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Rookie energy helps Lightning with reboot

Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk seemingly earned their roster spots by proving themselves with tempo defense and special teams play.
Tampa Bay's Taylor Raddysh, right, passes the puck past Florida's Ryan Lomberg during the first period of an Oct. 5 preseason game in Orlando.
Tampa Bay's Taylor Raddysh, right, passes the puck past Florida's Ryan Lomberg during the first period of an Oct. 5 preseason game in Orlando. [ JOHN RAOUX | Associated Press ]
Published Oct. 10
Updated Oct. 11

SUNRISE — Taylor Raddysh didn’t play a single game for the Lightning last season. He spent the postseason with the team, practicing throughout Tampa Bay’s second straight Stanley Cup title run. Raddysh and the other callups were even in the team photo on championship-clinching night at Amalie Arena.

But Raddysh was still a relative unknown. This preseason, his utility-knife game quickly won over the veteran locker room and coaching staff. And if Saturday’s preseason finale against the Panthers was any indication, he likely will make his NHL debut Tuesday night at home in the opener against the Penguins.

“He brings a lot of speed to this group, brings a lot of energy, brings a new face most importantly,” said forward Pat Maroon, who shared time on the fourth line with Raddysh in the preseason. “You can get stale with all of us winning. You need that energy, you need that boost, you need to reboot that somehow, and I think he’s done a good job of bringing that.”

As the Lightning replace four regular forwards, they will lean on rookies to open the season more than in the recent past. But the trust they have in their player development — where players are groomed for the Lightning’s style of play in AHL Syracuse — tells them that some of their young players are ready for the NHL.

“I love what I do,” Raddysh, 23, said last week. “I have the utmost passion to be a hockey player, and it’s dreaming as a kid to play in the NHL, and hopefully one day I can do it.”

Lightning center Boris Katchouk follows a play during the first period of a preseason game against the Panthers on Oct. 7.
Lightning center Boris Katchouk follows a play during the first period of a preseason game against the Panthers on Oct. 7. [ PHELAN M. EBENHACK | Associated Press ]

Rookie forward Boris Katchouk may also make the cut for Tuesday night. Forward Alex Barre-Boulet was placed on waivers Sunday. Rosters are due to the league at 5 p.m. today.

Barre-Boulet could be claimed by a team with roster and cap space. He was among the AHL’s top six scorers in his first two pro seasons and scored three goals in 15 games in his NHL debut last season.

But for now, the Lightning need more of a two-way-minded player to grind out minutes on the bottom line, play predictably by getting pucks deep and contribute on special teams.

Raddysh and Katchouk showed those skills in the preseason. In the Lightning’s 4-2 win over the Panthers on Saturday, Katchouk seemingly cemented his spot with some heady play on the penalty kill and logged 1:28 of ice time in 6-on-5 play when the Panthers pulled their goalie to add an extra attacker at the end.

“Invaluable minutes,” said forward Alex Killorn, who plays 6-on-5. “It’s tough for guys to come up and fill that role because it’s so different, the leagues.”

Raddysh also jelled with veterans Maroon and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare on the fourth line.

“He has a very good shot. He’s very versatile. He’s a fast skater,” Maroon said. “I thought our line did pretty well throughout the preseason; we had a good mesh going on there.”

The Lightning can carry up to 23 players but likely will open the season with fewer. Raddysh and Katchouk would give them 13 forwards. Defensemen Andrej Sustr and Fredrik Claesson also were placed on waivers, an indication that the Lightning plan to go into the season with just six defensemen.

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieintheYard.

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