The Tampa Bay Lightning Players with the Most Potential at Every Position
A postseason appearance anchored by a talented group of rookies will increase the optimism surrounding the Tampa Bay Lightning for the next few seasons. The Bolts have no shortage of talent, including some players that have the potential to be among the greatest to ever wear a Lightning sweater.
Tampa Bay has just five players on the roster in their 30s. The team's most prominent leaders could still have their best years ahead of them.
Barring any major injuries or setbacks, the Bolts will have a strong nucleus with a lot of potential. Here are the Lightning players with the most potential at each position.
The scouting report on Lightning prospect Jonathan Drouin tells fans everything they need to know about his future (via eliteprospects.com):
An agile forward, Drouin is very creative and a good skater. He is an extremely offensive player with fantastic hands and excellent on-ice-vision. Drouin has a good shot but is best used as a playmaker and is very dangerous on the powerplay. Drouin is not a large player or an explosive skater, but he is very agile and able to play his way out of tight spots thanks to his hockey sense.
He had back-to-back 100-point seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. General manager Steve Yzerman appears to have made the right decision to keep him in the Q last season. Drouin should be a top-six forward for the Bolts in 2014-15 and provide some additional firepower to an already impressive offense.
One could argue that a player who has already amassed 200 goals and notched 60-goal seasons has already reached a lot of his potential. However, Steven Stamkos is only getting started.
Stamkos was the fourth-fastest player to ever reach the 200-goal mark. Other names on that list include Wayne Gretzky, Dale Hawerchuk and Mario Lemieux, which is pretty good company to keep.
According to Hockey-Reference.com, Stamkos is just 150 goals shy of tying Vincent Lecavalier's mark for most goals in a Lightning uniform. At only 24 years old, Stammer should hit that mark easily.
After that, Stamkos may go down as one of the best goal scorers in NHL history. He has some high-end potential that could make him one of the greats.
Nikita Kucherov made minimal impact last season in his rookie campaign, but he has some serious potential. Kucherov is a natural shooter. He will fire the puck from anywhere and with no shame.
He was 12th on the team in shots with 102 and converted at an 8.8 percent clip. He had nine goals in 52 games and was just three goals behind his position leader, Teddy Purcell, who played in 81 games.
The Hockey News says that Kucherov "has an explosive skating stride and great one-on-one moves. Can beat defenders on the outside with relative frequency. Simply oozes offensive acumen. Can play either wing position."
Kucherov could be a top-line winger in no time.
Every generation has its handful of elite defensemen who draw league-wide attention. From Bobby Orr to Ray Bourque to Al MacInnis, some defensemen revolutionize the game.
Tampa Bay has one of this generation's game-changers in Victor Hedman. Hedman finished fifth among d-men in points last season behind big names like Erik Karlsson, Shea Weber and Duncan Keith.
Hedman logged over 22 minutes of ice time last season and can presumably be penciled in for more minutes as he enters his sixth season.
He was a Norris Trophy-Caliber defenseman this season and will only improve over the next few years.
On May 6, the Lightning signed Russian goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy to a three-year, entry-level deal, further solidifying the goaltending situation. With a stellar Ben Bishop and underrated Kristers Gudlevskis already patrolling the crease, it will be tough to stand out. Vasilevskiy can do just that.
The Hockey News says he "has great size for the goaltending position (6-3, 204), so he covers a ton of net naturally. Can make spectacular saves look routine. His legs are strong, so his push from side to side is excellent." THN also notes that he has big upside.
To further their point, Vasilevskiy won the save of the year in the KHL this season. It's well worth the watch. The Russian goaltender just finished up a World Championship with two appearances and one goal against on 67 shots.
The Lightning are stacked in goal, and Vasilevskiy could be pushing to take them to the next level in the near future.