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Quick Strikes: Prospect depth at defense becoming a strength for Tampa Bay Lightning

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Cal Foote, Dominik Masin, and Erik Cernak all took major steps last season. Also a hot hot Tom Wilson Washington Capitals take.

Braydon Coburn #55 of the Tampa Bay Lightning fights with Tom Wilson #43 of the Washington Capitals during the first period in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 23, 2018 in Tampa, Florida.
Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

The Bolts

Erik Cernak excelled in his first professional season. Paired with fellow youngester Dominik Masin, the two put up better-than-expected numbers on the Syracuse Crunch’s second pair. [Raw Charge]

Cernak spent much of the season paired with Dominik Masin. Masin’s steady presence and quiet, solid season clearly made an impression on Cernak, and the partnership probably helped him make the leap from juniors to the professional leagues. Honestly, it was rather hard to tell if Cernak had any trouble at all adjusting.

John Tortorella and Jon Cooper both made the Tampa Bay Times’ list of the 50 best coaches in Tampa Bay area history. [Tampa Bay Times]

Remember him, for he was the lion tamer and the lion. John Robert Tortorella, the indomitable Johnny Torts, was the firebrand behind the Lightning’s rise from nowhere to the top of hockey, capped by its Stanley Cup win in 2004.

Tortorella has seemed a loud, disappointing caricature at times since those days, but he was beyond real when he took over the Lightning in the middle of the 2000-01 season, when the franchise represented the dregs of hockey.

That was the talk.

Joe Smith answers your off-season questions about the Tampa Bay Lightning. There’s some Steven Stamkos, Erik Karlsson, and fixing the defense. All the hits. [The Athletic]

Depends on what “Stamkos of old” you’re referring to. With Steven Stamkos having undergone surgeries to repair a broken leg in 2013-14 and a torn lateral meniscus in 2016, the captain has often referred to accepting his “new norm” in terms of how he feels and plays. He knows he’s not the same player as he was six years ago when the Rocket Richard-winner racked up 60 goals.

The Prospects

Guess who was also mic’d up for the Bolts’ Development Camp!

“OH!” - Alex Barre-Boulet.

Cal Foote successfully made it onto Scott Wheeler’s Top 50 Drafted NHL Prospects list this summer. Anthony Cirelli, Taylor Raddysh, Boris Katchouk, and Mathieu Joseph all made the honourable mentions. [The Athletic]

Sometimes, I don’t think people truly realize how much of a force Cal Foote was in junior hockey last year. When conversations are had about the CHL’s best defenceman, Foote is rarely among the first few names. By year’s end, his first all-star team nod was as well-deserved as they get. Not only was he the league’s second-most productive defenceman (behind Clague but ahead of Jokiharju, Smith, Valimaki and company), but he was also among the league’s leaders in all of his defensive results, on a team that wasn’t a true contender.

Former Lightning prospect Libor Hajek believesd he has what it takes to make the New York Rangers next season. [NHL dot com]

Libor Hajek was coveted by the New York Rangers for many reasons, including his size (6-foot-2, 202 pounds), skating, two-way play, presence on the ice and character. They’ve learned since acquiring the 20-year-old defenseman in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Feb. 26 that he’s oozing with confidence too.

”I believe I will do everything to make the team, and I believe I will make it this year,” Hajek said during the Rangers’ prospect development camp earlier this summer. “That’s my goal and I will do everything for it.”

The Game

The Washington Capitals locked up their final player this summer. Tom Wilson will now make $5.17 million for six seasons. This could be one of the worst contracts in the NHL very quickly. [Japers Rink (psst. read the comments)]

Wilson had 35 points last season, he only scored seven goals in each of the previous two before that. And yet he will be making more than the following 10 players who are all unequivocally better than him: Sean Couturier, Nazem Kadri, Tyler Johnson, Brayden Schenn, Bryan Little, Elias Lindholm, Alexander Wennberg, Reilly Smith, Vincent Trochek, Viktor Arvidsson. The list could be a lot longer if I didn’t realized this article was going to be very very late if I kept going.

The reaction online seems pretty unanimous on this one. Use the link here to see all of the reactions from most of Hockey Twitter, I’m going to post my favourites below.

And, finally, here’s my take (If I’m allowed one): The Washington Capitals will not win another Stanley Cup while Tom Wilson is on that contract. But they just won one so I assume Caps fans are just showing me their middle finger at this moment.

Anyway, here’s a gif of a cat tackling another cat with perfect form and in slow motion.