We are pretty much at the midway point in the nhl and nefhl season. The lightning this year in the NEFHL suck horribly and are going to be a lottery team once again. The lightning players playing in the NHL right now however, are having as a group very good NHL season which should result in a very competitive lightning team in the nefhl for the 2014-2015 season. Right now, here a look at the forwards GM Lamarche has assembled for next season
Brandon Dubinsky David Krejci Jiri Hudler
This line should be able to produce a ton of offense Dubi is on pace for 57 points in 76 games while bring the grit to this line. Krejci is on pace for 72 points and Hudler is on pace for 69 points. Theres a nice mix of size skill and defensive awareness on this line which should help them compete against other teams top lines on a daily basis .
Derek Roy Patrice Bergeron Mikkel Boedker
This line has arguably one of the top 5 two way centers in the game in Bergeron to go along with pure offensive studs in Roy and Boedker. Bergeron is on pace for 20 goals and 50 points to go along with his always 80+ DF. Derek Roy is having a comeback season where he is on pace for 60 points and Boedker is finally breaking out with a 22 goals and 30 assists pace! This line should have no problem providing secondary scoring in Tampa while also playing on both end of the ice!
Benoit Pouliot Travis Zajac Devin Setoguchi
This line should be able to outplay most 3rd lines in the NEFHL next season. Pouliot and Zajac got of to horrible starts in the NHL but both have turned it around recently. Pouliot has 7 points in his last 7 games with a pace 15 goals on the season and Zajac has 8 points in his last ten with a pace for 40 points. Even with the pace they are on now, I feel like they''ll be very valuable 3rd liners but based on their play of late, we expect their season paces to go up. The third piece of the line, Devin Setoguchi could arguably be in the top 6 and will be moved there from time to time. Seto is on pace for 14 goals and 38 points, but he tends to be a streaky goal scorer and we expect him to reach the 20 goal plateau this season. Even if he keeps this pace, with his speed and intensity, not many teams will be able to out match him on the third line next season.
Tuomo Ruutu Zack Smith Zack Kassian
This line has a lot of size and intensity while still having a decent amout of skill. All 3 of them throw their bodies around a lot in the nhl so their IT ratings should all be in the upper echelon of the league. Ruutu is having a horrible season offensively in the NHL where he is only on pace for 9 goals and 9 assists despite playing on Carolina's top line. He does already have 108 hits so he will be somewhat useful but with his contract, he may be sent down to the minors at the 20 game mark in place of one of our up and coming forwards who are more cap friendly. Zack Smith is having a typical Zack Smith year where he already has 104 hits and is on pace for 16 goals. He could be used on the 3rd line in case of injury with his decent scoring a good physical defensive play. Kassian still hasn't reached his offensive potential but will still be usefull as a grinder until his offensive game develops. He's on pace for 15 goals this season.
Richard Panik, Mikael Granlund, Tyler Johnson, Justin Fontaine and Marcus Kruger are all getting full time minutes at the nhl level and each could easilly fill in or take over a job in the lightning lineup next season. Also to a lesser extent, Markus Granlund just got called up by the Flames and Filip Forsberg is back from his concussion and should get another opportunity with the Predators once the world junior championships are over.
All in all, we won't have any forwards with a superstar rating of 80 OV or higher for next season, but we have an insane amount of depth and skill all accross the lines. We feel like this group will be able to compete with the best of them around the NEFHL next season.