Tampa Bay Lightning: Prospects Who Have Made The Biggest Impact This Season

BY Fansided and Tasha St. Pierre/FanSided via Bolts by the Bay • December 26, 2016

Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been bitten hard by the injury bug this season, and many players from the Syracuse Crunch have been called upon to help the Bolts on their way.

If one were to say the Tampa Bay Lightning has been bitten by the injury bug this season, they may, in fact, be making one of the biggest understatements of the century. The Lightning can’t seem to win for losing when it comes to injuries.

tampa bay lightning

Puck Prose 2dNHL Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 11 Add/Drop List

More headlines around FanSided:

2d - Tampa Bay Lightning: Top 10 Last Minute Christmas Gifts For Bolts Fans2d - Tampa Bay Lightning Shutout By Washington Capitals In Final Game Before Christmas2d - Tampa Bay Lightning Vs. Washington Capitals: Live Thread For Game No. 352d - Tampa Bay Lightning Travel To Face Washington Capitals Before Christmas3d - Tampa Bay Lightning Win 2nd Straight Game With Victory Over St. Louis BluesMore News at Bolts by the Bay

It seems as if every single time the Lightning get one of their players back from any number of maladies, another player (sometimes two) makes their way to the injured list. If this keeps up much longer, the Lightning may as well rename the team the Tampa Bay Crunch.

Obviously, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, have been called upon to carry quite a bit of the load. Unfortunately, this situation doesn’t seem to be coming to an end anytime soon.

On Tuesday night, the Lightning added another name to the list. Early in the first period, Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop was forced to leave the game after sustaining a lower-body injury attempting to make a save.

On the bright side, Bishop made the save. The bad news is Ben Bishop is set to be out 3-4 weeks with said lower-body injury.

In this week’s edition of the Bolts By The Bay Round Table, the Bolts By The Bay staff will take a closer look at some of the Syracuse Crunch players who have been recalled by the Tampa Bay Lightning and who among them has made the greatest impact on the team since being called up.

As usual, there are some of the “usual suspects” on the list. At the same time, there are some new names making their way to the list that may come as quite a surprise to some Lightning fans.

Once you’ve had a chance to see who the Bolts By The Bay staff thinks has made the biggest impact, head on down to the comments section and let us know what you think? Did your favorite Crunch player make the list? Is there someone you think we missed? Join in on the conversation and let your voice be heard.

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tasha St. Pierre – Bolts By The Bay Site Expert

As most Tampa Bay Lightning fans know by now, the Lightning has been barraged by injuries this season. In fact, things have gotten to the point where all Lightning fans can do is laugh. Otherwise, they may start to cry.

tampa bay lightning

Puck Prose 2dNHL Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 11 Add/Drop List

More headlines around FanSided:

2d - Tampa Bay Lightning: Top 10 Last Minute Christmas Gifts For Bolts Fans2d - Tampa Bay Lightning Shutout By Washington Capitals In Final Game Before Christmas2d - Tampa Bay Lightning Vs. Washington Capitals: Live Thread For Game No. 352d - Tampa Bay Lightning Travel To Face Washington Capitals Before Christmas3d - Tampa Bay Lightning Win 2nd Straight Game With Victory Over St. Louis BluesMore News at Bolts by the Bay

Right now, the Lightning has five forwards on the injured list; six if you count Vladislav Namestnikov, who missed Friday night’s game due to an illness. In addition to this, there is Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop, who is set to miss 3-4 weeks with a lower-body injury.

As one could easily imagine, this has resulted in a number of call-ups from the Lightning’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. Now, as you may have read by now, the question of the week is which of the Lightning’s many call-ups have made the biggest impact on the main roster.

This is an incredibly difficult question, as many of the Lightning’s call-ups have played a role in the Lightning’s journey this season. Being completely honest, there are two names that come to the forefront when I think about the players who have really stepped it up as of late, defenseman Slater Koekkoek and forward Brayden Point.

While it’s difficult to measure a defenseman’s ability by traditional statistics, there are some defensive aspects of the game that can be measured in black and white.

Slater Koekkoek has played in 23 games this season with the Tampa Bay Lightning. In that amount of time, Koekkoek has laid out 21 blocked shots. When put up against players like Victor Hedman, who have played 35 games with the Bolts this season, it doesn’t look like a lot; however, when you break it down to blocked shots per game, it comes out to .9, which ties Koekkoek with Anton Stralman for fourth place among defensemen.

Slater Koekkoek has a large frame and is rather good at breaking up plays and knocking his opponents off the puck. For someone who has spent much of his career bouncing from one injury to another, Koekkoek has really turned things around and turned into quite an asset for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Now, Brayden Point can’t really be considered a call-up. While he has helped the team immensely since the injuries have continued to pile up, he did play with the team on Opening Night and hasn’t left since. The reason for this is simple…he’s played his behind off to prove he deserves to stay right where he is.

In the 35 games he’s played so far this season, Point has brought home three goals and 11 assists for a total of 15 points. This places Point in eighth place on the team in terms of overall points.

While this doesn’t seem like a lot in black and white, anyone who has seen Brayden Point on the ice knows what kind of an asset he is to the team. His speed is almost on the level of players like Jonathan Drouin, and his playmaking ability is on the same level, if not higher.

Point has picked up a goal and an assist in the last five games for a total of three points. The 20-year-old Calgary native had a multi-point night on December 20th against the Detroit Red Wings, where he earned himself a goal and an assist.

As mentioned previously, there are a lot of players who have played a role in the Lightning’s interesting journey this season, but you would be hard-pressed to find someone who has worked quite as hard as Slater Koekkoek and Brayden Point.

One thing we know for sure, we can’t wait to see what they have in store for Lightning fans as the team quickly approaches the halfway point in the season.

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Chase Kimball – Bolts By The Bay Contributor

To me, there isn’t really a question about which Syracuse Crunch call-up has made the biggest impact on the Tampa Bay Lightning so far this year.  Luke Witkowski has had a pretty impressive presence on the blue line this year in the eight games he has played with the Lightning so far this season.  

While the Lightning have plenty of depth on offense, they are lacking a little bit on defense.  This means that if one of the Lightning’s defensemen is injured, the team is in a bit of a tight place when it comes to filling the new gap.  

Witowski has proved to be an excellent relief defenseman in these situations.  He has proved that he is able to hold his own when the Lightning need him to, and that’s more valuable than a lot of people give credit for. 

Defensemen are commonly overlooked because they don’t have the stats that forwards have and usually aren’t the features of the highlights we see on SportsCenter.  That seems like it would be obvious, but when you think about it, it’s something that gets overlooked fairly often.  

Currently, Witowski has one assist in eight games.  Just by looking at the numbers, it would be easy to dismiss him right then and there.  To do so, however, would be an injustice to Witkowski and his play.  

His value lies in his flexibility as a player and his ability to hold his own on the ice when the Bolts need him.  With the injuries the Lightning have had to deal with this season, this is an invaluable asset for the Bolts to have in reserve

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Will Clewis – Bolts By The Bay Contributor

Over the past several weeks, the Tampa Bay Lightning have been hit with the injury bug, and it seems like someone goes down every other day. As a result, the organization has had to bring up several players from the AHL affiliate, Syracuse Crunch, and they’ve filled in nicely for those injured on the main roster.

tampa bay lightning

Puck Prose 2dNHL Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 11 Add/Drop List

More headlines around FanSided:

2d - Tampa Bay Lightning: Top 10 Last Minute Christmas Gifts For Bolts Fans2d - Tampa Bay Lightning Shutout By Washington Capitals In Final Game Before Christmas2d - Tampa Bay Lightning Vs. Washington Capitals: Live Thread For Game No. 352d - Tampa Bay Lightning Travel To Face Washington Capitals Before Christmas3d - Tampa Bay Lightning Win 2nd Straight Game With Victory Over St. Louis BluesMore News at Bolts by the Bay

More recently, forwards Tanner Richard and Michael Bournival were called up and have performed well while here.

On Friday, just around the start of the game against the Washington Capitals, I was listening to a local pre-game show and former Lightning defenseman, Jassen Cullimore, who was a part of the 2004 Stanley Cup winning team, was on and he spoke about how recent call-ups from the AHL can provide a sort of “spark” to the team because those players bring so much adrenaline and energy with them, especially if it’s their first game.

He went on to say that the energy and excitement they bring can help the team’s drive to win a game or shift the group’s focus in the right direction. Cullimore shared his personal experience about this matter and talked about how similar things would happen back when he was a veteran in the NHL.

With that said, you could say that players like Richard, Bournival and even Joel Vermin have had a similar effect on the Lightning now.

Looking back to last season around the same time, players from Syracuse, like Jonathan Marchessault (now with the Florida Panthers) and Mike Blunden (with the Ottawa Senators), positively contributed to the Lightning when the team was struggling, and they provided some much-needed energy, and production, for that matter, to help get Tampa Bay back on track.

As far as this season, those aforementioned players have done a great job of filling in for several of the Lightning’s regulars. Against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday, Bournival scored a pivotal goal in the game during the second period, and he allowed the Tampa Bay Lightning to get back into the game and swing the momentum in their direction.

Richard, who leads the team in USAT (unblocked shot attempts) percentage after three games, has done well slotted on third and fourth lines, though let’s forget about the game against the Capitals last night, as mostly everyone had a rough game.

Those are just two examples, though, and there are many more from a few of the call-ups from the Crunch. It’s hard to choose just one player from Syracuse that has made the biggest impact on the Lightning this season, though none of them have exploded with goals like Marchessault did when he was called up around the same time, relatively speaking. In that case, it’s the little things that matter.

So, in a short scope, multiple Crunch call-ups have made an impact and some longer than others, like forward Cory Conacher. But, as far as an immediate impact, Richard and Bournival likely provided that spark during this recent two-game win streak, with Vermin, who has two points and a plus-3 rating in eight games this season, fitting in that category as well.

The Tampa Bay Lightning need everything they can get with all of these injuries piling up by the day. Fortunately, the organization has an impressive stock of players with the Syracuse Crunch who can fill in when needed. Hopefully, the Lightning can get healthier over the break and during this upcoming five-game homestand before the season is lost altogether.

More from Bolts by the Bay

    This article originally appeared on



    share story