By Jameson Cooper, Staff Writer
Last week I unveiled the first half of my top 20 players in Tampa Bay Lightning history. Now it’s time to get to the big names, the ones whom Lightning fans hold nearest and dearest to their hearts. The stars who are at the forefront of most of our favorite Lightning moments. Here are my picks for the top 10 players in Tampa Bay Lightning history.
10. Ruslan Fedotenko: After being traded to the Lightning from the Flyers in 2002, Fedotenko compiled 144 points in four seasons for the Bolts. His two-goal performance in game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals will be forever remembered as one of the most important and memorable performances in Tampa Bay Lightning history.
9. Roman Hamrlik: The first ever draft pick of the Lightning organization, Hamrlik “quarterbacked” the Bolt’s power play for six seasons. A hard hitter throughout his career, Hamrlik was dubbed “The Hammer” early on in his career. The nickname aptly described his ability to crush opponents into the boards. Hamrlik sits 8th on the list of Bolt’s all time PIM leaders. He was also able to compile 185 points in six seasons for the Lightning.
8. Pavel Kubina: Although he was never an all-star player, Kubina gave the Lightning seven solid seasons on the blue line while anchoring their defense to the 2004 Stanley Cup. Kubina currently sits as the Lightning’s 10th all time scorer and 3rd all time in games played. Though players like Victor Hedman will most likely overtake his defensive team records in the future, Pavel remains as the Lightning’s first great defenseman.
7. Dave Andreychuk: While he didn’t have the most impressive career numbers playing for the Bolts — former captain Dave Andreychuk’s contributions towards the Lightning’s only Stanley Cup win make him an all time great. Andreychuk’s offensive prowess on the power play was one of the Lightning’s best weapons during his time with the team. His lasting image in fan’s minds will always be his gray beard and unwavering smile while hoisting the Cup in 2004.
6. Brian Bradley: Bradley came to the Lightning in the 1992 expansion draft. He was the first star player of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. In his first season with the team he would go on to score a career high 42 goals. His other accolades include being the team’s first ever all-star selection and scoring the first goal in the history of the Ice Palace Arena (now Tampa Bay Times Forum). He currently ranks 7th all time on the Lightning’s all time goal scoring leader board with 111 goals.
5. Nikolai Khabibulin: The “Bulin Wall” was twice an all-star while wearing a Lightning sweater and helped lead the team to its only Stanley Cup Championship. During the first round of the 2004 playoffs, Khabibulin tied an NHL record by shutting out the New York Islanders three times in a single playoff series. Khaibulin is without question the greatest net minder in team history and remains the team’s all time leader in wins with 83 victories. He also holds team records for shutouts, save %, GAA, and playoff victories.
4. Steven Stamkos: After a down year, the Lightning were lucky enough to select Steven Stamkos first overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. On the same team as future hall of famers Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, Stamkos was able to shine through as the team’s superstar. Stamkos is arguably the best scorer in the NHL today. Last season he set the Lightning’s single season goal record with 60 goals, as well as winning his second Maurice “Rocket” Richard trophy for most goals by a player that season in the NHL. In only four seasons Stamkos has already totaled 179 goals and 329 total points. If the Lightning hold on to Stamkos for the entirety of his career he will most likely end up holding most if not all of the team’s all-time scoring records.
3. Brad Richards: Had he not been traded in 2008, Richards could have easily been number one on this list. He is without question one of the most decorated Lightning players in team history. In 2004 he won both the Conn Smythe and Lady Byng trophies as well as the Stanley Cup Championship. In those same 2004 playoffs, Richards set an all time record for game winning goals in a single playoff run with seven. He remains 3rd all time in team scoring with 489 points, however Steven Stamkos is closing in fast.
2. Vincent Lecavalier: The Lightning selected Vincent “Vinny” Lecavalier first overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. A prolific scorer, Lecavalier won the Maurice “Rocket” Richard trophy in the 2006-2007 season with 52 goals. In that same year he set the Lightning’s single season points record with 108 points. Though his numbers have dwindled in recent years due to injury, Vinny remains an integral part of the Lightning’s game plan not only as a scorer but also as team captain. He is currently the Lightning’s all time leading scorer with 842 points, 373 of which are goals. Under contract until the year 2020, Lecavalier looks to finish his career as one of the all time Lightning greats.
1. Martin St. Louis: After being undrafted and then released by the Calgary flames, Martin St. Louis arrived in Tampa Bay in 2000 with a chip on his shoulder that was bigger than he was. The Lightning’s gamble on the undersized winger paid off in a big way. In 2004 he became only the 8th player in NHL history to win the Art Ross Trophy, Hart Memorial Trophy and Stanley Cup Championship in the same season. His shining moment for the Lightning came in the 2004 Stanley Cup finals when his 2OT game winning goal forced a game seven against the Calgary Flames – A game the lightning would go on to win. St. Louis is currently the Lightning’s all-time assist leader with 513 assists. St. Louis will now continue to play out his final playing years setting up Steven Stamkos and hoping to reclaim Stanley Cup glory one more time before retirement.
Once again, I encourage all Lightning fans to vote for their favorite player at www.20yearsofhunder.com
All statistics shown are courtesy of www.hockey-reference.com