Mock drafts have been pointing to wing's Nino Niederreiter and Brett Connolly as who the Lightning will ultimately take in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Nino or Connolly, Connolly or Nino... Occasionally there would be the selection of a defenseman (Fowler, Gudbranson, Gormley) but for the most part, it's been a wing selection. Nino specifically has been projected as the Lightning selection about 29% of the time among mock drafts.
That's what makes Raw Charge's selection of Russian right wing Vladimir Tarasenko the first upset of the 2010 NHL Mock Draft.
It's not that Tarasenko lacks the skills -- he's rated 4th in the entire draft in the International Scouting Service's final rankings, and 2nd overall among Europeans by Central Scouting. It's not that he can't score -- 13 goals, 11 assists and 24 points in 42 KHL games last season. It's not that teams are shy about drafting a talent who is compared to Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin...
It's the fact he's a Russian player, already playing in the rival Kontinental Hockey League. Getting him to come over to North America is in question.
Andrew's Stars Page (which is an invaluable one-stop source on some of the 2010 draft class) pulled the following quote from The Hockey News, which gives a general idea of the mentality of teams looking at Vladimir int he draft:
"He's not the biggest kid, but he can score. But there's no way I'm investing my first round pick in a kid where it's 50-50 as to whether he's going to play here."
> - A scout, quoted in The Hockey News Draft Preview 2010
It's the NHL versus the KHL on this pick: Lucrative money without a rookie cap and at home, or lucrative money in a foreign land, but only after establishing yourself... Thus implies the risk.
But when the kid states himself that he plans on being in the NHL in five years (taken from his Hockey's Future interview posted on January 11th, 2001) should you really live in fear about spending a draft pick on the guy?
It's not as if Brett Connolly, whose hip injury from 2009 has dropped his draft stock, doesn't come with a high risk. It's not as if Nino Niederreiter doesn't come with his own questions after a lackluster performance at the World Championships this spring (if he can't score points during one of the weaker World Championships in memory, then how will he fare versus NHL talent?)... All draft picks come with questions (even if that's simply "Can he live up to the hype?"), and the GM's job is to find the best person whose questions they can accept going forward.
Though Steve Yzerman has stated he is going to default to his scouts regarding the 2010 draft picks, I believe patience and confidence should win out here. Last year, the Bolts drafted a boy playing in a mens league with Victor Hedman. Following the same blueprint, Tarasenko's selection is a chance worth taking.