While Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov grab the headlines, don’t sleep on their linemate, Vladislav Namestnikov. Namestnikov is far from a third wheel, with eight points in eight games. "He might not have the names the other two have, but he’s as pivotal and vital to that line as the others," coach Jon Cooper said.
Just when we thought D Slater Koekkoek had a turning point after last week’s first NHL goal, he has been a healthy scratch in back-to-back games. Whether or not D Andrej Sustr is getting shopped, the Lightning has to find a way to play Koekkoek, 23, more. He has appeared in half of Tampa Bay’s eight games.
Every game, I’m more impressed by C Yanni Gourde. Gourde insisted he wouldn’t sit on his two-year, $2 million deal, and it shows. He’s relentless on the forecheck, responsible defensively and has created a lion’s share of scoring chances. He looks like C Brayden Point did early last year.