Tampa Bay Lightning Players with the Most to Prove at 2013-14 Training Camp

Eric Steitz@esteitz16Analyst IIISeptember 11, 2013

Tampa Bay Lightning Players with the Most to Prove at 2013-14 Training Camp

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    The Tampa Bay Lightning’s offseason is coming to a close with the start of the 2013-14 training camp Sept. 11. The Lightning announced the 38-player roster not competing in prospect tournaments Sept. 6, with some familiar faces and some new. Including the players at the Coral Springs Prospect Tournament, there is plenty of competition, and a few players have the most to prove.

    The Bolts training camp roster has just three forwards who didn’t see time in the NHL last season. The defense is pretty solid with just five players that didn’t see top-level ice last year.  

    In goal, the Lightning brought four goaltenders to camp, including Riku Helenius and Cedrick Desjardins to compete with the current tandem. This should be an exciting camp for Lightning fans. They should keep an eye on these players with the most to prove this training camp.

Valtteri Filppula

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    Valtteri Filppula has a lot to prove simply due to the situation he has stepped into. Any time a player is brought in to replace someone with as much tenure as Vincent Lecavalier, speculation runs rampant.

    Filppula’s productivity won’t be a major concern for the front office, but it might be for fans. The Bolts will need some secondary scoring, and not seeing Lecavalier on the ice will be uncomfortable.

    Filppula was emphasized as a complete, two-way player. The Bolts will hope to see an improvement on the defensive end. He has been a minus-rated player in three of the last four seasons, and that was in Detroit.

    He will have a lot to prove in training camp to win over the fans.

Ben Bishop

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    NHL.com called goaltender Ben Bishop the “X-Factor” for the Lightning. Tampa Bay is hoping someone can solidify the situation in the crease.

    Bishop impressed with a 45-save shutout in his Tampa Bay debut last season, but things quickly came back down to earth. He finished the abbreviated schedule with a 3-4-1 record and a 2.99 goals-against average—numbers that aren’t bad, but not great.

    With Anders Lindback also fighting for the top spot, it’s Bishop that should have the early advantage. Unfortunately, that advantage comes with increased pressure to stand out and prove his worth.

    The Bolts can and should give Bishop the nod for goaltender No. 1. But if he can’t hold the spot, the Lightning may be counting down the days until Andrey Vasilevskiy is ready to go.

Nikita Kucherov

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    Nikita Kucherov has turned some heads while competing in the Coral Springs Prospect Tournament. His AHL Syracuse head coach Rob Zettler called the combination of him and Jonathan Drouin “magical.”

    That could potentially be great news for the forward moving to the Lightning. If Kucherov and Drouin can develop some chemistry in camp, they both might earn some significant NHL minutes—Drouin obviously faster than Kucherov.

    Both of these players could be a big part of the future of the franchise, but they have to prove they can perform against the big boys first.

Andrej Sustr

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    The Lightning bolstered their defense midway through last season with the addition of Andrej Sustr. Sustr—practically an additional draft pick—is 6’8” and just finished a career with the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He appeared in two NHL games last season, but did great things in the AHL.

    Sustr had nine points, 25 penalty minutes and was a crucial plus-11 in 18 playoff games with the Crunch. He earned the respect of the Syracuse front office.

    General manager Julien BriseBois had this to say about the young defenseman (via TBO.com):

    "He played really well. He contributed and played in all situations. I thought in the playoffs when the pressure started to mount and we were down three games to nothing, our margin for error was very slim. He didn't wilt under the pressure. He kept being assertive on the ice with and without the puck, which I thought was a really good sign."

    His brief stint with the Lightning last season gave him a taste of the big club. It’s a packed competition on the blue line, but Sustr can prove he belongs with a solid training camp.