The first four preseason games give the Lightning a chance to look at players, most of whom are prospects the NHL team doesn’t often see closely.
For players expected to eventually be returned to other teams, that means a quick look, maybe a game for the Lightning staff to get a sense of where they are in their development.
For others, such as 2019 first-round draft pick Nolan Foote and undrafted free-agent signee Jimmy Huntington, the staff was getting a first look. Huntington said after Friday’s game against the Predators at Amalie Arena that he considered himself fortunate to have gotten to play two games.
Then there are players the staff wants to take a good, hard look at. Six players played in their third preseason game Saturday night in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Predators in Nashville: forwards Alex Barre-Boulet, Danick Martel, Mitchell Stephens, Carter Verhaeghe and Alex Volkov, and defenseman Cal Foote. Verhaeghe had two goals, and Foote and Stephens had assists.
With the exception of Martel, that is a list of the Lightning’s top prospects. Martel is something between a prospect and a NHL regular. He spent all but a couple of weeks last season with the Lightning after being claimed off waivers during training camp, but he played only nine games with them.
Last year, when Mathieu Joseph (an assist against Nashville) and Erik Cernak (a goal Saturday) were being evaluated, they each played in three of the first four preseason games. Joseph played in five of seven total, a team high. He made the Lightning out of camp. Cernak was called up in November and stayed with the team the rest of the season.
The Lightning trimmed their training camp roster by 14 Saturday. Huntington and nine others were assigned to Syracuse, and the four remaining players on camp invitations were released from their tryout contracts. Of the 14, nine did not play in a preseason game.
Matheiu Joseph-Anthony Cirelli-Alex Volkov
Nolan Foote-Otto Somppi-Mitchell Stephens
Pat Maroon-Yanni Gourde-Carter Verhaeghe
Danick Martel-Ross Colton-Alex Barre-Boulet
Cameron Gaunce-Luke Witkowski
Dominik Masin-Erik Cernak
Cal Foote-Luke Schenn