This Syracuse Crunch team sure is special, isn’t it? The NHL lockout drags on, but one benefit for the Tampa Bay Lightning is the ability to see its young guns play together and grow as a dominant team. The Crunch played three games this weekend (2-1 loss vs. Binghamton, 4-1 win at Albany, 6-1 win at Worcester) and are now 12-3-1-1 through 17 games. This puts them in first in the East Division as well as the entire Eastern Conference.
Take some time to absorb all of these bullet points and try not to get giddy (I couldn’t resist) thinking about some of these guys contributing at the NHL level.
- Richard Panik had 2 goals and 2 assists this weekend to extend his point streak to 10 games. If he gets on the board on Friday, Panik will have had a point in every November game.
- Tyler Johnson now leads the AHL with 13 goals in 17 games.
- J.T. Brown broke out of his (very relative) slumber with a hat trick and an assist this afternoon. If Brown starts firing on all cylinders, the Crunch could be scoring upwards of five goals every night without breaking a sweat.
- Riku Helenius’s numbers still look rough, but he’s starting to settle in and that’s just not fair to the rest of the AHL.
- Dmitry Korobov is now at +12 for the season. Not bad for his first year in North America.
- Mark Barberio has 12 points through 17 games. I have to imagine he fills the role of Marc-Andre Bergeron in Tampa next season.
- Ondrej Palat is now tied for third in the AHL with 14 assists. He could be a real gem of a 7th round pick if you don’t consider him one already.
- Nine players on the Crunch have at least 10 points. If/when the NHL gets going again, they won’t lose all of their talent the way some teams might.
Closing thought: it is absolutely insane to have so many guys knocking on the door at one time. What’s more, Connolly, Helenius, and Vladislav Namestnikov are the only 1st round picks! Steve Yzerman’s had an unreal amount of success signing undrafted players. Johnson, Conacher, and Korobov are prime examples of undrafted gems. Time will tell whether any of these guys succeed in the pros – that being said, the future is blindingly bright for this Lightning team. Bring your sunglasses.