Boris Katchouk just edged out Taylor Raddysh in our Top 25 Under 25 rankings this season, but the difference wasn’t that great. That seems to be the story of their careers withing the Tampa Bay Lightning during their tenure in the organization. When you hear one name, chances are you will hear the other shortly after. Which is a little surprising because they have two completely different styles to their game.
Raddysh is an offense-first shooter who has had to work hard on his defense and occasionally his focus, Katchouk has been the prototypical, 200-foot player who is out there working hard whenever he’s on the ice. Yet, despite their different approaches to the game, they will both likely be on the Lightning roster at some point this season.
Personally, I think Katchouk should have an edge to make the roster early in the year simply because he’s a better fit for what the Lightning are looking for as a fourth-line forward. Katchouk isn’t going to hurt you in the defensive zone and can provide a bit of offense up front. There isn’t anything that really stands out in his game, he just does everything really well.
In open ice, Katchouk has pretty good speed even if it takes him a little while to get going. Still, he’s able to put himself in spots to score goals and has shown a knack for finding the back of the goal. It took him a couple of seasons to get going in the goal department in the AHL, recording 25 goals in his first 135 games with the Crunch (.18 goals per game). Last season he dented the back of the net 11 times in 29 games (.38 goals per game). Way back in his junior career (2015-18) he scored 101 goals in 199 games with the Soo Greyhounds. That’s pretty impressive (especially since he added 101 assists as well).
Last season was the first season he scored above a point a game in the AHL, a good sign that he can carry some of that offense into the NHL. Another good sign is that he didn’t rely on special teams to pump up his goal stats. Among his 26 career goals with Syracuse, only 4 have come on the power play. Almost as many, 3, have come shorthanded. If he makes the Lightning roster he likely won’t see much time on the power play, so he’ll have to generate his offense at even strength.
He is also quite versatile. Not only can he play all aspects of the game, he can line up at center or on the wing. The Crunch started lining him up in the middle of the ice two seasons ago, and after a little adjustment period, held up pretty well. The Lightning are stacked down the middle of the ice, but Coach Cooper does like having options and flexibility in his line-up.
Last season was a big one for the 6’2” forward as the organization was looking for him to step up as a leader and veteran on the Crunch. He responded by leading the team in offense and putting himself on the short list of players that could crack the line-up this season. He was part of the black aces/taxi squad during the playoffs and had a chance to lift the Cup in Amalie Arena after they defeated the Montreal Canadiens.
This season will be just as important for Katchouk. Either he will make the opening day roster and show that he is NHL ready, or he will have to head back to Syracuse and not let the disappointment of not making the roster show. Even with veterans like Gabriel Dumont on the Crunch, Katchouk will be one of the leaders for what could be a very young squad for the Lightning affiliate.
There is a chance he could get claimed on on waivers if the Lightning send him down, but the team that claims him would be taking a chance on a rookie forward with zero NHL experience and a three-year contract. That’s a pretty big risk to take.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Katchouk get a lot of ice time in the exhibition games this preseason. The coaching staff will want to see how he handles himself against NHL-level competition. His size and skill should carry over to the highest level and if he doesn’t make it on the team at the beginning of the season, there is a really good chance he’s there within a couple of months.