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2022-23 Fantasy Hockey Outlook: Tampa Bay Lightning

We know better than to count out the Lightning even though they lost key veterans for the second straight summer due to a cap crunch. Here's a look at who remains.
The Hockey News

The Hockey News

The fantasy season is upon us. Another year of tears of joy and heartbreak.

To help you along, here’s your fantasy outlook for all 32 teams.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Last season: 51-23-8, 3rd Atlantic, 8th overall. GF: 8th, GA: 6th, PP: 8th, PK: 11th

It was kind of a blessing the Lightning drew the Leafs in the first round. By facing their biggest intra-conference threat at the very beginning, the defending two-time champs were guaranteed to be fresh. The winner of their matchup would have an easier path to the Cup, and it ended up playing that way with the Lightning losing two games combined to the Panthers and Rangers versus three against the Leafs.

It says a lot about the Lightning that they’re expected to be a contender again after losing in the Stanley Cup Finals and, once again, losing key veterans over the summer due to the salary cap. But we’ve learned to never count them out by now, even when they didn’t look all that good during the regular season. Come playoff time, no team was more dangerous because they had elite talent and they’ve done it all before.

The Lightning’s biggest strength is that they’re a skilled team that can grind out wins. There’s no real weakness in their lineup, but the perpetual question now is how long they can keep their championship window open. Having a healthy Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov for the full season will certainly help, but the reality in a parity-driven league is that the Lightning are working against Father Time and the salary cap, and once you’re at the top, sometimes the only way to go is down. 

How do they stem the loss of both Ondrej Palat and Ryan McDonagh? Is Ross Colton the next AHL graduate will step up? Can they stay healthy for both the regular season and the playoffs? How will the Lightning respond if the Leafs or Panthers take the next step?

Best Fantasy Option: Nikita Kucherov, RW

In banger leagues, Kucherov doesn’t seem like an attractive option. It’s unlikely he’ll hit 300 shots on net and he doesn’t offer much in other categories, but his scoring is so elite it outweighs all of his deficiencies. Last season, Kucherov would’ve finished second in scoring at 1.47 P/GP, trailing only Connor McDavid’s 1.54, and over the past three seasons ranks fourth behind McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Nathan MacKinnon. Kucherov is, by far, the most valuable RW in fantasy. THN’s Pool Guide is projecting Kucherov to score 112 points while BetMGM’s over/under has been set at 110. In roto leagues, there is a good argument for Steven Stamkos to be the best fantasy option on the Lightning due to his dual-position eligibility (C/LW), but Stamkos is also projected to score 10-20 points less than Kucherov.

Hidden Gem: Mikhail Sergachev, D

With over 100 shots, blocked shots, and hits, Sergachev started to pop up on the fringes of the radar in banger leagues. He’s still lacking in the scoring categories because he shoots so infrequently, but the departure of McDonagh pushes Sergachev up the depth chart. He’s going to play a lot more minutes, especially on special teams, giving him a chance to set career highs across the board. 

In leagues that emphasize scoring, Sergachev is still on the outside looking in, so the better pick is Ross Colton, who has C and LW eligibility and knocking on the door of a top-six role. He was one of their best players in the AHL and managed to score 22 goals with the Lightning last season. In the right situation, Colton can flirt with 25-30 goals and provide plenty of hits and he’s currently going undrafted in the vast majority of leagues. 

Brayden Point deserves a mention, and his Yahoo ADP of 117.2 is far too low for the potential No. 1 pivot on a Cup contender, but he’s one of those players who’s far better in real life than in fantasy. At best, Point is a point-per-game player with few outstanding peripherals, and there’s some trepidation coming off an injury-plagued season and so-so playoff performance.

Goalies:

Andrei Vasilevskiy is, at worst, the second-best goalie in fantasy. Igor Shesterkin might end up having more value because of a bigger workload, but Vasilevskiy plays on a better team and he has led the league in wins for five straight seasons. Backup Brian Elliott will be an attractive option on the waiver wire for fantasy managers looking for an easy win, but the peripherals won’t be very good.

Outlook: 

There’s little reason to think the Lightning can’t make the Finals for the fourth straight season even though the East is stacked; the Leafs are still very good, the Panthers’ re-worked roster might push them over the top, and the Rangers, Hurricanes, and Penguins loom large. Kucherov, Stamkos, and Victor Hedman remain elite fantasy assets, with Point, Colton, and Sergachev adding some mid-level value. It’s a top-heavy roster with some interesting role players in Cirelli, Alex Killorn, and Brandon Hagel, but they score so infrequently that sometimes they become a source of frustration instead. 

Fantasy managers were bullish on Hagel after the trade to Tampa since he had scored 21 goals in 55 games with the Blackhawks, but note he had a very high 22.3 S% at the time, and in 45 games with the Lightning (season and playoffs) scored just six goals. He’s a low-volume shooter, too, so if his shooting percentage drops down to the league average around 10-12 percent, reaching 20 goals might be difficult. 

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