I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Who? I've never heard of this guy. Why would the Lightning want to pick him?"
In the event that Victor Hedman is chosen by the New York Islanders first overall...well, let me just say that I don't think Tavares will go second. At least, not to the Lightning. No, instead, I think that they could pull a serious upset.
It's common knowledge that the Lightning need help on defense. So why would they pick yet another center in either John Tavares or Matt Duchene? And most of the top ten prospects ranked are, in fact, centers.
They already have two franchise centers in Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos. To pick another would likely mean that they'd have to trade someone or something - either Lecavalier, the second overall pick, or the actual center picked second overall by Tampa Bay. Any and all of those scenarios aren't going to keep them many fans.
John Moore is the highest-ranked North American defenseman by NHL Central Scouting. Oliver Ekman Larsson of Sweden is the next highest-ranked European defenseman after Hedman. Unfortunately for us, Central Scouting doesn't combine the two lists to give us a comprehensive view of who's supposedly better than the other. You have to judge on your own between the North American rankings and the European rankings. However, judging by the current roster, I have reason to believe that they could take Moore second overall. Or, perhaps, trade down and still draft him.The current ownership has been in charge for over a year now. And in that span of time, they've completely overhauled the roster. There are only a handful of players left from the previous season at this point.
What many people may not realize is that there are a lot of college guys on that roster. Most of them are American-born, too. There is a distinct preference for both American players and players who have gone the college route to make it into the NHL.
Now, I am not saying nor implying that the Lightning don't like Canadians or Europeans. I don't think any of this is actually a conscious decision on anyone's part. I'm just making observations about their roster - these are the facts in front of me in black and white.
The following players are listed on the Tampa Bay Lightning's official roster on their website at this time, unless otherwise noted.
RW Brandon Bochenski
RW Adam Hall
C Jeff Halpern
LW Ryan Malone
D Matt Lashoff
D Mike Lundin (not currently on the roster; finished the season in the NHL due to the potential of being claimed off of re-entry waivers)
D Richard Petiot
D Matt Smaby
D Noah Welch
G Mike McKenna
College players (and years played at the college or university attended - Americans previously listed in italics):
RW Brandon Bochenski – North Dakota, 3 years
RW Adam Hall – Michigan State, 4 years
C Jeff Halpern – Princeton, 4 years
D Mike Lundin – Maine, 4 years
LW Ryan Malone – St. Cloud State, 4 years
G Mike McKenna – St. Lawrence, 4 years
D Cory Murphy – Colgate, 4 years
D Richard Petiot – Colorado College, 4 years
D Matt Smaby – North Dakota, 3 years
RW Martin St. Louis – Vermont, 4 years
C Paul Szczechura – Western Michigan, 4 years
D Noah Welch – Harvard, 4 years
Seem to be quite a few of them, huh? Also remember that at the end of the 2008-2009 college hockey season, the Lightning tried signing American defenseman Matt Gilroy, who was then with Boston University. He instead signed with the New York Rangers as a free agent. Incidentally, he won the Hobey Baker Award (Best College Hockey Player) this last season.
The first American-born defenseman that has committed to a college or university, and is available in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, is...John Moore. He has committed to play with Colorado College in the fall. Currently playing with the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League (USHL), he put up some pretty respectable offensive numbers. He had 39 points in 57 games scoring 14 goals. Not bad for a defenseman.
It's pretty apparent what kind of player Tampa Bay gravitates towards. And that's why I believe that, if Victor Hedman goes first overall, the Lightning could do the unexpected. They could draft a player that they need, rather than one that everyone expects them to simply because Central Scouting has him ranked hightly. And they need defense.
There is the possiblity of trading picks with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who choose seventh overall in the draft this year. Brian Burke has made no secret of the fact that he wants to pick up Tavares. And as a man who managed to pick up both Sedins in the same draft, you might have to take that seriously. If Hedman goes first, a trade would benefit both the Leafs and the Lightning - particularly if Tampa Bay gets a little something to sweeten the deal.
After Hedman, it comes down to Moore or Ekman Larsson. Either of them would be a good choice, but Moore would fit into their mold better. Being an American-born, college route prospect , I think he'd be the obvious choice based upon the current roster.