Features

Articles that are feature stories.

Cirelli Brings Big Game Experience to Crunch


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Anthony Cirelli is used to the big stage at the junior level.

The center led Oshawa to an Ontario Hockey League championship and won the Memorial Cup with the Generals in 2015. Cirelli won silver with Team Canada at the World Junior Championships last winter, after a trade in January, Cirelli led Erie to another OHL title and trip to the Memorial Cup.

The Syracuse Crunch rookie hopes his experience in big games translates to success at the professional level.

"I've been to the (Memorial Cup) finals a couple times. Losing that second one was kind of hard and losing in the World Junior final there was tough," Cirelli said. "But just being a part of those teams, knowing those guys, playing through long playoff runs and playing those pressure games helped take my development to the next level."

The Random 17

According to a non-scientific Google search, 17 is the most random number. It’s also my old hockey number so I’m going to title this weekly blog entry “The Random 17.” There’s also a nickname for 17 in British bingo, but that’s Dancing Queen. Never been much of an Abba fan, so forget that.

I’ve always been a big fan of Elliot Friedman’s “30 Things,” and imitation is the highest form of flattery, so here we go – 17 random thoughts on the Lightning and sports in general.

1. Big ups to Jon Cooper and the Lightning for their 3-1 start, especially the consistent effort and speed shown against big boys Washington and Pittsburgh. With their wins over those two clubs this week, Tampa Bay announced their presence as a legitimate Cup contender. But not so fast… the key now will be for the Lightning to play with the same intensity against the Calgarys and Floridas of the world when Hockey Earth isn’t watching. The contrast between the Lightning in front of the Zimmerman seats in Sunrise and the Lightning vs Ovechrosby is like night and day. Or Hedman vs. Sustr. Huge difference in effectiveness.

Cernak's Work Ethic Impresses Crunch's Groulx


By Jeremy Houghtaling

After Erik Cernak’s first weekend with the Syracuse Crunch, head coach Benoit Groulx’s assessment was nothing but positives.

Strong skater. Big body. Good shot.

Most importantly, Groulx believes Cernak’s work ethic is what could eventually earn the 20-year-old defenseman a spot in the NHL.

“I like the package, now I think it’s about more maturity in his game,” Groulx said of the 6-3, 221-pounder. “He’s got a lot of qualities as a person and a player, and he’s probably one of the hardest working guys we have here. That’s a compliment, because we have many guys that are working hard.

“He’s played well so far in the two games. He has to bring more consistency, but I think he’s got a lot of room to develop and become a very good player.”

Erne Looks to Prove Himself With Crunch


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Adam Erne is back in the AHL and ready to demonstrate why he belongs at the next level.

The winger earned his first promotion to Tampa Bay last year and finished the regular season with the Lightning. Erne was returned to Syracuse for the playoffs, and suited up for all 22 games on the Crunch’s road to the Calder Cup Finals.

As he begins his third professional season, Erne knows making that next step to the NHL full-time is all about consistency.

"I think just being dominant every night and proving that I deserve to be at the next level," Erne said of what it would take to earn a spot with the Lightning. "I think I have the tools to get there, it's just a matter of using them every night."

The BoltProspects Podcast, Episode 98

This BoltProspects Podcast, Episode 98 – the ’98 Draft Edition, contains the following topics:

· The No. 98
· The 1998 Draft led to 2004 Cup
· 2017-2018 Lightning: Reasons to plan a Cup parade
· 2017-2018 Lightning: Reasons to plan a pitchfork parade
· Interview with Adam Erne
· #BPMailbag

Groulx, Crunch Look to Turn Page on Last Season


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Benoit Groulx paused before answering the question.

“How long did it take for you to get over that finals loss? Was it a whole summer thing?”

The Crunch head coach, whose team fell in six games to the Grand Rapids Griffins in the Calder Cup Finals in his first year behind the Syracuse bench last season, smiled and shrugged. While Groulx believes his team had a good showing, it was tough to come up just short.

Groulx and the Crunch are looking to turn the page as they begin their 2017-18 campaign.

“We have many different faces,” Groulx said. “We have nine or 10 rookies on the team, but we also have solid vets — guys with a lot of experience in this league. We want to play a certain style, and that’s our goal to be competitive and see where we’re at when it starts.”

Way-Too-Early Roster Projections

As the Lightning trudge through the offseason swamp, we’ll keep a running list of best-guess rosters for Tampa Bay and Syracuse based on players available to them. Use the old “if the season started today” when looking at this. Of note: Unless you’re reading this on opening night, the season doesn’t start today and fans should never judge an offseason until the puck drops on the season.

With that said, here’s where players slot if the season were to start today. Notable RFA’s are included, but UFA’s are not. We will also not make bold predictions such as Ben Thomas unseating Anton Stralman because of his offseason workout magic, or anything like that. If a Brayden Point situation happens, it just happens. Depth charts (NOT line combos) are based on probability and relative status to their peers as of this moment.

Here we go:

Offseason Prospect Rankings

Introduction
Now that the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and Lightning prospect development camp are in the past, it's time to update BoltProspects' prospect rankings. Usually we do the introductions to these rankings in a fairly formulaic fashion, with a quick overview of the general inertia of the prospect pipeline since our last rankings update followed by the usual legalese about our ranking eligibility rules. This time around, I'd like to take a step back, though, and address a couple of things that have come up in the last month or so. You can call this clearing the air, venting, keeping it real, whatever you like...

Issue number one is the trade of Jonathan Drouin, a former prospect whose athletic gifts we obviously had a lot of respect for on the website. Because of that respect of Drouin, the talent, we were really swept up in a maelstrom of bomb throwing and hyperbole by different factions in the fan base that just didn't represent the more mature, nuanced position we have on the trade. To put it bluntly, there were so many people on my Twitter mentions acting the fool that day, you'd have thought I died and moved to a market like Toronto or Montreal where BS and hype erupt into the hockey world en masse through some rip in common sense and the time space continuum, alike.

The BoltProspects Podcast, Episode 97

This BoltProspects Podcast, Episode 97 – the Matt Gilroy Edition, contains the following topics:

· The No. 97
· Drouinsanity 3.0
· First round difficulties
· 2017 Draft review
· BP “underrating defensemen” (yes and no)
· “GirarDay” (UFA) review
· So… bottom line… are the Lightning better?

2017 Lightning Draft Preview

Introduction

After a very unconventional 2016-2017 Tampa Bay Lightning prospect season concluded with the Syracuse Crunch being defeated in six games in the Calder Cup Final, 2017-2018 had an unconventional beginning with the acquisition of defenseman Mikhail Sergachev and the looming Las Vegas Expansion Draft. Unconventional doesn't equal bad, though, when evaluating the state of the Lightning prospect system heading into the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. There are still some moving parts to consider heading into the Expansion Draft, and this preview may be subject to change based on the outcome of that event, but on balance the Lightning enter the draft in a position of strength.

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