Losing important roster players to free agency is never a deal front offices enjoy going through. Alex Killorn parted ways with the Tampa Bay Lightning after an 805-game tenure. A massive loss initiates the need for a competent replacement. A replacement can come in the form of one player or multiple providing their respective services. Let’s see which Lightning Forwards can replace Killorn heading into next season.
Alex Killorn Leaves Open Forward Spot in Top Six
Killorn matched the Tampa Bay system perfectly. The Lightning are quick in transition, especially on the breakout. Then, once they pass through the neutral zone, the team will establish the 2-3 press forecheck. After, two forwards park themselves in front of the net for deflections and screens. The Lightning have a triangle at the top of the zone. Moreover, the team enjoys using one-timers with Steven Stamkos or Nikita Kucherov on their off-wing.
Corey Sjanzder’s micro stats tracking project (All Three Zones) furthers this point. Killorn ranked 83rd percentile of forecheck pressures per hour. Additionally, he placed in the 81st percentile of recovered dump-ins. Killorn uses his strong stickwork and body position to gain possession of the puck. Next, he fires a puck up to the point and heads to the net for a screen. Killorn finished in the 93rd percentile of point shot set-ups per 60.
Furthermore, Killorn played a vital role in breakouts. He frequently touched the puck in the defensive zone, leading to clean exits. Killorn placed in the 89th percentile of defensive zone retrievals leading to exits per hour in 2023. Killorn left some big shoes to fill heading into next season. Let’s review some players who can fill them.
Hagel Will Continue to Succeed
Brandon Hagel emerged as a star for the Lightning last season. The 25-year-old reached the 30-goal plateau for the first time in his career. Furthermore, he found his role on the powerplay as the man in front. Hagel scored six powerplay goals during the regular season.
Hagel played a vital complementary role alongside the top offensive weapons. He is a high-energy player who can provide on and off the score sheet. Hagel is similar to an Ondrej Palat-type role heading in the 2024 season. He may break his record of 64 points in a single season alongside Kucherov and Brayden Point for the entire season.
Sheary Offers a New Dimension of Offence
Conor Sheary is a fantastic replacement for Killorn due to his cheap cap hit. Sheary provides an entirely new dimension of offence for the Lightning heading into the upcoming year. His high-danger passing ability and stellar complimentary play alongside superstar forwards offer unlimited upside.
Killorn reached a career-high 64 points during the 2023 season. On the other hand, Sheary recorded 53 points in 61 games during the 2017 season. Do not rule out Sheary replicating the production of Killorn, especially with Jon Cooper behind the bench. While every player on the roster can not play with Point and Kucherov, Sheary will find chemistry with one of Stamkos or Hagel.
Jeannot Looking to Bounce Back
Tanner Jeannot is arguably the biggest X-Factor outside of Sheary. The gritty forward possesses a goal-scoring touch around the net that the team needs in the middle six. Jeannot scored a career-best 24 goals with the Nashville Predators during the 2022 season. However, he struggled to find his game with Tampa Bay last season.
His struggles may have been due to a leg injury he suffered against the New York Islanders 12 days before the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Regardless, Jeannot is a full participant in training camp this year and will be ready for puck drop.
The Bad Always Follows Up With the Good
While 64 points is not an easy role to replace, the Lightning players above are more than capable of stepping up their game. The loss of Killorn is not meager. On the other hand, a new player will receive an opportunity from the vacant role to thrive. The bad is always balanced and followed by the good in the beautiful game they call hockey.
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