As the Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper mentioned earlier this week, Mitchell Stephens is close to his return and will be in the day-to-day category starting next week. The 24-year old forward hasn’t played since sustaining a knee injury in the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets in January. However his roster spot doesn’t look as vacant as it seemed to be back in January as Ross Colton has really proven himself as a solid fourth line center recently.
Colton impressed many of the Lightning fans and experts with his quick start. He scored a goal in his debut and recorded four points in seven games so far. He fitted very well on the fourth line alongside Pat Maroon and Mathieu Joseph, receiving compliments from his linemates. Due to a small sample size it’s still very difficult to evaluate objectively his performance in the NHL, however it’s enough to make some assumptions.
Both Colton and Stephens have good size and are suited perfectly for a fourth-line role. Stephens is faster and more effective at forechecking, while Colton has a little bit higher offensive upside and used to play on the power-play in the AHL. Both players are very good defensively and very strong at face-offs.
In seven starts this season Colton posted 49.5 CF% at 5v5, while having started 51.3 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone. Stephens posted just 39.9 CF% in four games he played, last regular season he finished with 53.4 CF%, despite starting 56.5% of his shifts in defensive zone. Colton has proven himself good at drawing penalties; so far this season he already drew three two-minutes penalties and has taken just one.
Ross Colton is also exceeding Mitchell Stephens in expected goal share at 5v5 according to naturalstattrick.com with 56.16 xGF% at 5v5 in comparison to Stephens’ 35.98 xGF%, however as a I mentioned before, both players’ stats are very inflated due to the number of games they played.
Another interesting thing I noticed is that Ross Colton is currently the third player in the NHL in WAR/60, a statistic which measure how many “wins” players provide their team. But again this is also affected by a small sample size.
This is still very early to say who’s suited better for the fourth-line center role, however we know for sure that Colton will pose some competition to Stephens for this spot. Colton benefited due to a bigger number of offensive zone starts, however Stephens is more experienced and already appeared in seven playoffs games. With the Lightning cap space issues, both players could easily play in the NHL in the same roster.
Who would you take as a fourth-line center?
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The Tampa Bay Lightning recalled forward Gemel Smith and Christopher Gibson from the Syracuse Crunch, Taylor Raddysh and Spencer Martin went the opposite direction.
The Syracuse Crunch defeated the Rochester Americans 4-3 in overtime on Friday night. The Florida Panthers prospect Grigiri Denisenko scored a game-winning goal. The Crunch extended their winning streak to four games.
Deni with the game-winner! pic.twitter.com/ssQVk3rKpA— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) March 27, 2021
Meanwhile tonight’s game against the Utica Comets was postponed due to the league COVID-19 protocols.
Tomorrow’s game against the Utica Comets has been postponed.— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) March 26, 2021
A make-up date has yet to be determined.https://t.co/JYOY7t1c39
The Orlando Solar Bears completed a comeback after trailing 0-3 in the first period to the South Carolina Stingrays to earn a 6-3 victory. The Solar Bears have now won three consecutive games.
Well, that escalated quickly... pic.twitter.com/N7h0JEIUst— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) March 27, 2021
TRADE: We have acquired a third-round pick and fifth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for forward Eric Staal.— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) March 26, 2021
Details: https://t.co/vren1YSW8J pic.twitter.com/KVF5jD5HeR
Initially the Canadiens were on the Eric Staal’s no-trade list.
Montreal was among the 10 teams listed on Eric Staal's no-trade list, and he obviously waived to facilitate this move to the #habs.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) March 26, 2021
Meanwhile the Sabres are already exploring opportunities to trade their other players. Taylor Hall could be also on move.
Hearing that the initial asking price for Taylor Hall involves a first-round pick... Probably going to be tough to get that in this buyer's market but it's the right place to start two weeks out if you're Buffalo. @TheAthletic @TSNHockey— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) March 26, 2021
The Florida Panthers placed a former Lightning defenceman Anton Stralman on waivers.
Anton Stralman, placed on waivers by FLA, is a third-pairing defenceman with solid offence and penalty impacts but who has struggled defensively for the past three seasons. #FlaPanthers pic.twitter.com/96HMtkGOv4— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) March 26, 2021
The Michigan hockey team withdraws from the NCAA Tournament due to a positive COVID-19 test. The Minnesota Dulith will advance to the next round automatically.