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2023 Fantasy Hockey Team Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning

Next up in our fantasy hockey team preview series is the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning have been the most successful team across the league in recent years, winning two Stanley Cups and making another trip to the finals. You don’t have that kind of track record unless you have quality players, and Tampa is loaded with elite talent.

Some folks are predicting they fall in the standings, as a result of some departures, their players getting a year older, and several teams in their division taking a step forward. My philosophy — don’t bet against the Lightning. They still have top players at every position, who know how to get the job done.

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2023 Tampa Bay Lightning Fantasy Hockey Preview

Lightning Forwards

Tampa has plenty of firepower up front. First up is Nikita Kucherov, who collected 113 points. It was his third 100-point season, and it would be no surprise if he did it again this coming season. He’s one of the best players in the league, and should easily be taken in the first round of any draft. Then there’s Brayden Point, who’s coming off a career-best 51 goals and 95 points. His point totals can fluctuate greatly from year to year, but there’s no doubting his talent. While he might not hit 50 goals again, scoring 40 goals and being a point-per-game player should be a reasonable expectation. Then there’s the captain, Steven Stamkos. He’s become a winger in recent years but retains his center eligibility. Stamkos is coming off an 84-point campaign and should be able to produce a similar total next year.

Their secondary scorers have taken a hit, as the salary cap has forced them to trade players out. Notably, Alex Killorn left via free agency, after losing Ondrej Palat the previous offseason. Brandon Hagel has stepped up to fill some of the void. His previous career high was 37 points, but he broke out for a 64-point campaign. He’ll have a top-six slot again, with a good chance of seeing some time with Point and Kucherov on the top line. Anthony Cirelli and Nick Paul occupy the middle six center positions. Neither will have that wow factor, but both are reliable options. Cirelli in particular should have a better year now that he’s healthy. Getting back to the 40-point mark should be achievable.

There is an opening on the second line. Free agent addition Conor Sheary could take that spot, or it could be last year’s trade acquisition Tanner Jeannot. Sheary has experience playing in a scoring role from his time in Pittsburgh. The Lightning paid a hefty price to get Jeannot and may see more upside with him, similar to Hagel after Tampa paid a high price to get him too. I expect both Sheary and Jeannot to see an increase in their fantasy value this season.

The rest of their forward group doesn’t have as much appeal. As previously mentioned, the salary cap has forced them to lose some of their depth. The Lightning will be relying on players who aren’t as proven. Mikey Eyssimont, Logan Brown, and Josh Archibald should all set career highs in games played. Luke Glendening rounds out the group, but he would only have fantasy value in deeper leagues.

Lightning Defense

The Lightning’s defense is led by one of the top blue liners of the past decade in Victor Hedman. He scored 49 points last season, which was considered a down year for him. That’s because he racked up 85 points the year prior. Next up they have Mikhail Sergachev, who broke out last year with 10 goals and 64 points. The main cause for the breakout? Sergachev logged plenty of time on the first power-play unit. That helped him post 27 power-play points when he had just eight power-play points the year before. The question of which defender lands on the top unit will be the deciding factor in who has a better fantasy season. The expectation is that Sergachev will get the lion’s share of the role.

Beyond those two there’s a notable drop off. Erik Cernak is a solid defenseman, but he is more known for his defense and physicality. If your league counts these categories, then the 209 hits and 100 blocks he posted last year could bring him some value. Nicklaus Perbix was the latest gem churned out by the Lightning’s farm system. He notched 20 points in 69 games and could build upon that if he can retain a top-four role. The bottom pair will likely be a mix of Zach Bogosian, Darren Raddysh, and Calvin de Haan. None of which will bring much fantasy value to your team.

Lightning Goalies

Andrei Vasilevskiy remains one of the best netminders in the league. You can rely on him playing 60 games and putting up at least 30 wins. While his Goals Against Average, and Save Percentage have been trending downwards the past three seasons, I wouldn’t be too worried about that. Offense is up around the league, so many goaltenders have taken a hit to their stats. However, it does mean that Vasilevskiy (or any other goaltender) is likely not worth drafting in the first round. He should still be one of the first goalies drafted though, as he’s one of the few workhorse goalies in a league where tandems are becoming more popular. With a longer offseason than usual, the extra rest could help Vasilevskiy get back into the Vezina conversation.

Jonas Johansson signed as a free agent to be the backup. The 27-year-old has 35 games of NHL experience and played just three games last season. He’s never played more than 15 contests in a campaign, so expect him to surpass that total. If he struggles with the role, Tampa could look to add a goaltender. Alternatively, they could give 22-year-old Hugo Alnefelt a few games.

In summary, the Tampa Bay Lightning are in win-now mode. They’ll continue to be buyers, as they look to win another cup with this core. Kucherov, Point, Stamkos, Hedman, Sergachev, and Vasilevskiy are all players you want to have on your fantasy roster. Draft them with confidence, and watch as they excel yet again.

Make sure to check out all of our Fantasy Hockey Team Previews as they roll out over the coming weeks!

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