With a lockout at the NHL level seemingly growing more and more likely by the day, many Tampa Bay Lightning prospects expected to move up to the NHL squad or stick with the big club for another year may be forced to stay down in Syracuse and play for the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL, Tampa Bay's new minor league affiliate.
Players like Alex Killorn, Cory Conacher, and Pierre-Cedric Labrie are still expected to compete for open roster positions on the Lightning squad which may or may not see the ice on opening day depending on the resolution of ongoing CBA negotiations between the NHLPA and the league.
Meanwhile, General Manager Steve Yzerman's first round pick from the 2011 draft, Vlad Namestnikov, is reportedly back in London, Ontario for a few workouts to prepare for his AHL debut this fall, which is not contingent on a labor resolution at the NHL level.
With Namestnikov joining the fold in Syracuse, the Crunch squad will, at least technically, be defending the Calder Cup victory many players acheived last season with the Norfolk Admirals, the last Lightning AHL affiliate.
In the event of an NHL lockout, the Crunch roster would likely be bolstered with young talent in addition to Namestnikov. Players like Brett Connolly, JT Brown, and Dana Tyrell have all shown the ability to compete at the highest level in the past.
Adding Namestnikov to that mix gives the Crunch great depth at center (captain Mike Angelidis, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, and Namestnikov) and probably makes them early favorites for regular and postseason success in what could be an unusually competitive AHL this season.
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