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As New Season Approaches, Lightning Key Players Look to Breakout

Photo Credit: Wayne Masut
Photo by Wayne Masut

With the 2022-23 season approaching, the Tampa Bay Lightning have seen personnel changes shift things around. New contracts, roles, and renewed motivation can lead several players to have the breakout year the team is hoping for.

As the NHL offseason finds the midway point, players are beginning to prepare themselves and look ahead to next season. Conditioning, strength workouts, and the upcoming training camp in September are the focus as the Tampa Bay Lightning look to continue their strong run in the Eastern Conference. With the Bolts’ roster going through some changes this offseason, several players have the opportunity to breakout and shine.

Although the Lightning missed their goal of a third straight Stanley Cup Championship, the drive of the team remains solid. Despite the outcome of last season, excitement for the new season is building. Here’s a look at some players poised to make an impact in 2022-23.

Mikhail Sergechev: New Contract, New Outlook

Contract Details: 8 years, $8.5 Million through 2030-31.

2021-22 Stats: 78GP, 7G, 31A, 38PTS, +6

Defenseman Mikhail Sergachev is only 24-years-old. Bolts fans forget how young he is, basically being with the team for five years. Since being traded at 19 by the Montreal Canadians for Lightning Forward Jonathon Drouin in 2017, Sergachev has been a mainstay on the blue line. With his new contract, the Lightning have secured him for what should be his prime.

While Victor Hedman is still playing strong as the Lightning’s leading blueliner, Sergachev is in place to emerge as the heir apparent. The Russian’s offensive production has slowed in recent years as he focused on his defensive game. Not only has he worked on his defense, but also remains a viable threat to score. With the recent trade of Ryan McDonagh to Nashville, Sergachev is in a place to step into a larger leadership role with the team.

By the time training camp begins, look for Sergachev to showcase his honed-in abilities and skills. To be sure, the spry defenseman will capitalize on his youth and experience to dominate on the blue line. For that reason, his new deal with the Lightning may look like a steal for the team before it’s all said and done.

Nick Paul Looks to Build on His Success

Contract Details: 7 year, $22.05 Million through 2028-29.

2021-22 Stats: 59GP with Ottawa, 11G, 7A, 18PTS, -18; 21GP with Tampa Bay, 5G, 9A, 14PTS, +4

Late season acquisition Nick Paul took the Bolts fanbase by storm last season. Following the injury of Brayden Point, Paul rallied the troops with his hard work and charisma during the postseason. His heroics and incredible play led to an impressive contract with the Lightning following their Stanley Cup Playoff run.

With the new deal secured and a full season in Tampa ahead of him, the 27-year-old left wing will add to his numbers and to the team chemistry.  In light of Ondrej Palat’s move to New Jersey, Paul can take an even larger role with the Lightning behind captain Steven Stamkos.

Forward Alex Killorn is entering the final year of his contract. Paul will undoubtedly breakout and take advantage of the situation and springboard himself to stardom in the eyes of Bolts fans.  Sooner or later, 32-year-old Killorn will move on and a changing of the guard with Paul will occur.

Does Nick Paul have what it takes to be a top forward in the league? The Mississauga, Ontario native has the chance to prove that the team’s investment in him will pay dividends for years to come.

Can Ross Colton Breakout Again in 2022-23?

Contract Details: Current contract through 2022-23, $1.125 million.

2021-22 Stats: 79GP, 22G, 17A, 39 PTS, +4

Undoubtedly, Ross Colton capped off a Cinderella Story two years ago when he clinched the Bolts’ second consecutive Stanley Cup with his goal in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Montreal Canadiens. By comparison, his second season last year was not as enchanting, but was still impressive.

Colton ranked 9th on the team in points and 5th in goals scored last year. The third line center did well with an average ice time of just under 12 minutes a game. Not to mention the additions of Nick Paul and Brandon Hagel at the trade deadline last year improving the line’s performance right through the playoffs.

Owing to Palat’s departure, the Lightning’s third line faces changes again. Together with Vladislav Namestnikov returning to the team and veteran assistant Killorn shifting down, Colton’s third line will need to find its chemistry in training camp.

For several years, the Bolts’ third line has been designed to be tough and resilient. Above all, the third line has been clutch during the Lightning’s three year run to the Stanley Cup Finals. That third line magic will be necessary if the Lightning want a fourth trip in as many years.

The magic starts with Colton.  He’s been to the top of the mountain before. Without a doubt, he has the potential to breakout and be there again.


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