Projecting Tampa Bay Lightning's Forward Lines for the 2014-15 Season
The Tampa Bay Lightning offense features a dynamic and versatile group of forwards who will only get better in 2014-15. With centers who can play wing in a typical 12-forward lineup, the Bolts have the ability to shuffle lines to create mismatches.
In the Montreal playoff series, the Lightning used Steven Stamkos on the wing while fellow center Tyler Johnson stepped into the top-line role. Similarly, Johnson has played wing at times as part of the constant shuffling done by coach Jon Cooper.
With some big additions coming to the Lightning lineup, like No. 3 overall draft pick Jonathan Drouin making his NHL debut, the forward lines could be even more dangerous next season. Here are four full lines of forwards we could see for the Bolts in 2014-15.
This line combination should get Lightning fans excited. Jonathan Drouin and Alex Killorn are both natural left wings, but they can easily switch sides. Both Drouin and Killorn are left-handed shots to go outside of Stamkos' right-handed shot.
This line would have a lot of everything. Drouin's playmaking abilities would allow for more open ice for Stamkos and Killorn. Stamkos' powerful shot and Killorn's net presence would make this line a nightmare to match up against.
Drouin isn't a lock for the top line, but he will undoubtedly be a top-six forward next season. If he's a part of this top line, the Bolts will have one of the most solid top lines in the NHL.
Ondrej Palat had an outstanding rookie season. Valtteri Filppula was solid in his first year with the Lightning, and Ryan Callahan added another element in his short time in Tampa Bay.
If the Bolts can re-sign Callahan, expect this line to round out the top six. If Callahan decides to go elsewhere, Teddy Purcell will be slotted in.
There is a lot of offense in this line. The four combined for 170 points last season, including the 11 from Callahan's 20 games. Palat and Filppula finished first and second on the team in points, respectively.
Prospects to keep an eye on: Cody Kunyk, Joel Vermin
Youth makes a solid appearance on the third line with Tyler Johnson, Vladislav Namestnikov and Nikita Kucherov adding depth. Johnson and Namestnikov are both centers, which will make things difficult for opposing defensemen. Johnson is a right-handed shot while Namestnikov is left-handed.
Kucherov's game is raw, but the upside is there. He had 18 points in 52 games with the Lightning last year. Both Kucherov and Namestnikov will need to take their games up another level, but they can add some nice scoring depth on the third line.
Prospects to watch: Brett Connolly, Henri Ikonen, Adam Erne
Should the Bolts roll with this trio of forwards, they will have some solid size on the fourth line. Nate Thompson and B.J. Crombeen have a consistent presence. Adam Erne adds a wild-card element.
Erne is physical and skilled offensively. He isn't afraid to lay a big hit and is capable of finding the back of the net. He could be a top-six forward in the next few years but might see some developmental time on the lower lines this season.
The Montreal series showed how important it is for a team to be four lines deep. This line would create additional matchup issues due to its size and physical presence.