TAMPA — The “next man up” mentality is getting real for the Lightning.
With Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point sidelined, Mathieu Joseph out with an undisclosed injury and Steven Stamkos off to Tampa for the expected birth of his second child, the Lightning were far from at full strength in Tuesday’s shootout loss in St. Louis.
But the game offered an interesting glimpse into the franchise’s future.
The Lightning have an established young core in Anthony Cirelli, Erik Cernak, Mikhail Sergachev and Ross Colton, but Tuesday’s game gave us an up-close look at the next wave of youngsters who could make an impact.
Here’s what we saw:
Katchouk has a lot of grit to his game but also a nose for the net. His diving, wraparound shot Tuesday gave us some serious Blake Coleman vibes. He did everything possible to get his first NHL goal, whipping behind the net, emerging at the near post and extending fully to swat the puck toward the net. His shot beat Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington five-hole, but the puck failed to cross the goal line.
Katchouk’s responsible defensive play also has earned him time on the penalty-kill unit, though he didn’t log any time there Tuesday.
Being elevated to the first forward line and top power-play unit in Point’s absence should give Barre-Boulet confidence. He’s certainly not Point, but Barre-Boulet was a bona fide goal-scorer in the minors and has used his speed to create quality scoring opportunities since his call-up.
Barre-Boulet had two great looks in overtime Tuesday but came up empty both times. He had an open left side of the net on the first but flicked the puck wide and had a clear shot from the slot that he flipped into Binnington’s body. But with his high-powered shot, if he keeps shooting, Barre-Boulet could get on a roll.
Foote got to play significant time due to injuries to Cernak and Zach Bogosian, and with the Lightning dressing just 11 forwards Tuesday he played 8:14 as a seventh defenseman. But when the corps is at full strength, it’s clear Foote is near the bottom of the veteran-laden pecking order.
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Still, Cooper said the three games Foote played prior to Tuesday’s were some of his best. He’s getting more comfortable with the physical side of the game and held his own against some big forwards against St. Louis and Minnesota on Sunday. That part of his game needs to grow, as do his instincts with the puck. But he’s made major strides since his NHL debut last season.
Raddysh’s gritty style of play nearly landed the 23-year-old forward his first career NHL goal as he and Cirelli battled around the crease Tuesday. Both had bats at the puck, but Cirelli got it past Binnington, with Raddysh picking up an assist for his second NHL point. Radysh later assisted on Cernak’s goal, giving him his first career multi-point game.
Raddysh’s responsibilities have grown since his Oct. 12 debut. Tuesday, he logged time on the second power-play and penalty-kill units, signs the coaching staff is trusting him more with each shift. He’s the only rookie to see a jump in ice time, logging 13-plus minutes in three of the past five games.
Fortier left a good impression on the coaching staff in his NHL debut. He played 9:37, including an overtime shift, and fit comfortably alongside Barre-Boulet and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Fortier blocked a shot, had a shot on goal and delivered three hits.
Cooper commended the way the 21-year-old played in a “tough” situation (with one fewer forward). “I thought he earned his ice time as the game went on,” Cooper said. “He got hit pretty good there, and I love how he came right back at them and stood up for himself, drew a penalty with his speed. ... I thought he played great.”
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