Articles that are feature stories.

Vermin Motivated By First Taste of NHL Action

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Joel Vermin’s first taste of the NHL only made him hungrier for more.

The forward earned a short stint with the Tampa Bay Lightning last season, and was one of the team’s final cuts from training camp this fall. Sent to Syracuse, Vermin has recorded three points in four games for the Crunch.

Vermin is now working toward getting another call-up and a permanent spot with the Lightning.

“It’s a big motivation, to be honest,” Vermin said of his time with the Lightning last year. “Once I saw how it is, the NHL, it’s like a drug. You want more of it. You use that as motivation if you’re struggling or things aren’t going the way you want them to. It keeps you motivated.”

Peca Off to Fast Start in Second Pro Season

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Matthew Peca’s second goal looked like a replay of his first.

The center darted toward the crease and fired off a quick snap shot on a feed from behind the net to give Syracuse the lead late in the first period and added the eventual game-winner on a similar play midway through the second. Peca finished with three points on the weekend, as Syracuse swept a home-and-home series against Rochester to open the season.

Off to a fast start, Peca is looking to become more of an offensive threat in his second professional season.

“I think that’s the key in any situation,” Peca said. “You want to get the puck on and off your stick. We all work on that in practice. It’s good to see the first two go in. They were good plays — nice passes from (Cory) Conacher — and just one-touches.”

The Bolt Prospects Podcast, Episode 71

This week’s “Mario Larocque Edition” of the Bolt Prospects Podcast includes the following topics:

· The No. 71
· Camp movers and shakers
· Interviews with Brayden Point, Mathieu Joseph, Bokondji Imama, and Libor Hajek
· Jeremy Morin talks about his move to Syracuse
· #BPMailbag (New whipping boy? … Who gets traded first? … JT Brownov … Drouin benching a concern? … Point to Coopergatory? … Conacher predictions … Kucherov drama … D depth an issue? … I left you and I’m sorry … Retired numbers … Why wasn’t the Wiz signed? … Sustr or Vladdy to Vegas? … Drouin predictions … TB vs Kittens for division title … Take Flip, Arizona.”)

Walcott Returns to Old Number, Regular Position With Crunch

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Daniel Walcott is returning to his old number and his regular position.

The second-year pro will wear No. 85, a number he wore as the captain of Blainville-Boisbriand of the QMJHL, and go back to full-time duty as a defenseman for the Syracuse Crunch this season.

While splitting time at forward and defense was a learning experience and kept him in the lineup, Walcott believes he is ready to shine on the Crunch blue line.

"I think I performed well up in Tampa and I got my confidence at D, and I just want to keep building on it," Walcott said. "A fresh number, a new start and a steady position."

Morin's Winding Career Path Brings Him to Syracuse

By Jeremy Houghtaling

One season after being traded twice, Jeremy Morin is looking to settle in.

The forward has called five cities and four organizations his home over the past six seasons in the AHL and the NHL, but now his winding path has taken him closer to where he grew up.

Morin, who is from Auburn, NY, participated in the first practice of the 2016-17 season as a member of the Syracuse Crunch at the Onondaga County War Memorial Tuesday.

"It's definitely been kind of a whirlwind, but I'm looking to make a home in this organization and get off to a good start," Morin said. "I think I'll have a good opportunity here. The coaching staff and the organization has been great."

2016 Supplemental Rankings


The 2015-2016 season is getting smaller in the rearview mirror and the 2016 offseason is almost half over. The Lightning appear to have had a solid draft at first glance, but time will be the ultimate judge. The club followed the excitement around the draft with potentially the biggest offseason in its history, locking up Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman until well into the 2020’s. Alex Killorn joined the core club just a few weeks later.

With old-timers coming back and new blood in the system, it’s time for our annual Supplemental Rankings, where we insert the club’s latest draftees into our existing list of top prospects.

This go-round sees the exit of what was our No. 3 prospect, Anthony DeAngelo, who was sent to Arizona for a second round pick (Libor Hajek).

The Bolt Prospects Podcast, Episode 70

This week’s “Ruslan Fedotenko Edition” of the Bolt Prospects Podcast includes the following topics:

· The No. 70
· Re-signings and RFA watch
· Complete draft review with prospect descriptions from Al Murray
· Organizational depth chart worry
· Stamkos to …

Lightning 2016 Draft Review

The 2016 NHL Entry Draft is over, and thanks to ESPN’s football draft coverage, everyone expects an immediate grade. Well, as stated last year, we don’t do that. At least not yet; check back in five years.

We’ll rate it this way: Going into the draft we laid out the following player types on a need/want/wish list. Need doesn’t mean Tampa Bay Lightning NHL need, because no one they were going to pick at 27 or beyond was going to help this year or next (or the next?) anyway. Need covers an organizational need as it pertains to variety and depth. We can also look at perceived value per round, but you can usually stop after the fourth round on that because anything after the fourth round is a flier anyway and the probability of that player filling a need in the future organizational picture is possible, but low.

So, looking at the Lightning's 2016 draft, let’s compare who was taken with our wish list.

2016 Lightning Draft Preview

Here’s what’s going to happen Friday: The Lightning will take a center with their first choice in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and immediately 10,000 Lightning fans will take to social media to declare this newest Bolt prospect as the immediate replacement for 91, and this draft pick proves he’s gone.


Well, partially wrong.

2015-2016 Final Prospect Rankings

The 2015-2016 season provided a mixed bag of results for the prospect pipeline of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. A glass-half-full view would point out the organization weathered one of the most extreme stress tests to a club's depth imaginable. Entering the playoffs without its top goal scorer and second-best defenseman and eventually losing its No. 1 goaltender to injury for an extended period of time in the postseason, the Lightning still managed to advance to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals partly on the performance of some of its top young players.

A glass-half-empty view, however, would point to the disappointing performance of the team's AHL affiliate, which missed the postseason leading to the dismissal of Head Coach Rob Zettler and the hiring of new Head Coach Benoit Groulx entering the 2016-2017 campaign. That's not to say there weren't developmental successes to point to on the Syracuse Crunch roster. But, the smashing success the club had with their affiliate under Jon Cooper had given way to a far more modest, underwhelming new normal that was ultimately not acceptable to the brain trust of Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman and Crunch GM Julien BriseBois.

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