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Quick Strikes: The Lightning have four players in the top 30 of NHL.com’s fantasy rankings

Yesterday was the Bolts 31 in 31 at NHL.com

Tampa Bay Lightning v Washington Capitals - Game Four Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Bolts:

You might be thinking that a Sunday in August would be an almost impossible time to find Lightning content. Well, you’d be wrong! Thanks to NHL.com for giving us a series of articles to read today.

Their 31 in 31 series reached Tampa on Sunday. The first piece was a broad overview of the coming season. In it, General Manager Steve Yzerman channeled his inner Chumbawumba in talking about the team’s goal being to win a Stanley Cup.

“[For the] majority of teams, it takes a long time to get there, and you can’t get discouraged by the setbacks,” Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said. “Our goal here is to win more than one, but let’s try to win one. It’s a difficult thing to do, and you have to stick with it. You get knocked down, you get back up and you learn from it and keep moving on.”

In the “3 Questions” article, Corey Long asked, among other things, if Tyler Johnson will have a bounce back year.

After signing a seven-year, $35 million contract last offseason, Johnson had 50 points (21 goals, 29 assists) and struggled to produce offense after the All-Star break. The 28-year-old center had 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in his final 33 games and lost ice time to Yanni Gourde and Anthony Cirelli. After scoring two goals in the first two Stanley Cup Playoff games, Johnson scored once in his final 15 games.

While those splits are interesting, Johnson’s season in 2017-2018 was already an improvement on 2016-2017. And if the question is whether he’ll ever get back to the triplets version of himself, the answer is almost certainly, “no.” Nikita Kucherov was the driver on that line and unless Johnson somehow finds himself back with Kucherov in the future, he’ll likely never replicate those results. He’s a solid middle six option and expecting any more than that will lead to disappointment.

Long also ranked the top five prospects in the Lightning system. He has Anthony Cirelli at the top of the list.

The 21-year-old plays a game bigger than his size (6-foot, 180 pounds) and quickly found a role as a defensive forward, relentless forechecker and reliable penalty killer.

Cirelli’s commitment to both ends of the ice should make the Lightning a better defensive team and better on the penalty kill (28th last season). He’s expected to center the third line with Alex Killorn and Yanni Gourde, where he will be matched up against opposing top-six forwards.

While I can’t find too much fault with his rankings, I do think Boris Katchouk should’ve made the list. I would’ve had him over three of the five players that were included. People are sleeping on Katchouk but that will probably come to an end after they see him in Syracuse this year.

I don’t play fantasy hockey but if you do, this fantasy breakdown might interest you. The Lightning have four players in the top 30 of the NHL rankings: Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Victor Hedman.

Steven Stamkos, C (12) -- The 28-year-old had his highest point total since 2011-12. His 86 points (27 goals, 59 assists) were second on the Lightning behind Kucherov and 12th in the NHL. He finished tied for third in the NHL with 15 power-play goals, a trend he carried over to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, when he scored six (T-1st). The Lightning had the third-ranked power play in the NHL (23.9 percent) and should have the opportunity to be among the best in the NHL for a second straight season. Given the chemistry formed with Kucherov and Tampa Bay’s overall team security, Stamkos should be selected in the first round of season-long fantasy drafts.

In the final installment of the series, Rob Vollman looked at some stats for the Lightning. Last season, the Lightning used seven defenders more than any other team in the league.

Using seven defensemen gives the Lightning more flexibility to develop young players at the position, including Mikhail Sergachev, Slater Koekkoek and Jake Dotchin, who began last season with a combined 80 games of NHL experience. It also allows them to utilize defensemen in specific roles, such as Sergachev as an offensive specialist; his 70.08 percent zone-start percentage at 5-on-5 was first among 240 NHL defensemen who played at least 20 games.

Depending on how things go in camp, head coach Jon Cooper could use this strategy again this season. As of now, the Lightning still have eight defenders who are capable of playing NHL minutes. If they want to find minutes for Koekkoek and Dotchin this year, they’ll likely need to play seven defenders because scratching either Braydon Coburn or Dan Girardi seems unlikely.

The Prospects

Check out this podcast featuring Lightning CEO Steve Griggs and Orlando Solar Bears head coach Drake Berehowsky to learn more about the Bolts’ new ECHL affiliate.

The Game

The Jets signed last summer’s first-round pick Kristian Vesalainen to an entry-level contract.

It sounds like Henrik Zetterberg might be reaching the end of his career in Detroit.

If this is the end for Zetterberg, it would be the end of an amazing career. At his peak, he was one of the best player in the world. He had some of his best seasons prior to the NHL providing shot data but the early years in this chart show just how good his peak was.