On Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Lightning took their first step to deciding on a final roster for the 2021-22 NHL season as they reduced their training camp numbers by seven players. There were no real surprises among the bunch as five of the players are being sent to their junior hockey teams and the other two (Xavier Cormier and Avery Winslow) were on in camp on a try-out basis.
The junior players heading back to their teams are:
Jack Finley - Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
Niko Huuhtanen - Everett Silvertips (WHL)
Cameron MacDonald - St. John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Declan McDonnell - Kitchner Rangers (OHL)
Roman Schmidt - Kitchner Rangers (OHL)
As the players were all 2020 or 2021 draft picks they weren’t expected to make the team out of camp and since they are still junior-eligible, it makes sense to get them back to their teams as soon as possible in order to get their seasons going. Without a doubt the week they spent training with the Lightning veterans and coaching staff provided them a ton of valuable experience. They also leave with instructions on the parts of their games that need work.
For the coaching staff, it’s seven fewer bodies that they have to keep an eye on and allows them to concentrate a little harder on the players fighting for spots on the roster. Most of the 53 players left in camp will be playing professional hockey this season, the only determination will be at what level.
It’s a shame that the ride ends for Avery Winslow, the local product that has been living out his childhood dream playing for a team he rooted for as a kid. He is likely to head back to the North Bay Battalion for another season in the OHL. If he plays well, who knows, the Lightning might give him another shot.
Xavier Cormier also has another year of junior eligibility, but as a 20-year-old he could also head to the AHL. Cormier had a strong prospect showcase and seemed to be doing well in camp. Could it have been enough to earn an AHL deal with the Crunch or another squad? Possibly. He was a point-per-game player with Shawinigan and Rimouski last year and as an overager should be on pace for a prolific season in the QMJHL. Depending on what the staff thinks about him, they might give him a shot at Syracuse or Orlando.
These were the easiest cuts the team will make in training camp. From here on out, other than some goaltenders and a few defensemen, just about everyone has a shot at making the Lightning. They still have to trim about 30 players before opening night to get to the magic number of 53. The next week or so will go a long way to determining which players make it to the final roster.
Lightning / NHL News
Cal Foote dropped a spot from last year’s Top 25 Under 25 rankings, coming at the number 6 spot this year. While his season is off to a bumpy start due to a hand injury, this could be the season he cements his place as an everyday NHL defender. [Raw Charge]
Ready to remember some old players? Geo delved into the history books (or web pages) to look at the first and last trade of every Lightning GM in franchise history. [Raw Charge]
With the exception of Cal Foote and prospect Odeen Tufto (recovering from knee surgery) the Lightning made it through the first week relatively injury free. On Tuesday, they had their first player get a little dinged up as Gemel Smith left a scrimmage in Tampa a little early. He didn’t practice on Wednesday as Coach Cooper said he was a little “nicked up”, but hopefully it’s a short term injury. Smith does have a shot at filling one of the bottom-six openings on the roster. [NHL.com]
Bally’s Sports Sun announced that they will be broadcasting 69 regular season Lightning games in 2021-22. Their coverage, along with the national broadcasts on ESPN/Turner means all 82 games will be on TV. Hopefully, their coverage won’t be plagued by some of the technical errors they had last season. Bally’s will also broadcast the preseason game against the Florida Panthers in Orlando next Tuesday. [Twitter]
Speaking of preseason games, the Lightning take on the Nashville Predators at Amalie Arena tonight. Expect to see a few more veterans in the line-up as the staff gets them some game work after a lot of practices against their own players.
Mikhail Sergachev is a pretty good defenseman. I think we can all agree on that. What might be scary is that the 23-year-old hasn’t reached his full potential yet. He wants to get better. While he improved his defensive game last season, he wasn’t satisfied with the offensive side. If he can combine both aspects and play with consistency, it won’t be long until the Norris Trophy whispers begin. [Tampa Bay Times]
Old friend Evgeny Artyukhin, drafted by the Lightning way back in 2001, is back at it for another season as he signed to play with Admiral Vladivostok in the KHL. The 38-year-old will be playing for his ninth different KHL team. [HC Admiral Vladivostock]
As the hockey team in Chicago waits for Jonathan Toews and Kirby Dach to fully mend, a familiar name might start the season as their number one center. Old friend Tyler Johnson might find himself lining up at center between Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat when the season starts. Not a bad spot to be for a player that was skating on the fourth line in Tampa. [Chicago Sun Times]