On the outside of the AHL playoff picture as of mid-January, things do not look like they will get any easier for the Syracuse Crunch, the AHL affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Thanks in large part to Steven Stamkos' broken leg, among other injuries, a number of Crunch players have been summoned for short term replacement.
Armed with one of the top prospect pools in all of the NHL, the Tampa Bay Lightning are starting to reap the rewards of good drafting, particularly in the mid-rounds. In the past few years they have added high-ceiling players like Jonathan Drouin and Andrey Vasilevskiy in the first round, whom have been complemented nicely with former mid-round selections like Ondrej Palat, Radko Gudas, and Alex Killorn.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have a deep and talented affiliate in their AHL squad, the Syracuse Crunch. Several players have filtered through the Crunch recently to make it on the NHL ice with the Lightning, including: Cory Conacher, Alex Killorn, and Richard Panik. Currently, their offensive talent at the professional level is deeper than their defensive talent.
It seems that, as a general manager, Steve Yzerman can do no wrong. In his first year as the Tampa Bay Lightning's GM, Yzerman made a number of shrewd moves that helped put the team into the playoffs, and while they finished outside of the playoffs this past season, Yzerman has continued to build a winning system.