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A rookie surprise: Dotchin earning his minutes for Lightning

Victor Hedman, Jake Dotchin

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (77) celebrates with defenseman Jake Dotchin (59) after Hedman scored against the Carolina Hurricanes in overtime in an NHL hockey game Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning won the game 4-3. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)


The Tampa Bay Lightning have clearly been in the market for a top-4 defenseman -- preferably a right shot. Not long ago, they tried to get Kevin Shattenkirk out of St. Louis, only for Shattenkirk to nix the trade and end up in Washington.

While it’s still expected that GM Steve Yzerman will scour the market for a top-4 d-man this summer, might a kid by the name of Jake Dotchin give the Bolts pause in what could be a very costly pursuit?

In Wednesday’s 4-3 OT win over Carolina, Dotchin logged 20:07 and registered his fourth assist in his 15th NHL game. The 22-year-old rookie, a sixth-round pick in 2012, has been paired with the Lightning’s top defenseman, Victor Hedman, leaving Jason Garrison and Anton Stralman to form a shutdown duo.

A few weeks ago, shortly after Dotchin was recalled from the AHL, head coach Jon Cooper hinted that the youngster’s role might be increased.

“He’s earned the right to be here and he’s not playing with fear or like he’s afraid to make a mistake and that’s big,” Cooper said, per FanRag Sports. “That’s what you like and if he keeps doing this he’s going to keep playing as much (as he has) or maybe more.”

Now, whether Dotchin is the long-term answer remains to be seen. But top-4 d-men aren’t cheap, and there simply aren’t that many available.

So at the very least, Dotchin provides the Bolts an option beyond a trade.

Related: Bolts trade Anthony DeAngelo to Arizona