Alex Volkov with a top-six showcase for Lightning
Alex Volkov entered Lightning camp a bit of an unknown, the second-round pick from Russia in his first NHL camp.
But the 20-year-old wing is making a name for himself pretty quickly, surviving the biggest round of cuts Monday. And tonight, Volkov will start on a line with Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat in an exhibition against the Panthers.
It's unclear how this will play out, with Volkov likely starting his pro career in AHL Syracuse, but he's getting a strong look.
"You've got to see if he can play with these guys," coach Jon Cooper said. "I think you have to really look at the big picture and see how this is going to work over the long haul, but he's more than earned his right to be here with this team right now.
"We'll just keep putting him in these games and see how he does. He's a little bit of an unknown for us in a sense in that he's recently drafted and hasn't come through our system. We haven't gotten to see a whole ton of him, but what we have seen we really like. That's why he's still here."
Cooper said he's looking for chemistry in these final three exhibitions, and Brayden Point is getting another chance at wing alongside Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. The trio meshed really well in their last game against Nashville. "One thing about Pointer is he's a puck hound," Cooper said. "You've got a couple skilled guys on that line. You have to have someone that can go and get those guys pucks. So we're trying to see if that combination works."
More from skate: Vladislav Namestnikov is centering the third line with Ryan Callahan and Chris Kunitz. The fourth line has some forwards on the roster bubble, with Cory Conacher and Michael Bournival, along with Yanni Gourde. Andrei Vasilevskiy starts in net, with Peter Budaj backing him up. Mikhail Sergachev is in his fourth straight game, paired with veteran Anton Stralman, who is making his exhibition debut... Stamkos, who was encouraged by Friday's exhibition debut, said he's looking for more timing tonight. "Just to improve on some decision making with the puck," Stamkos said. "Obviously you can't expect everything to come back and feeling amazing. It felt better than I was expecting, which was great. I look forward to improving on making plays and being in the right position."...Jake Dotchin will not play, still sidelined after breaking an unspecified team rule. Victor Hedman, Alex Killorn, J.T. Brown, Cedric Paquette, Gabriel Dumont are also scratched.