Edited Feb 28 at 2:13
I do not normally go back and watch Syracuse games that overlap Lightning games, but the Bolts game tonight had me in a good mood and I had missed the last couple of Syracuse games. Additionally, I had seen earlier that this game would feature multiple Lightning prospects that would soon be back on their way to their WHL teams for the start of their seasons. This included AHL debuts for 2020 2nd Rd pick Gage Goncalves and 2020 5th Rd pick Jaydon Dureau.
Syracuse ended up losing to Utica (Vancouver) 4-2 tonight, continuing their 5 game slide since their season opening win. They now sit at 1-4-1. They played a decent game all things considered (I'll get there), and had it at 3-2 before Utica netted an empty net goal towards the end of the game. I would almost be willing to say Syracuse was the better 5on5 team tonight, but a costly turnover by goaltender Montembeault (FLA) gifted Utica what would end up being the game winning goal. The power play was 0/6, kind of like the Lightning's lately, but it's not been easy for Syracuse (once again, I'll get there).
On a positive note, in Goncalves' AHL debut, he had a nice assist that set up Somppi for Syracuse's first goal of the game. (Not sure if Tweet will embed correctly)
Otto Somppi one times it home in the slot for his 2nd goal of the season. Gage Goncalves and Ben Thomas pick up the assists. pic.twitter.com/rUcSc7NctO
— Future Bolts (@LightningProsp1) February 28, 2021
Ryan Lohin knocked in a puck that went off the goalie after a shot from the blueline by a defenseman for Syracuse's 2nd goal of the game.
Ryan Lohin swipes one home in the slot for his 2nd goal of the season. Brady Keeper (FLA) and Taylor Raddysh pick up the assists. pic.twitter.com/b7o83rxiAN
— Future Bolts (@LightningProsp1) February 28, 2021
As for the game lines, the forward lines changed a little from announced lines and sometimes varied throughout as a result of all of the special teams action (PP & PK) throughout the game. These are these are the lines I had observed for most of the game:
Gabriel Fortier - Cole Schwindt (FLA) (JR) - Taylor Raddysh
Boris Katchouk - Otto Somppi - Gage Goncalves (JR)
Jimmy Huntington - Jack Finley (JR) - Serron Noel (FLA) (JR)
Peter Abbandonato - Ryan Lohin - Jaydon Dureau (JR)
Brady Keeper (FLA) - Luke Witkowksi
Sean Day - Ben Thomas
John Ludvig (FLA) - Alex Green
Sam Montembeault (FLA)
As a reminder, a FLA tag was used to identify any player part of the Florida Panthers organization as the Bolts are sharing Syracuse with them this season. The JR tag was used to mark those players that will soon(?) have to return back to their respective CHL teams as they're only permitted to be in the AHL while their leagues are not playing due to covid. The WHL is the league starting soon, and I believe all Bolts junior players belong to WHL teams aside from McDonnell. I would have to double check on Schwindt and Noel.
Now, why is Syracuse losing and sitting at 1 win on the season? I promised I'd tell you and it's because they are missing a crap ton of players who were on the opening night roster or expected to contribute at some point.
This includes players out due to injury:
- F Aleksi Heponiemi (FLA)
- F Henry Bowlby (FLA)
- F Boo Nieves
- F Daniel Walcott
- D Chase Priskie (FLA)
Additionally, players that were called up to either the Panthers or Lightning:
- F Ross Colton
- F Alex Barre-Boulet
- F Grigori Denisenko (FLA)
- D Riley Stillman (FLA)
As one might assume, anyone good enough to be called up to the NHL squads are a major loss for an AHL team. Heponiemi looked to be filling in the 1C spot with Colton in Tampa, but injury struck him a few games ago and I have not heard the extent to his injury. Having to rely on AHL rookie Cole Schwindt as the 1C is a less than optimal situation to be in for the team. However, to be fair, he has held his own in the position.
Now, there is a few Lightning prospects I want to touch on from observations:
He had a really strong AHL debut and was noticeable in the offensive zone throughout and had a great pass to assist Somppi on the Crunch's first goal. He was skating well and making fast accurate passes throughout the game. One thing I noticed was he was 1 of 2 2020 draft picks, along with Finley, to be invited the Lightning preseason camp and I believe he played center there with Finley on wing. I'm not entirely sure, but Syracuse and Coach Groulx having Finley at center and Goncalves at wing is interesting and might be an interesting thing to keep an eye on moving forward in their development to see if limited center openings forces only 1 to stay at their listed position.
I believe this was his 2nd AHL game, but as I had heard about his debut (that I missed), he was not overly noticeable on the ice. If his line was in the offensive zone you could always spot him at the front of the net with his 6'6" frame, but did not have much effect on the outcome of the game. We spent our 2021 2nd and 2020 4th to move up and get him in the 2nd Rd last year, so, it'll be interesting to see how he develops over time as Al Murray had to have seen something in him. Of note, he's still 18 and was on the younger side of draft eligibles last draft, so, he has plenty of time.
Fortier had a hot start to the season, but has since slowed down a little. He's playing fine on the top line (out of necessity), but I think he'd be able to perform better if he was matched up against a little lesser competition in his first full AHL season.
F - Declan McDonnell
Mr. Irrelevant of the 2020 NHL draft has been anything but irrelevant in the 2 games he has already played for Syracuse. He has not gotten on the board yet, but he has had a constant presence in the offensive and defensive zones when on the ice. He was also the first Lightning junior player to be given a game, so, I think that speaks volume to how highly Ben Groulx and co. think of him. His CHL league is the OHL, which I believe do not have return to play plans yet, so, it's likely he was sat to give the WHL guys a chance to play since it's possible he sees more games with Syracuse down the line after they've left.
I'm not sure what to think of Green. He had a good start to the season playing with Orlando, played the opening night, was benched until tonight, and played the lowest minutes of any defenseman. Not being on any of the special teams units probably hurt him tonight to some degree, but it looked like he was being skipped over quite a bit on line rotations. I'm not sure what the issue is, but he's seen fine to me. Perhaps a more trained hockey eye could point something out I'm not seeing.
F?/D? - Dmitri Semykin
I'm not sure what to think of our 2018 3rd Rd pick. He's listed as a LD, but has only played in 1 game as a LW. He did record a goal in the game, but the forward role is not one he looks particularly suited to. There's multiple defenseman from the opening night roster missing from the team at the moment, so, I'm not sure how they intend to get him involved going forward.
If you got this far, thanks for reading. I do this for my own enjoyment on keeping up with the Lightning prospect pipeline, but I am happy to share my thoughts with any interested parties. This is not something I'll probably repeat as in-depth since most of this was tempted by the fresh AHL players playing in their 1st or 2nd games tonight, but I'll probably continue to post small updates at different points going forward.