Jim Hammett, the Director of Player Personnel for the Tampa Bay Lightning, was recently interviewed on The Pipeline Show, an Edmonton-based radio program devoted largely to prospects and player development. He talked briefly about six of the seven picks the Lightning made in the 2009 Draft.
On Hedman vs. Tavares:
You always try to pick the best player for your organization, rather than going with a specific need, but in this case Victor met both of those criteria for us. We needed some defensemen, and we feel he’s one of the best guys to come down draft-wise in quite some time on the back end, so it worked out really well for us.
On Carter Ashton:
We really liked [Ashton’s] combination of size and skill. He’s a kid that uses his body really well along the boards, and from the top of the circle down when he plants himself he’s very hard to move. Like you said, 30 goals, he’s got some touch around the net.
On Richard Panik:
Yeah, and that was a big factor for us for [Panik] to come over to the Windsor Spitfires in the Ontario Hockey League – Memorial Cup champions – and he’s going into a great situation where he’s going to get good coaching from Bob Boughner and good management from Warren Rychel. It’s one of the reasons that we felt comfortable in jumping up and picking him because we’re going to have a little more control over him and stay on top of his development a little more.
On Jaroslav Janus and Michael Zador:
They [the two goaltenders] just fell to us, and we felt strongly that these were the next two best available picks. Janus is a bit of an older kid, where we have the option to send him back to junior or start his pro career this year. Michael Zador, being part of the John Tavares trade out of London, we really like the technical game that he plays, and now we feel we have a pretty good stable of goaltenders and I don’t think you can ever have enough.
On Alex Hutchings:
I was really excited to get [Hutchings]. Alex is a pure shooter, a really good set of hands. He’s a sniper, and he’s not the biggest kid out there but we have a guy named Marty St. Louis who’s not very big either who does a lot of great things for us. We think Alex has got a chance to be a pretty gifted goal-scorer down the road, and this will be a big year for him – I think he’s capable of scoring 50 goals in junior this year.
I did a fair bit of preview work for the 2009 draft, and two of the players I felt strongest about were Carter Ashton and Alex Hutchings. Here's what I said about them just before the draft:
I really like Alex Hutchings; I liked his scouting reports before I saw a scoring number. He’s supposedly a leader, intensely competitive and a clutch player. On top of that, his offensive totals were excellent, and while some projections have him as a third-round player I think he’s probably a top-thirty talent. Here’s a fun quote for those of you who are interested:
The thing I would hate to be called is a soft forward," said Hutchings. "That’s something I despise being called. I like to get into the exciting stuff. I like being known as a guy who plays both ends of the ice, go into the corner and take the hit. I’m always willing to battle in the corners. I’ll do some things other guys wouldn’t do, like take a hit from a 6-4 defenseman and try to get the puck again."
I led with that because I'm going to be much less complimentary of the Ashton selection. What I said about him prior to the draft:
I understand the love for Carter Ashton even less [than the love for Holland]. He’s got NHL bloodlines, but while he’s big he isn’t overly physical, and is another guy for whom "competitiveness" and defensive play are generally cited as negatives. He’s a big kid, and he’s got a good shot, but I don’t see him as a first-round pick.
Going back to the Hammett interview, he actually talked about quite a bit more than I've quoted here; the ownership situation, Rick Tocchet's impact on draft selection, and the Lightning's development strategy, among other things. For anyone interested, I strongly recommend the interview.