1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Lightning

Lightning looking for growth from prospects in early preseason contests

In the first four games of the preseason, Lightning coach Jon Cooper wants to see how prospects have developed.
Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper gives direction during drills on the first day on the ice at the beginning of training camp. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Sep. 17
Updated Sep. 18

BRANDON — The early Lightning preseason lineup featured veterans like Ryan McDonagh and fan-favorite Steven Stamkos, but coach Jon Cooper wants to focus on some of the younger organizational talent in the first exhibition games of the year.

When looking at young prospects, even those not necessarily up for a spot on the NHL roster, the Lightning coach evaluates players on a case-by-case basis. From the most recent class of draftees, the group selected in June, Cooper wants to see what kind of talent the Lightning have.

“You’re kind of getting your first look at them,” Cooper said of the Lightning’s 2019 draft class. “Now you have a baseline for them.”

The Lightning selected seven players in the June draft, including first-round pick Nolan Foote, but none of those newcomers appeared in Tuesday night’s preseason opener against Carolina. They are likely to appear at some point in the Lightning’s three remaining preseason games this week.

RELATED: Please hold for the holdout. This Brayden Point contract will get done.

When it comes to older prospects or players pushing for a roster spot, Cooper hopes to see growth on the ice.

“We’re looking for progress,” Cooper said. “So far in practices, we’ve seen that."

Rarely has Cooper seen a whole team come into camp in as good of shape as this year’s Lightning.

One player looking for a more secure spot is Danick Martel. The 24-year-old forward made his Lightning debut a season ago, but as the 14th forward on the roster, he only appeared in nine NHL games.

“He had every opportunity to sulk and not like the situation he was in, and all he did was work,” Cooper said. “He’s had a full year with us, and now we’re going to get to see him with a little bit of playing time in the preseason.”

Martel lined up with forwards Ross Colton and Alex Barre-Boulet in Tuesday’s 3-0 loss to Carolina, and Cooper said he was one of the players who “had his legs” on Tuesday.

“I think my role this year will be to skate hard, finish my hits, play good on the (penalty kill),” Martel said.

RELATED: Join our Lightning Strikes! Facebook group for conversation, polls, story links and more


  1. The Lightning hosted 5,000 middle school students at Friday's practice. Courtesy of Everfi
    Slap Shots: Plus, thoughts on the Hockey Hall of Fame, a scary moment in Calgary and Military Appreciation Night.
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) celebrates with the bench after his goal against the Winnipeg Jets during the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP
    Victor Hedman calls the milestone “an unreal accomplishment by an unreal player.”
  3. Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Pat Maroon (14) is taken down by Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dmitry Kulikov (7) as he tries to wrap the puck past goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) during the second period Saturday in Tampa. CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP
    They lose to the Winnipeg Jets after a power-play goal scored due to a failed challenge.
  4. Tampa Bay Lightning center Alex Killorn (17) celebrates his second goal of the game during the second period of Tampa Bay's 9-3 victory over the New York Rangers Thursday at Amalie Arena. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Alex Killorn’s decision to just skate away Thursday night is part of a positive trend in Tampa Bay.
  5. Jameis Winston (3) points to fans after the Bucs' 2017 victory over the New Orleans Saints. Tampa Bay Times
    Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Previewing Bucs-Saints, justice for the Astros, answers for the Lightning.
  6. Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Luke Schenn (2) celebrates his goal, the first of the game, along with right wing Nikita Kucherov (86), defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (98) and center Tyler Johnson (9) beating New York Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev (40) during first period action at Amalie Arena on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 in Tampa. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Lightning 9, Rangers 3: Tampa Bay posts its highest-scoring game of the last two seasons.
  7. Pictured from the center ice display, LT Robert McClintock, 101 years old, from the US Army Air Corps (Ret.), performs the National Anthem along with USAF Technical Sergeant (Ret.) Sonya Bryson (not pictured) before the Tampa Bay Lightning take on the New York Rangers on Military Appreciation Night at Amalie Arena on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 in Tampa.  DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The Lightning brought back Robert McClintock to join Sonja Bryson, also a veteran, for Military Appreciation Night
  8. The Lightning return to home ice and dominate the Rangers
  9. The Lightning's Victor Hedman (77). Alex Killorn (17) and Nikita Kucherov (86) celebrate after an NHL hockey game against the Sabres in Globen Arena, Stockholm last week. ANDERS WIKLUND/TT  |  AP
    Tampa Bay’s schedule returns to a more normal pace tonight when it takes on the young, gritty Rangers.
  10. In this March 24, 2010, file photo, hockey personality Don Cherry, right, speaks during a news conference as actor Jared Keeso is displayed on a video screen while playing Cherry in the bio film "Keep Your Head Up Kid: The Don Cherry Story" in Toronto. Sportsnet cut ties with Cherry on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, after the veteran hockey commentator called new immigrants "you people" on his "Coach's Corner" segment while claiming they do not wear poppies to honor Canadian veterans. DARREN CALABRESE  |  AP
    Cherry has not apologized for his remarks.