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2020-21 Lightning Player Grades: Depth Players

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The depth players played their part, but how did they do?

Tampa Bay Lightning v Florida Panthers Photo by Brian Breseman/NHLI via Getty Images

Welcome to the 2020-21 Raw Charge Lightning Player Grades. Today, we’re starting with the Depth Players. These are all of the skaters that played a minor role with the team throughout the season. They provided depth and injury relief throughout the season for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In this Report Card, we’ll be looking at Alex Barre-Boulet, Gemel Smith, Mitchell Stephens, Andreas Borgman, Ben Thomas, and Fredrik Claesson.

Stats from Player stats for 2020-21 on the player cards have been pro-rated by Evolving-Hockey to an 82 game season.

Alex Barre-Boulet

Regular Season Grade: D+

Playoffs Grade: INC

NHL Stats: 15 GP, 3 Goals, 0 Assists, 3 Points

Player Card:

Barre-Boulet got a chance to play up the line-up with Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat. On the surface, I felt like he was doing alright. He was getting chances and the line seemed like they were doing okay, but when I dug into the numbers, he was definitely dragging Point and Palat down. Barre-Boulet is a player that fans have been super-hyped for the past couple seasons, but he just hasn’t put things together at the NHL level yet. The Lightning need him to. Can he in 2021-22?

My expectations weren’t very high for Barre-Boulet. I have not been as high on him as a lot of fans seem to be. Even by my fairly low expectations, and taking into account the extended opportunity he got on the first line, he under performed. In the introduction to this series, I mentioned how the grading is based off of expectations, but other factors can play into the grading. If he had only played on the fourth line for 15 games and just had the three goals, I’d probably have given him a C-. Because he got the bigger opportunity of an extended stint on the first line, and failed to do better, I bumped him down another grade.

Gemel Smith

Regular Season Grade: C+

Playoffs Grade: INC

NHL Stats: 5 GP, 0 Goals, 3 Assists, 3 Points

Player Card:

Smith didn’t play much for the Lightning, but he was a good depth piece while spending most of the season on the taxi squad. The Lightning have re-signed him to a two-year contract so that should tell you that the Lightning still like him as a depth player that can contribute in the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch while also being a flexible depth player that can play center or wing on the fourth line in the NHL. Smith was also part of the first all-Black forward line in the NHL.

Smith performed basically as I expected him to.

Daniel Walcott

Regular Season Grade: INC

Playoffs Grade: INC

NHL Stats: 1 GP, 0 Goals, 0 Assists, 0 Points

I didn’t bother with Walcott’s player card since he just played the one game. But what a game it was playing with Gemel Smith and Mathieu Joseph to form the first all-Black forward line in NHL history. Walcott is a player that I really appreciate, and it’s not because of his skill. Walcott has never been much of an NHL prospect during his time with the Tampa organization. He came in as a defensemen, then switched to forward, and even in Syracuse mostly plays in the bottom six. He’s a player you can really respect with his work ethic and character. He’s an incredibly important veteran leader to have in Syracuse, almost acting as another coach with the team, leading by example of how to prepare and be a professional hockey player. It was extremely exciting for me to see him get his NHL debut. The only thing that would have made it better, would have been getting a goal and an assist to go along with his fight for a Gordie Howe Hat Trick.

Mitchell Stephens

Regular Season Grade: INC

Playoffs Grade: INC

NHL Stats: 7 GP, 0 Goals, 1 Assists, 1 Points

Player Card:

Stephens caught an unfortunate break when he was pulled down from behind in a game early in the season and his knee bent in a way it shouldn’t bend. The injury forced him to undergo surgery and he missed multiple months of the season. He showed very well during his conditioning stint in the AHL scoring a goal and eight points in four games for the Crunch. It was essentially a lost year for Stephens, but I expect him to be back in the mix as the fourth line center in 2021-22 [for Detroit obviously, since, you know, he was traded...JG]

Stephens gets an Incomplete Grade here because of the amount of time he missed this season with injury.

Andreas Borgman

Regular Season Grade: C

Playoffs Grade: INC

NHL Stats: 7 GP, 0 Goals, 2 Assists, 2 Points

Player Card:

Borgman was brought in during free agency to be a depth piece on the blue line. If the taxi squad didn’t exist, he probably would have been playing most of the season in Syracuse while getting a few call-ups along the way. I can’t really complain about what Borgman brought to the team. It was about what I expected from a player with limited NHL experience.

I expected a little bit more from Borgman, but I can’t complain too much.

Ben Thomas

Regular Season Grade: B

Playoffs Grade: INC

NHL Stats: 5 GP, 0 Goals, 0 Assists, 0 Points

Player Card:

Ben Thomas has been a long time prospect for the Lightning and finally made his NHL debut this season appearing in five games. He didn’t record a goal or assist in his time in the blue and white, but played fairly solid hockey in limited ice time. He’s an unrestricted free agent and has yet to be re-signed. We’ll see if he’s coming back as a depth player, or if he’ll look for a better opportunity somewhere else. [there is a rumored contract with Leksands IF in Sweden —JG.]

My expectations for Thomas entering last season was that he wouldn’t get a chance in the NHL, and if he did that it could be a garbage fire. Honestly, he surprised me and performed better than I thought he would, which gives him a B, even though his actual performance wasn’t amazing.

Fredrik Claesson

Regular Season Grade: C+

Playoffs Grade: INC

NHL Stats: 2 GP, 0 Goals, 0 Assists, 0 Points

Player Card:

Claesson was acquired in a trade late in the season. His purpose was to provide the Lightning with a more solid, left-handed depth option on the blue line. Like Thomas, he didn’t play much with just two games for the Lightning. He has been re-signed however and I expect him to either serve as the 7th defenseman, or hang out for most of the season in Syracuse as a depth defenseman.

I have nothing to complain about with what Claesson did in limited action. He performed as expected.

Next up: The Bottom-Six Forwards