Deep AHL playoff runs paying off for Bolts, Stars

American Hockey League

Before the Lightning’s current core went on a handful of deep playoff runs in the NHL, they cut their teeth in a waterfront city in southeastern Virginia.

It was in 2011-12 when coach Jon Cooper led an AHL Norfolk Admirals group on a historic run. Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn, all key contributors on this Tampa Bay team, won a record 28 straight games en route to a Calder Cup title. Yanni Gourde and Anthony Cirelli got their first taste of pro playoff hockey with AHL Syracuse in their run to the Calder Cup Final in 2016-17.

Two years earlier, in 2010, and in his only AHL experience, Jamie Benn dragged a Texas Stars team to the Calder Cup Final with 26 points in 24 games. In 2014, Jamie Oleksiak helped Texas hoist the Calder Cup, while in 2018 Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov got on-the-job experience as Texas came up one game short of a title against the Toronto Marlies.

It’s not the same stage as the Stanley Cup playoffs, but those…

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