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Lightning Round: Let’s check out the battle for the last few roster spots

With a reduced training camp roster, the coaching staff has a week to figure out who will make the final cut

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New York Rangers v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images

After trimming their training camp roster to 29 players (with two of them heading to injured reserve) the Tampa Bay Lightning are now left with the tough part of training camp - the final cuts. With Anthony Cirelli and Zach Bogosian staring the season on LTIR, the Lightning have a little wiggle room to carry some extra players, but they still have to send at least four players packing. So who is going to make it?

Goaltenders:

Andrei Vasilevksiy and Brian Elliott are the two netminders left in camp and they’re going to be the ones that roll all season long. That was quite easy.

Defense:

We know Victor Hedman, Erik Cernak, Mikhail Sergachev, and Ian Cole are locks for the roster. The left side is set. The right side, not so much. Unfortunately no one has really jumped out to claim a spot.

NIck Perbix has been okay in his two starts in the preseason. He’s played 30:40 at 5v5 and posted a 43.10% share of all shots when he’s on the ice and a 34.64% expected goals. Wait a minute, Justin, those numbers aren’t great. You’re right, but it’s not like any of the defense (or the whole team for that matter) has been dominating puck possession. Compare his numbers with Cal Foote (who has only played in one game): 28.21% of shots and 39.68% of expected goals.

Phillipe Myers has only played one game, but in his 14:34 of ice time he is on the right side of total shots (7-6) and expected goals for (60.54%). Not bad, especially considering the game that he played in, the Lightning lost, 7-1. Remember when we all thought he was going to get bought out when the Lightning traded for him? Now there is a chance he starts the season opener next to Victor Hedman. What a world!

They will have to make some changes once Bogosian is healthy, but for right now they could carry everyone that they have in camp right now and rotate a few players in and out of the line-up. They could, but they probably won’t. If Perbix doesn’t seize the reigns over the next week, the Bolts will likely send him down to Syracuse so that he can get 20 minutes or so of ice time instead of playing once a week. He is still waivers exempt so they can send him down with no fear of losing him, something they would have to worry about with Cal Foote. Sorry Nick, it’s Syracuse for you.

Probably combinations:

Victor Hedman - Phillipe Myers

Mikhail Sergachev - Erik Cernak

Ian Cole - Cal Foote

Hayden Fleury (healthy scratch)

Forwards:

The bubble guys left at forward are: Alex Barre-Boulet, Gabriel Fortier, Cole Koepke, PC Labrie, Simon Ryfors, and Gemel Smith. Of those players Ryfors and Koepke have probably had the best games so far. Ryfors played in one game (that 7-1 loss Myers had a solid game). Despite the Lightning getting outscored 4-1 at 5v5, Ryfors posted a 62.17% xGF and a 70.59% CF.

Koepke has appeared in all three games and, while he’s upside down on shot attempts (32.14%) the chances he’s generated a 49.99% xGF, so he’s had some quality chances. He’s only been on the ice for 10 scoring chances, but 7 of them have been of the high-quality variety.

Smith has struggled a bit in his two appearances but carries a little more experience than the other players, something the Lightning staff values. Barre-Boulet has posted similar numbers to Koepke in three games, but hasn’t really stood out. Labrie brings something the others don’t - size. Is that enough to earn a spot on the fourth line? Probably not.

Koepke likely has the best offensive upside of the players left while Ryfors and Fortier are likely the best fits since they’ll be in the bottom-six if they make the team. There is a danger of losing Smith and Barre-Boulet on waivers like they did last year, but that is a chance the Lightning might be willing to take.

I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that Simon Ryfors makes the roster and is in the opening night line-up with Gemel Smith and Gabriel Fortier also making the cut.

My projected lines:

Vlad Namestnikov - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn - Brayden Point - Brandon Hagel

Simon Ryfors - Nick Paul - Ross Colton

Pat Maroon - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Corey Perry

Gemel Smith (healthy scratch)

Gabriel Fortier (healthy scratch)

A lot can change in a week, but this seems to be a reasonable (and effective) line-up to start the season.

Lightning / NHL News

A look at the lines during Sunday’s practice:

Cole Koepke proving to be quick study as he tries to crack roster [Tampa Bay Times]

After a slow start to his first full American Hockey League season, Koepke grew into one of Syracuse’s best players. His learning didn’t end there. He was one of the Lightning’s “Black Aces,” a group of minor-league players brought up during the postseason to train with the team.

Now, Koepke is a frontrunner to crack the Lightning’s opening-night roster. With center Anthony Cirelli out for the first six to eight weeks of the season while recovering from shoulder surgery, there’s a bottom-six forward spot to be won.

Tampa Bay Lightning season preview [The Athletic]

Tampa Bay finds a way. The Lightning are the epitome of a team that knows how to win, a franchise oozing with championship pedigree. They have the It Factor and killer instinct that other teams are desperate to find. Tampa Bay knows what it takes and there is no sense doubting what they’re capable of.

That’s why there should be few qualms about the team’s projected 103.3 points, or their ranking outside the top five. It doesn’t matter. They’ll very likely make the playoffs with a 90 percent chance and that’s where they instantly become one of the league’s most terrifying teams.

Isaac Howard picked up his first college goal over the weekend.

Ummm okay