"Ready for full time – Jonathan Drouin is the most-hyped draft pick by Tampa Bay since Steven Stamkos and he boasts just as much upside. Except, where Stamkos scores goals, Drouin sets them up. Is this a match made in heaven? You bet it is. But you may not see them paired up right away. It will be sporadic, but will likely increase in frequency as the season wears on. Drouin is a safe bet for 45 points, but is a dark horse for 70.
Ondrej Palat is getting close to an NHL roster spot, but there may not be room for him if Tyler Johnson and Richard Panik make the team. Palat led the American League in playoff scoring with 26 points in 18 games. His numbers with Tampa during a brief stint were also impressive (14-2-2-4, plus-5).
Tyler Johnson had six points in his first five NHL games last season before he cooled off. His AHL numbers have been solid in his two seasons there - he was eighth in scoring last year and seventh in scoring in 2011-12. He's a smaller player who has performed well when the pressure is on, reminding me of former teammate Cory Conacher in that sense.
Right winger Richard Panik clings to his rookie eligibility status thanks to playing 25 NHL games last season instead of 26. Pencil him in as a third-line energy guy for the coming season and 30 points sounds about right.
Defenseman Radko Gudas is a fantasy hockey revelation. He's not going to get 40 points - not now, not ever. But he can certainly chip in 20 or 25 while challenging for the league lead in hits and penalty minutes. A wonderful dark horse in multi-category leagues and he can probably be plucked in one of the final rounds.
At this point, there is one more spot open on defense and Andrej Sustr and Mark Barberio are closest to taking it. Sustr can play a defensive game and he's 6-foot-8, which gives him a big edge. Barberio, meanwhile, is one-dimensional and needs to work on his defensive game. If he can't be “the guy” on the power play, then he may as well remain in the AHL.
Fantasy Outlook – From a fantasy standpoint, this is one of the better teams in the NHL to build a keeper-league squad around. It has a lot of high-scoring forwards on the roster right now (third in goals last season despite missing the playoffs). And the pipeline is almost an embarrassment of riches when it comes to high-flying forwards with upside. In fact, in fantasy hockey keeper leagues, the Lightning has the most appealing prospect pool in the league, bar none. Fantasy Grade: A- (last year was B-)"
“I have a lot to prove,” Connolly said. “I know that I am a better player and I’m not the same player I was when I was 19. I just need to show that. I’m looking to build on everything that I did last year and bring that here (to training camp) and prove to the organization that I want to be here long term. I want to be a part of this; they have a good thing going here.”
“He’s very skilled, he works hard and I think he got smarter as the year went on,’’ said Tyler Johnson, a Syracuse teammate and the reigning AHL MVP. “He became one of our best players by the end of the year.
“He’s a great guy to have on the ice. You felt like he was able to be on in any situation, and you felt like you trusted him in every situation. I think that’s the big thing, he learned to play a smart two-way game.”
“There were some days where you are not confident as a young kid and things are not going your way, but I just learned to put that behind me, move on, and I improved different parts of my game,” Connolly said.
“Last year was the best thing for me. I got to play a lot, I had a good season and regained confidence again. I got to do a lot of things I know I can do well and just making plays, scoring again. And it was good to get that back. So, I just want to carry that into training camp and into this year.”