Lightning’s top 4 prospects for 2022-23
Whenever a team competes for the Stanley Cup year after year, its prospect pool will inevitably start to suffer. Draft picks and prospects are often used as fodder to attract talent that can help you win right now, and over the course of a few years you can quickly empty the cupboards in pursuit of a championship.
No team exemplifies this better than the Tampa Bay Lightning. On the plus side, they had a remarkable success rate on their trades, where they picked up player after player who entered their lineup and immediately made an impact. The downside, however, is the fact that they paid a premium price for these players, which left their lead pipeline a little barren.
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Now, that doesn’t mean there aren’t talented players in the Lightning’s prospect pool. No, it’s just that they lack those high-end impact players. That’s not the biggest concern for the franchise right now, as they have plenty of superstar talent, but need those low-cost options to round out their lineup.
So, as we work through the 2022 offseason, let’s take a look at the Lightning’s top prospects to see who could impact the team in the years to come.
It’s rare for a fourth-round pick to become a starter for the franchise that drafts them, but Tampa Bay has a stellar track record in that area. From Mathieu Joseph to Ross Colton, the fourth round has been good for the Lightning in recent years, and they seem to have found their next hit in the fourth round when they selected Dylan Duke in 2021.
Over the past calendar year, Duke has shown great progress in his development that should get Lightning fans excited. playing for a Michigan Wolverines Absolutely Stacked team, he still made an impact as a rookie, posting 10 goals and 19 goals in 41 games. While those numbers aren’t breathtaking, he should see his opportunities increase significantly in the 2022-23 season, given the number of players leaving the Wolverines to play in the NHL.
This means that over the next year, Duke will take more minutes with Michigan and be able to present his full toolkit. That should do wonders for his development, and he still has three years of NCAA eligibility left to continue developing his game.
At 6-foot-6 and 223 pounds, Jack Finley is easily one of the Lightning’s biggest prospects. However, as a tall forward who produced nearly a point per game in the two seasons leading up to the 2020 draft, Tampa Bay was well aware that he could be more than tall if given the time needed to develop.
Unfortunately, an injury derailed his 2020-21 season, but he was able to return to the ice as a regular once again for 2021-22. With his return to the Western Hockey League (WHL), where he played for the Spokane Chiefs and the Winnipeg Ice, he again produced nearly a point per game in the regular season and playoffs. Now, given his age and physical maturity, it was hoped that Finley would be more of a dominant force in the WHL, but his production was still impressive, especially considering he switched teams midway through. the season and played on a busy Winnipeg. team that was deep with top-notch talent.
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Thus, Finley is one to watch in the years to come. He’s expected to make the jump to the American Hockey League (AHL) soon to play for the Syracuse Crunch, and he’s a player who could really blossom after taking big minutes to hone his toolbox while by learning to make full use of its size. .
The 2022 NHL Draft was unique for the Lightning, simply because they still had their first-round pick. The team’s last first-round pick was made in 2019 and after the acquisition of Brandon Hagel, they likely won’t make a pick until 2026. Given that, they had to make that pick count, and it looks like they got their perfect player in Isaac Howard.
Although he may be cut from the undersized mold, Howard is an incredibly strong offensive forward who has an NHL-caliber toolkit. As Shawn Wilken said in Howard’s Draft Profile:
Howard is fully capable of putting all the pieces together and becoming an effective player at the NHL level. His mix of skating, accurate shooting and competitive nature make him a player teams will target. While his trajectory predicts a few years before he will have a real impact, Howard has the tools that are a strong indication that he will one day get there.
It’s very exciting because he’s exactly what the Lightning wanted with their only first-round pick in nearly five years. howard goes bring the necessary excitement and energy to the team’s prospect pool and eventually to the NHL rink.
Coming out of any draft, there will always be unknowns about what kind of impact a player will have on the team that drafted him. Normally, if you are not among the best, it takes years to answer this question. However, if you’re an overage prospect, you can make the jump to the AHL sooner to prove yourself.
For the Lightning, they picked one of those surplus prospects in Lucas Edmonds in the 2022 draft, and they signed him for a two-way entry-level contract shortly after being written. That means Edmonds would have to play for the Crunch to start the 2022-23 season, or even with Tampa Bay if he was really going to come out and impress. Sure, he’s not a great prospect, but the Lightning have a history of getting the most out of undersized but highly skilled forwards.
When it comes to potential, Edmonds could be in a unique position. After going undrafted twice, he joined the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) for 2021-22 and exploded offensively, posting 34 goals and 113 points in 68 games played.
For one thing, there’s a chance this is just a chance season for Edmonds, and he could make it to the AHL and look decidedly average. However, there’s also a chance he could be the team leader in goals and points while pushing for a spot on the roster by the 2023 trade deadline. , the Lightning will immediately know what they have with their third-round pick, and there could be a bumper ceiling for that passing prospect.
Lightning lacks depth, but has solid prospecting skills
It would be dishonest of me to say that the Lightning have a large pool of prospects. By all accounts, they’re mortgaging their future to win now, and that’s reflected in the lack of top talent in their minor league and prospect farm.
Related: 2022 NHL Free Agent Signing Tracker
However, that doesn’t mean Tampa Bay won’t have a hard-hitting prospect over the next few seasons. As these young players develop their game and look to take the next step in their careers, it’s impossible to know what their ceiling might be. It wasn’t too long ago that Colton went from an unknown fourth-round pick to scoring a Stanley Cup-winning goal, so you should never count any prospects in the Lightning’s farm system.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He’s written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. Although he’s happy from pretty much talking cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.