After a successful playoff run that saw them take down the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, and press the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins to a seventh and deciding game, the Tampa Bay Lightning led by head coach Guy Boucher will be looking to take a step forward this year.
With departures including Sean Bergenheim, Simon Gagne and Mike Smith but no one brought in to replace them, they’ll have to rely upon existing resources to improve to get them to the next level.
Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St Louis continue to lead up front along with Steven Stamkos, and Victor Hedman should continue to evolve as a top-level defender.
Goaltending could be a question mark of Dwayne Roloson ever realizes how old he is—but for now, it appears secure.
For now, the Lightning will most likely find themselves fighting for the Southeast Division title with the Washington Capitals, but will most likely lose out on the automatic top-3 seed, and be in a fight to qualify for home ice advantage in the Eastern Conference.
The Lightning could do some damage in the playoffs.
Forwards The Lightning have some elite talent, but are there any hidden gems?
Steven Stamkos The young sniper had another outstanding season, posting 45 goals and 91 points. One of the league’s best goal scorers, he stands a chance at potting 50 next season. He had a fast start and cooled off, but if he can find consistency this year, the sky is the limit.
Lecavalier’s 100 point days are likely behind him, but last year’s poor numbers may be deceiving. He scored only 21 points in his first 34 games, but 33 points in his last 31 games. So, the potential for 30 goals and 80 points is still very real. Lecavalier is still very talented, he just needs to stay healthy.
Martin St. Louis The diminutive winger enjoyed one of his best seasons last year. Playing alongside Steven Stamkos has seemed to rejuvenate St. Louis. With 30 goals and 99 points, surely the potential is there for him to near 100 points this time out. Still supremely talented, he’s got plenty left in the tank for a 36 year old.
Ryan Malone Malone battled injuries last year, but is a great complimentary player for the skilled teammates. Malone is a rugged winger capable of scoring 25 goals and 50 points, and given a plum spot on a line alongside either Lecavalier or Martin St Louis, Malone could repeat those numbers.
Steve Downie For all the Lightning forwards that are great with the puck, Downie is one of their players willing to go get it. Last year he battled injuries but managed a modest point per game pace of .56. That’s approximately a 45 point pace. Expect 45-50 points this year.
Dominic Moore Moore is a versatile player that is ideal for third line and penalty killing situations. He stepped up last year in the playoffs with 11 points in 18 games. During the season, 20 goals and 35 points are within reach. Do not expect much more.
Carter Ashton Ashton may be a very nice complimentary winger for the talented ‘big three’ in Tampa. The 6’3” 205 lbs first round draft pick from 2009 had a solid season in the WHL last year with 71 points in just over 60 games, and 100+ penalty minutes. He could claim a spot out of camp and make the most of it.
Teddy Purcell Purcell is another one of Tampa Bay’s nice complimentary players. Capable of scoring and setting up goals, 50 points are a distinct possibility for the former Los Angeles King. If he plays consistently with St Louis and Stamkos this year, there is a chance for even more.
Victor Hedman The 6’6” 230 lbs defender is poised for a breakout season. With 26 points last year, Hedman averaged 21 minutes of ice time and has only scratched the surface of his potential. Much more is expected from him. This coming season, 35-40 points are within reach.
Marc-Andre Bergeron The under-sized defender possesses tremendous offensive instincts and a cannon for a shot. He’ll nevre be a team’s best penalty killer or crease clearer, but he’ll produce for you on the power play. 35-40 points are very possible for this talented blueliner.
Dwayne Roloson Roloson was acquired from Long Island and played extremely well. He was terrific for the majority of the playoffs and hopes to continue where he left off.
Prediction - 28 Wins
Mathieu Garon Garon is a solid goalie who plays very well in stretches, but has never been able to hang onto a starting job. He’ll get his chance to play plenty of games, and could wrestle away the starting job if he plays up to his potential.
Prediction - 18 wins
Purcell played extremely well in the playoffs last year, building upon a 51 points season.
Only 26 years old, Purcell has the possibility to score 60+ points. He’s shown proficiency at scoring goals and setting up plays. His playoff run included 17 points in 18 games, so greater numbers are definitely possible.
If he can stick on a line with Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, he’ll be a worthwhile pick up.
W Carter Ashton The 20 year old, 6’3”, forward could impress in training camp and land a job on one of the top three lines. Odds are that injuries will strike throughout the year, and Ashton could receive a call up and a solid opportunity playing on one of the Lightning’s top lines for a period, alongside Lecavalier or Stamkos. If he sticks, his size and skill are an attractive combination to compliment the Bolts talented top end players.
Potential Breakout Player
The big Swede is slowly building his resume. Last year he averaged 21 minutes of ice time and converted 26 points.
Spoiled by the likes of Drew Doughty and Tyler Myers, most young blue chip defensemen take a few years to realize their potential.
Especially true for larger players, Hedman may have taken a couple of years to realize his potential, but as he grows into his 6’6” frame, he will become a dangerous player and a real fantasy option for owners seeking all around defenders with the capability to notch 40+ points.
This could be a breakout year for Hedman.
Fantasy Hockey Toolkit Central 2011-12 Season Previews
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