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Fantasy Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning

Scott Cullen
9/17/2013 1:59:12 PM
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The Tampa Bay Lightning have long been accused of being top-heavy in their talent, but now there are only a couple of top tier players, with a bunch of interesting pieces surrounding them.

Top Picks: It's preposterous at how many more goals C Steven Stamkos scores than anyone else and his ability to score, and stay healthy (he hasn't missed a game in four seasons), makes him the safest first pick in most formats. Sidney Crosby might have a higher ceiling, but he's not nearly as reliable and Stamkos has obliterated the rest of the league when it comes to goals. In the last four years, Stamkos has scored 185 goals, 33 more than runner-up Alexander Ovechkin, who is another 23 ahead of third-place Corey Perry.

Stamkos' running mate, RW Martin St. Louis led the league in scoring last season and his 592 points since 2006-2007 ranks second, behind only Ovechkin. He's 37-years-old, but still a top-tier option on right wing.

Value Plays: RW Teddy Purcell has 152 points in the last three seasons, which ranks 48th, but his value is limited somewhat by his spot on the roster. If he's a second-line winger, playing with Valtteri Filppula, then it's entirely different than if he were to find his way to playing with Stamkos and St. Louis.

D Matt Carle gets overshadowed from time to time by higher-profile teammates, but he's productive. In the last four years, he has 135 points, which ranks 22nd. That's not enough to make him fantasy gold, but easily reliable enough for a spot in many leagues.

One year removed from a career-best 66-point season, C Valtteri Filppula still earned a big free agent contract from Tampa Bay after scoring 17 points in 41 games for the Red Wings last season, his 0.41 points per game his lowest since 2006-2007. He should have an opportunity to succeed in Tampa Bay, but his element of risk makes him a late-round pick for fantasy owners.

Sleepers/Breakthrough: LW Alex Killorn had 19 points in 38 games for the Lightning as a rookie, following 38 points in 44 AHL games, so he's going to have a chance to play in Tampa Bay's top six. It's too soon to suggest that he's going to be a big scorer, but he's worth monitoring.

A six-time 20-goal scorer, LW Ryan Malone has been a useful fantasy player, particularly in leagues that count penalty minutes, but injuries have cost him 66 games over the last three seasons and it makes it difficult, if not, impossible to put stock in Malone on draft day. If he ends up playing significant minutes when healthy, that's another matter.

While D Victor Hedman hasn't been a big scorer in his first four seasons, his production has increased each year and last year's point totals (20 points in 44 games) would project to 37 over a full season, which would have to put him into fantasy consideration.

Goaltending is a question mark for the Lightning, so whomever of Ben Bishop or Anders Lindback takes the No. 1 job and runs with it, that guy could hold value. Bishop had a .920 save percentage last season, but he's a 26-year-old with 45 career NHL games on his resume.

Lindback was supposed to be the answer to the Lightning's goaltending problems last year, and it didn't work out, as he posted a .902 save percentage, but he's going to compete for playing time with Bishop. With uncertainty and unproven goalies, it's hard to give either one much value until there is a clear leader for playing time.

Rookies: LW Jonathan Drouin, the third pick in the 2013 Draft, had 105 points in 49 QMJHL games (and 35 more in 17 playoff games) last season, raising expectations that he can not only step into the NHL, but produce right away. If he should play with Stamkos and St. Louis, then he could put up big numbers right away. As it is, slotting him in as a No. 3 fantasy left winger, with obvious potential for more, seems a fair spot to start.

In leagues that count hits or penalty minutes, D Radko Gudas is far more valuable than his name recognition. In 22 games with the Lightning last season, Gudas had 87 hits and 38 penalty minutes, numbers that could make a significant difference projected over a full season.

Prospects like C Tyler Johnson, RW Richard Panik and RW Nikita Kucherov are intriguing, but it's hard to have expectations if they aren't projected to start the season in the NHL.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.




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