Power Ranking the Top 10 Players for the Tampa Bay Lightning so Far in 2014-15

Eric SteitzAnalyst IIIOctober 30, 2014

Power Ranking the Top 10 Players for the Tampa Bay Lightning so Far in 2014-15

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    Ben Bishop was the Lightning's MVP last season. Does he top the power rankings after the first 10 games of 2014-15?
    Ben Bishop was the Lightning's MVP last season. Does he top the power rankings after the first 10 games of 2014-15?Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    As expected, the Tampa Bay Lightning sit near the top of the Eastern Conference standings, and they've continued to climb a variety of power rankings over the last few weeks. The Lightning have put up some standout performances en route to their 6-3-1 start, paced by strong individual performances.

    The Bolts have converted 65 percent of the total points possible thus far this season and boast the league's fourth-best offense. Twenty-three of the Lightning's 34 goals have come during five-on-five play. Unfortunately, 14 of the Lightning's 34 goals have come in two games (against Montreal and Arizona).

    With the injuries plaguing one of the league's youngest teams, the Bolts' organizational depth has taken center stage. The constant shuffling of lines hasn't hindered the team's performance much as it looks to complete the final three games of the current homestand.

    It has taken some strong performances from several players to achieve this impressive start. Here are the Lightning's top 10 players so far this season.

Honorable Mention: Ryan Callahan

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    Ryan Callahan has had an issue with injuries in recent years, but he has made an impact in the lineup so far.
    Ryan Callahan has had an issue with injuries in recent years, but he has made an impact in the lineup so far.Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Ryan Callahan has five points in six games this season. He has also contributed 12 hits and six takeaways. His production has been exactly what the Lightning hoped for when they re-signed him this offseason.

    Unfortunately, he has been plagued by injuries over the last few years, and 2014-15 isn't off to a great start in that department. Cally was injured on Oct. 20 against Edmonton and hasn't played in the Lightning's last four games.

    The Tampa Bay Times' Matt Baker reports that Callahan could return at some point during the current homestand. It's encouraging that his return could be sooner rather than later, but keep an eye on his durability as we dive deeper into the schedule's daily grind.

Honorable Mention: Evgeni Nabokov

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    Evgeni Nabokov has provided stability in net despite his subpar numbers.
    Evgeni Nabokov has provided stability in net despite his subpar numbers.Associated Press

    The Lightning know how important a No. 2 goaltender can be to the success of a season. Evgeni Nabokov has provided stability in net this season despite his unimpressive numbers.

    As with most statistics this early in the season, one great or bad game can drastically skew perspective. The latter is the case for Nabokov.

    He has given up seven goals this season in three starts. Four of those goals came in a horrific performance against Minnesota's surprisingly strong offense. 

    Nabby is 1-2 this year but could easily be 2-1 thanks to two strong performances early this season. He gave up two goals to New Jersey on Oct. 14 and lost. He also picked up a win against Calgary thanks to a one-goal-against performance.

    He will look to bounce back from the awful showing against Minnesota but has been good enough to make the list early this year.

10. Jonathan Drouin

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    Jonathan Drouin is making a difference behind the scenes so far.
    Jonathan Drouin is making a difference behind the scenes so far.Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Lightning rookie Jonathan Drouin had his NHL debut delayed by injury. Now that he is on the ice, he is making an impact on the players around him.

    Fans have been able to watch Drouin skate effortlessly into and away from defenders, creating open space for teammates in the process. He has played with a variety of linemates, seeing time on the top line with Steven Stamkos and grinding it out on the third line.

    Despite just three points in five games, he is making the game easier for his teammates. Drouin draws the defense's attention, which opens up lanes for other scorers to produce. His impact hasn't been felt on the scoresheet yet, but he brings another layer to the Lightning's attack.

9. Valtteri Filppula

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    Valtteri Filppula is now just one of many strong two-way forwards for the Lightning.
    Valtteri Filppula is now just one of many strong two-way forwards for the Lightning.Mike Munden/Associated Press

    Valtteri Filppula has been the Lightning's best two-way forward since he joined the team in 2013. He is strong in all facets of the game and has had a positive impact on the young talent that is constantly shuffling through the Lightning locker room.

    Filppula's production has been as expected this season with seven points (five assists) so far. He's also winning faceoffs at a 52.9 percent clip and is second on the team with four power-play points.

    Uncharacteristically, the Finnish center has a minus-four rating so far. While that is not an individual statistic by any means, it's a significant outlier for Filppula, who is plus-44 for his career.

    Expect Filppula to continue to climb this list as the season progresses and the team finds more chemistry around him.

8. Victor Hedman

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    Victor Hedman's Norris Trophy season has hit a slight derailment early this season.
    Victor Hedman's Norris Trophy season has hit a slight derailment early this season.Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Victor Hedman was off to a fantastic start to the 2014-15 season. He had seven points in the first five games, including five assists and four penalty minutes, before breaking his hand. If it weren't for the Oct. 18 injury requiring surgery and setting him to the side for a month, Hedman would be near the top of this list.

    The young defenseman still leads the team with five power-play points despite not playing in the last five contests. His seven points tie him for 11th among NHL defensemen. He is still tied with former Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson and leads P.K. Subban by a point.

    The Lightning look forward to the return of their No. 1 defenseman by mid-November.

7. Ondrej Palat

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    MIKE CARLSON/Associated Press

    Ondrej Palat has put together another solid all-around start to the season. Palat has seven points in 10 games and has produced all across the board.

    The 23-year-old winger has three goals, four assists, four penalty minutes and is a plus-three so far. He has a point in five games this season, including multipoint efforts against Winnipeg and Vancouver.

    Palat's production has been even more important when you consider that the Lightning have struggled with injuries to some of their best weapons. Secondary scoring was going to be crucial to the team's success this season, and Palat has helped to provide some of that depth.

6. Ben Bishop

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    Ben Bishop is proving that last season wasn't a fluke.
    Ben Bishop is proving that last season wasn't a fluke.Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Ben Bishop's critics have wondered if last season's success was a fluke. Could he duplicate his success from last season's Vezina Trophy-caliber performance?

    In seven starts, Bishop is 5-1-1 with a 2.31 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage. He is tied for fifth in the league in wins but hasn't been stellar statistically.

    His goals-against average is 15th in the NHL and his save percentage sits in the bottom third of the leaderboard. But Bishop has given the Lightning opportunities to win games, and that is ultimately all that can be asked of a goaltender.

    He has given up two or more goals in seven of his first eight appearance this year. While the Lightning hope that isn't a trend, if Bishop gives up two goals per game, the Lightning should be able to win a lot of games.

5. Steven Stamkos

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    Steven Stamkos has shown his quick-strike ability early this season.
    Steven Stamkos has shown his quick-strike ability early this season.MIKE CARLSON/Associated Press

    It's no surprise that Steven Stamkos leads the team in goals with six, but it may be a surprise that he isn't the team leader in points. The superstar has just three assists (nine points) and is three points behind the Lightning's points leader, Tyler Johnson (12).

    He is tied for sixth in the league in goals but has only scored a goal in three of the Lightning's 10 games. Stammer netted a hat trick against Montreal on Oct. 13 and two against Vancouver on Oct. 18. 

    His 46.8 faceoff percentage leaves a bit to be desired, but the sniper is averaging over 21 minutes of ice time and looks like he is back to full health from last year's leg injury.

    The Lightning are 3-0 when Stamkos scores a goal, so hopefully his consistency returns soon.

     

4. Nikita Kucherov

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    Nikita Kucherov's stock is rising rapidly this season.
    Nikita Kucherov's stock is rising rapidly this season.Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Nikita Kucherov could have easily started the season in the American Hockey League, again. He had a hard time getting any breaks in the NHL last season, but we knew it was only a matter of time.

    Kucherov is a shooting machine. He averages just over 12 minutes of ice time per game, but he is third on the team with 23 shots. He has nine points this year (tied with Stamkos) with four goals and five assists.

    Stamkos has a minus-two rating so far, while Kucherov is a plus-three. That's even more impressive given that he is consistently on a bottom-six line. His production has exploded recently, as all four of his goals have come in the last two games, including his first career hat trick against Arizona on Oct. 28.

    It appears Kucherov's luck may be bouncing in his favor, and that's a great thing for the Lightning.

3. Anton Stralman

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    Anton Stralman's role has increased due to Hedman's injury. He has exceeded every expectation.
    Anton Stralman's role has increased due to Hedman's injury. He has exceeded every expectation.Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Anton Stralman was due for a large contract extension after his play with the New York Rangers in last year's playoffs. The Lightning should be grateful they got him for the price they did (five years, $22.5 million).

    The 28-year-old defenseman has been as good as advertised even without fellow Swede Victor Hedman in the lineup. Stralman is an eye-popping plus-nine this season, which ties him for fourth in the NHL. 

    He leads the team with over 22 minutes of ice time per game and has eight points. He averages over two minutes of ice time per game on both special teams units and is tied for second on the team with six takeaways.

    Stralman has done an outstanding job of limiting the effects of Hedman's injury on the team's momentum. 

2. Brian Boyle

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    Brian Boyle won't steal headlines, but he has been one of the biggest pieces of the Lightning's early success.
    Brian Boyle won't steal headlines, but he has been one of the biggest pieces of the Lightning's early success.STEVE NESIUS/Associated Press

    The Lightning are full of players who can provide highlight-reel goals, net hat tricks or shut down opponents with acrobatic saves. Brian Boyle may not be the flashy type, but he can certainly hold his own on the ice.

    When the Bolts brought in the handful of former New York Rangers, it was easy to be skeptical. Boyle doesn't necessarily fit the common trend of speedy, shifty forwards that general manager Steve Yzerman has assembled. But that might be his greatest attribute.

    Boyle is a lower-line guy, but he is the unsung hero of the early part of the season. He has five points, a plus-five rating, nine penalty minutes and an astounding 59.5 percent success rate in the faceoff circle. This is all while averaging under 14 minutes per game.

    With all of the shuffling on the lines above him, Boyle has been the glue for the Lightning.

1. Tyler Johnson

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    Tyler Johnson continues to impress in his young Lightning career.
    Tyler Johnson continues to impress in his young Lightning career.Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Predicting the Lightning's leading scorer after 10 games would probably have included names like Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman and possibly Jonathan Drouin (had he been ready opening night). But even after a strong rookie campaign, Tyler Johnson wouldn't have been a popular name to lead the team in points early on.

    Johnson has just one goal so far, but he is tied for the league lead with 11 assists. His 12 points ties him for fifth in the NHL, and he has a three-point cushion on Steven Stamkos for the team lead.

    He has been good in the faceoff circle with 49 percent success rate, is a plus-five and sits second on the team with 29 shots on goal. Johnson hasn't regressed at all, and if he can find better luck in regard to his current 3.4 shooting percentage, he might extend his stay at the top of the power rankings.