse this past season, and are looking forward to seeing him continue to develop this upcoming season with the same team.
Ingram started out the 2017-18 season as the #2 netminder In Syracuse behind AHL veteran Michael Leighton, a tandem that seemed to be just what the Lightning had ordered. The rookie would be learning from both Leighton and coach Karl Goehring, a former Crunch goalie with over 200 AHL games played in his career. However, as things didn’t exactly start out as planned, the way Ingram reacted and rebounded showed a lot about both his maturity and his potential.
The Crunch’s season got off to a rough start overall. In net, Leighton struggled mightily (and perhaps surprisingly) with consistency from the very beginning, and did not provide the steady veteran presence that a rookie netminder needs. Ideally, the veteran in this situation is a rock, providing easy relief and shouldering the majority of the schedule while the rookie adjusts gradually and naturally to the professional league. This wasn’t happening with Leighton, and Ingram wasn’t able to lean on the veteran as hoped. By the middle of November, Ingram had one win in seven games played.
All of that seemed to change when the Lightning traded for goalie Louis Domingue on November 14th. Domingue came in, shouldered the brunt of the load, and was a big part of getting Syracuse back on its feet. As the team grew in confidence and as the pressure eased, Ingram was allowed to take that rookie position again, growing in ability as his own confidence increased.
Something that also helped him was a brief but encouraging visit to the ECHL. Ingram started three games for the ECHL’s Adirondack Thunder, the Crunch’s unofficial farm team, right before Domingue joined the team. During that time, Ingram went 2-0-1 with a 1.30 goals-against average and a save percentage of .960. His performance was impressive enough to earn him the nod for ECHL Goaltender of the Week for Nov. 6-12. Although it didn’t seem big at the time, this savvy move might have set the stage for what came just a few short weeks later.
After his return from the ECHL, Ingram backstopped his team to nine victories in his next 11 starts. He also earned his first professional shutout on December 9th against the Belleville Senators. The victory extended the Crunch’s season-changing winning streak to 9.
Not long after, Domingue was recalled to the Lightning to replace an injured Peter Budaj, and suddenly Ingram found himself the star of Syracuse’s show. His performance was highlighted by a team-wide bid fueled by desperation to turn the team’s season towards the playoffs. Although the organization had recalled Nick Riopel to help out in Syracuse, it was fairly clear that Ingram was going to be looked to for #1 duties.
Ingram took the reins and helped his team achieve six victories in nine games during the month of January, only getting a brief break in the middle of the month when Domingue was sent to get in a few games. At the end of the month, Ingram had achieved 10 wins in his last 14 games. More importantly, the Crunch was starting to look like a team with playoff potential, thanks in no small part to their netminder.
Things didn’t change when Tampa traded for AHL goalie Eddie Pasquale on January 31st. At the time, Pasquale had amassed 211 career AHL games over seven seasons, and was clearly going to be Ingram’s mentor from there on out. Luckily for all involved, that match immediately worked out better than the Leighton/Ingram pairing at the start of the season. The two jived well from the start, and the Crunch was in good hands:
‘I think Eddie’s pretty open. I know if I ever needed anything, I could ask him. It’s good to learn from him and see the way he does things. He’s a lot different than most of the other guys that have come through here. So, it’s good to have him around. I seemed to click more with him than I have with anybody before that.’
Ingram and Pasquale finished the work Ingram and Domingue had started in November. Syracuse finished second in the North, clinching a playoff spot. They swept the Rochester Americans in the first round, but fell to the eventual Calder Cup champions Toronto in the second. Ingram ended up with more playoff starts than Pasquale, playing four games to Pasquale’s three.
It was Ingram’s heart, however, that perhaps made more of an impression on Crunch and Lightning fans than his playing. Ingram grew up in Imperial, Saskatchewan, a little more than an hour from Humboldt. He played two seasons in the Humboldt Broncos’ program, and knew four of the players that were involved in the bus crash this past season. Although he understandably didn’t show too much to fans, he was clearly playing for more than Syracuse at the end of the season and into the playoffs. He assisted those in Syracuse who wished to help with a fundraising effort, one that came to fruition this past June:
This donation began as a pledge from broadcaster @LukasFavale, and match by @CBIngram1, based on saves by the goaltender following the Humboldt tragedy.@STARSambulance used three aircrafts to transport four patients to area hospitals following the bus accident.— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) June 24, 2018
Overall, Ingram had one of the more memorable rookie seasons in Crunch history, and his achievements, personality, and heart clearly made an impression on those in the Raw Charge community. Given all of that, I cannot possibly end this on such as sad note as the last paragraph, so I’m going to instead end this with a recent dose of Ingram’s signature humor:
Want to hear me talk non-stop and get hit in a sensitive area by a 6 foot 8 human? Here. https://t.co/gtmjRTtfhV— Connor Ingram (@CBIngram1) July 17, 2018