By Jake Ricker
With the Lightning losing players like Ondrej Palat, they could really use a new sneaky goal scorer, which the Lightning might already have with the young Alex Barré-Boulet.
Barré-Boulet (ABB) has been an interesting prospect for the Lightning ever since they signed him in 2018. ABB gained a lot of attention during his 2017-2018 season in the QJHML, where he scored 53 goals, and 63 assists, for a total of 116 points. His 116 points were one of the highest point totals until this past season.
While ABB has seen some time in the NHL, his skills haven't transferred over. Let's take a look at different parts of his game and see how he could be a key to the Lightning's success in the coming years.
Of course, we have to start with offense, ABB's bread and butter. In 158 games played with the Syracuse, Crunch ABB has scored 85 goals, and 114 assists, for an impressive 199 points. At 1.25 points per game, it's clear he has the ability to be a great goal scorer in the AHL. However, things haven't been as great in the NHL.
Over the past two seasons, ABB has played in a total of 31 games, scoring six goals, and three assists, for a total of nine points. At just 0.29 points per game, his production has been significantly lower than it is in the AHL. While you can't expect a player's talent to translate 1 for 1 when going from the AHL to the NHL, ABB has shown he has much more to offer. Some of these struggles can be attributed to his inconsistent playing time at the NHL level. Moving up and down from the AHL to the NHL can be a stressful experience for a player and certainly doesn't make things any easier on them.
With Cirelli out for the first part of this upcoming season, ABB should have a decent amount of constant playing time to try and show the coaches why he deserves to stay. If he can even just make a small impact in places like the power play, he would be a huge asset for the Lightning. ABB has a powerful shot that is perfect for a player sitting in the right or left circle on the man advantage. In fact, this is just how he scored his 1st NHL goal. By adding a powerful shot from the circle, teams will have to pay that much more attention to the Lightning power play.
Unfortunately, there are not a lot of great stats when it comes to defense. Luckily ABB is more known for his offensive ability than his defensive. However, thanks to JFresh's player cards, we know ABB has actually had some success defensively at the NHL level. With a 94% WAR rating (wins above replacement) in 2020-21, ABB passes the advanced analytics test. For more on what these stats mean, you can check out this link.
What has to change
ABB has shown great potential in the AHL but hasn't been able to fully translate it to the NHL. But with only 31 total games in the NHL, It is difficult to get a good read on how good he can be. Something clearly isn't clicking with ABB, or he would have more NHL playing time. Remember, he also only played two games with the Kraken before being put back on waivers. As mentioned earlier, with Cirelli out for the start of the upcoming season, he might get another chance to show what he can do. Assuming, of course, he is able to impress coaches at training camp/preseason.
The power play will still be his best chance at making an impact. The Lightning have struggled at times on the power play and have never had a great second unit. Especially with Palat now gone, the Lightning will be looking for someone to step up and fill that role, and ABB does have a little experience in that position.
If ABB is able to increase his scoring and be decent defensively, he just might be able to stick around and make a large impact. He will really have to impress the coaching staff, though, as once Cirelli returns, unless theirs another injury, there aren't really any open spots for him.
He is a player to keep your eye on during training camp this year, though, as that will likely determine whether or not he is one of the first players to be called upon when the Lightning do have to deal with injuries to their forward core.
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