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2017 Lightning Draft Preview

Introduction

After a very unconventional 2016-2017 Tampa Bay Lightning prospect season concluded with the Syracuse Crunch being defeated in six games in the Calder Cup Final, 2017-2018 had an unconventional beginning with the acquisition of defenseman Mikhail Sergachev and the looming Las Vegas Expansion Draft. Unconventional doesn't equal bad, though, when evaluating the state of the Lightning prospect system heading into the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. There are still some moving parts to consider heading into the Expansion Draft, and this preview may be subject to change based on the outcome of that event, but on balance the Lightning enter the draft in a position of strength.

Way-Too-Early Roster Projections

As the Lightning trudge through the offseason swamp, we’ll keep a running list of best-guess rosters for Tampa Bay and Syracuse based on players available to them. Use the old “if the season started today” when looking at this. Of note: Unless you’re reading this on opening night, the season doesn’t start today and fans should never judge an offseason until the puck drops on the season.

With that said, here’s where players slot if the season were to start today. Notable RFA’s are included, but UFA’s are not. We will also not make bold predictions such as Ben Thomas unseating Anton Stralman because of his offseason workout magic, or anything like that. If a Brayden Point situation happens, it just happens. Depth charts (NOT line combos) are based on probability and relative status to their peers as of this moment.

Here we go:

Blog: The (Drouin) Magic is Gone

When you watch a magician as a kid, you want to believe the act is 100% real. You’re skeptical, but you want to believe – because if this is stuff is indeed real, it opens up a world you didn’t think was actually possible.

Then your dad tells you the handkerchief was up the guy’s sleeve and that belief is squashed like an East German roach beneath a boot.

I kinda feel like that right now.

Bolts Trade Drouin to Montreal; Acquire Sergachev, 2018 2nd Round Pick

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have acquired defenseman Mikhail Sergachev and a conditional second round 2018 draft selection from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for forward Jonathan Drouin and a conditional 2018 sixth round pick, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.

Sergachev, 18, skated in four games with the Canadiens this season, recording a plus-1 rating. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound defenseman made his NHL debut last season on October 13 against the Buffalo Sabres. He also played in 50 games with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League, posting 10 goals and 43 points. Sergachev led all Spitfire defensemen for assists (33), points, power-play assists (10) and penalty minutes (71).

The Nizhnekamsk, Russia native recently won the 2017 Memorial Cup as a member of the Spitfires. Sergachev posted a goal and four points in four games during the Memorial Cup tournament. He also notched a goal and three assists in seven OHL playoff games. Sergachev has played in 117 games during two OHL seasons, both with Windsor, registering 27 goals and 100 points.

Sergachev was originally selected by Montreal in the first round, ninth overall, at the 2016 NHL Draft.

AHL Playoff Game Night: 6-13-17 Crunch at Griffins

Crunchning Death Star runs aground in Grand Rapids.

SYR-3
GR-4

Grand Rapids Wins the Series 4-2

Mike McKenna allowed 4 goals on 26 shots for the loss.

First Period
14:09 SYR Gourde (8), (Conacher)

Second Period
0:18 GR Ford (8), (Nosek)(PP)
7:51 SYR Taormina (5), (Bournival, Lynch)
11:50 GR Callahan (6), (Street)
18:10 SYR Gourde (9), (Masin, Taormina)

Third Period
3:50 GR Bertuzzi (9), (Frk, Nosek)
12:41 GR Frk (5), (Lashoff, Nosek)

Yanni Gourde was the game's third star.

It's a painful way for the season to end. The Crunch were 20 minutes away from forcing a somewhat improbable Game Seven encounter before the wheels finally came off. It's been a special team and a special, likely one-off, moment in time for Syracuse. The Crunch are likely to have a youth movement next season, particularly at forward. This veteran laden team will likely move along to the NHL, in a few cases, or to other teams/leagues in quite a few others. The big upside of this run for the Tampa Bay Lightning? In my opinion, it's a lot of quality minutes in pressure situations played by defenseman prospects like Slater Koekkoek, Jake Dotchin, Dominik Masin, and Ben Thomas.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

Crunch Set Tone With First Shift, Beat Griffins in Game 5


By Jeremy Houghtaling

The Syracuse Crunch’s offense set the tone on the first shift.

Kevin Lynch’s goal 17 seconds in got the Crunch rolling and the team netted five goals before the first intermission, as Syracuse routed the Grand Rapids Griffins, 5-1,in Game 5 of the Calder Cup Finals at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.

The Crunch cut the Griffins’ series lead to 3-2, with Game 6 set for Tuesday in Grand Rapids.

“That first 17 seconds was unbelievable,” Crunch goalie Mike McKenna said. “We got the puck deep. We got four or five hits — they looked like the Hanson Brothers — and then it’s in the net. What that does for your bench and seeing Kevin’s raw emotion after scoring that goal? It’s huge, for sure. It really sets the tone.”

AHL Playoff Game Night: 6-10-17 Griffins at Crunch

Crunchning Death Star destroys one last opponent in the home barn this year.

GR-1
SYR-5

Grand Rapids Leads the Series 3-2

Mike McKenna allowed 1 goal on 37 shots for the victory. That's a quality performance at a moment the team really needed it with their backs against the wall.

First Period
0:17 SYR Lynch (3), (Dumont, Bournival)
4:33 SYR Brodeur (1), (Erne, Walcott)
14:05 SYR Froese (6), (Gourde, McGinn)
17:19 SYR Conacher (12), (Thomas, Gourde)(PP)
19:16 SYR Thomas (5), (Gourde, Conacher)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
5:58 GR Street (8), (Hicketts, Paetsch)

Yanni Gourde, McKenna, and Cory Conacher were the game's three stars.

It's not surprising that Syracuse was able to dig deep and have this kind of performance in an elimination, or that Grand Rapids had a slight let down after getting out to a 3-1 series lead. As an aside, this makes those three one goal losses sting all the more. Syracuse finds themselves in the position of being a solid +3 in goal differential in this series despite being down 3-2.

The bottom line for Syracuse is that if they stay out of the box and play with their best energy, they've still got a shot to win this series. The key is to not fall in the media trap/frame of thinking about "winning two games in Grand Rapids." You have to focus solely on Game Six and proving you can win one game in Grand Rapids. If you do, of course it's possible to pick off the second one. Tuesday's the day we'll see if that question gets answered affirmatively.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

Late Flurry Not Enough For Crunch in Game 4 Loss to Griffins


By Jeremy Houghtaling

The Syracuse Crunch’s late flurry wasn’t enough.

The Crunch cut their three goal deficit to one in the third period and created chaos in front of the Griffins’ net on a 6-on-4 near the end of regulation, but Jared Coreau finished with 31 saves to lift Grand Rapids over Syracuse, 3-2, in Game 4 of the Calder Cup Finals at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday. It’s the first time the Crunch have lost on home ice this postseason.

Grand Rapids leads the series 3-1, with Syracuse set to host Game 5 Saturday.

“We had a good start, then for some reason it seems they took the momentum of the game for 25, 30 minutes, and then we got it back in the third period,” Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx said. “We had chances. Never quit. Showed a lot of character, but their goalie was good at the end. They blocked many, many shots.

“I thought we did many good things, but they’re a good team and that’s playoff hockey.”

AHL Playoff Game Night: 6-9-17 Griffins at Crunch

Undisciplined, frustrated Crunch on the brink.

GR-3
SYR-2

Grand Rapids Leads the Series 3-1

Mike McKenna allowed 3 goals on 35 shots for the loss.

First Period
10:00 GR Street (7), (Callahan, Tangradi)
17:48 GR Renouf (1), (unassisted)

Second Period
10:33 GR Renouf (2), (Tangradi)
11:45 SYR Gourde (7), (Conacher, McGinn)

Third Period
7:29 SYR Bournival (8), (Dumont, Koekkoek)

Yanni Gourde was the game's three stars.

What a frustrating spot for the Crunch to be in, falling behind 3-1 in the series with all three losses coming by one goal margins. As with Game One, in particular, a lot of difficulty tonight was the Crunch getting into penalty trouble. That doesn't always kill you directly with goals, but it allows your opponent to build possession and momentum and it chops up your flow and ability to get on track offensively. Now, after dropping their first game of the playoffs at home, the key for Syracuse is to not try to get it all back in a single period. The old cliche of "one game at a time" applies: the mission is to pick off Game Five and extend the series back to Grand Rapids and just give yourselves a chance for the comeback.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

Crunch Win Special Teams Battle, Game 3 Against Griffins


By Jeremy Houghtaling

The Syracuse Crunch won the special teams battle in a crucial Game 3.

The Crunch netted a pair of power play markers and held the Griffins off the board with the man-advantage, as Syracuse topped Grand Rapids, 5-3, in Game 3 of the Calder Cup Finals Friday.

The Crunch cuts the Griffins’ series lead to 2-1, with Game 4 set for Friday in Syracuse.

“I believe our specialty teams were good tonight,” Syracuse head coach Benoit Groulx said. “Our PK was solid. We had good sticks, blocked shots, our goalie was good. Our power play go had two goals. That was them the other night with three goals on the power play and a solid PK. Tonight it’s us.”

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