By Dan Williams @Dan_Wi11iams on June 24, 2014
Last year, the Tampa Bay Lightning surprised many around the NHL when they battled through injuries to secure a playoff spot. The Lightning needed to rely on their young talent pool on the ice after a long-term injury to top scorer Steven Stamkos and trading away the face of the franchise, Marty St. Louis. Many of the players propelled the team to a playoff spot return, and here is a look at five players the team must build around in 2014.
Last season was Valtteri Filppula's first with the Tampa Bay Lightning. With several injuries, Filppula was called upon to lead a relatively young Lightning team on the ice and he responded by posting the highest goal of his career with 25. Filppula ranked second on the team with 58 total points and will need to notch similar numbers for a team with many returning pieces.
Ben Bishop is the tallest goalie in the league, and he played that way for the Lightning last season. Bishop established himself as one of the top goalies in the NHL by posting the league’s fourth-highest win total with 37 – the most in franchise history. Unfortunately for Bishop, injuries hampered him during the season and kept him out of seeing action in the playoffs. Tampa will look to Bishop to continue on his 2013-14 success in net.
Tyler Johnson has shown that he can score at all levels, so when injuries allowed Johnson to get his shot with the Lightning, he made the most of it. Johnson, 23, responded by totaling 50 points and collecting a nomination for the Calder Trophy along with fellow rookie teammate Ondrej Palat. Johnson will be called upon to be a top contributor on offense for Tampa during his sophomore season, and is an essential building block for the Lightning.
At just 23, Victor Hedman is heading into his sixth season with Tampa Bay and has shown why he was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 draft. This past season, Hedman ranked fifth among NHL defensemen in total points (55) and tied for ninth in goals scored (13). The 2013-14 season signified a breakout year for the Swede, and he has established himself as not only a staple in the Lightning franchise, but also the NHL.
Is there any question who the Lightning need to build the franchise around? Although a broken leg caused Steven Stamkos to miss most of last season, he was able to scored 40 points in just 37 games. Now with the 'captain' designation, Stamkos is the centerpiece of the Tampa franchise. A healthy Stamkos in the lineup for the Lightning means hefty scoring, as he was the fourth-fastest player in NHL history to reach 200 goals in a career.
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