With the talk of Victor Hedman as the Lightning's likely target for the 2009 Entry Draft (unless, of course, the Isles pick him first), it leads to reflection of past first-round defensemen drafted by the Bolts.
In the franchise's 17 previous drafts (four of them having no #1 draft pick: 1999, 2002, 2003 and 2007) the Bolts have committed 5 of their first round selections to defensemen and only twice has the team committed a top 10 pick to defense. Here are all five of the selections:
- Roman Hamrlik -- 1992 - #1 Overall (357 Games in six seasons with TB)
- Mario Larocque -- 1996 - #16 Overall (5 games in one season with TB)
- Paul Mara -- 1997 - #7 Overall (116 games in three seasons with TB)
- Andy Rogers -- 2004 - #30 Overall (no NHL experience, out of organization)
- Vladmir Mihalik -- 2005 - #30 Overall (11 games in one season with TB)
Of course, this doesn't mean the Lightning have neglected defense entirely in the draft, but they have found their prospects and future NHL gems more often through latter rounds. This is none more evident than the 1996 entry draft (where many were not sure of who or what to pick and where). The Bolts used their first round pick on Mario Larocque (#16 overall). Larocque would play a total of 5 NHL games (all with the Lightning in 1998-99) and is currently playing in Italy. Yet, in the 7th round of that same draft, the Bolts took a chance with the 179th pick on a young Czech by the name of Pavel Kubina... We know how that one turned out.
Longevity of service by draft selections with the Lightning tends to be short (and this is not saying anything about general career length) . Kubina's eight season and 531-game tenure with the Bolts is the record. Hamrlik and fellow 1992 draftee Cory Cross both played six seasons with the Lightning and 330+ games each. The next longest tenured draft selection? Paul Ranger, with 262 games and 4 seasons under his belt.
Is this, lack-of draft success and longevity with the team, evidence of the Lightning's lack of scouting prowess over the years? Or is it proof of how much of a crap-shoot the NHL draft can be? Evidence seems to point to a good bit of bot, which does cast a shadow of doubt over Victor Hedman's prospects... But that same shadow could be cast over any of the draft prospects at any position (even vaulted John Tavares). The point is, there is no guarantee with anyone in the draft to be all they are made out to be, to live up to expectations and produce at levels expected of them.