We're about a month prior to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh. The entry draft marks the last event of the hockey year that shouldn't be affected in any way by labor negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA (whereas free agency will).
The draft, however, also remains one of those long-term processes that aren't supposed to bear immediate fruit (though sometimes they do) with players selected. It's an investment guessing-game: what commodity will retain it's worth and value? Whose talents will repay your investment in them?
For the Lightning, with a pair of draft choices in the first round (#10 and #19 overall), this is an opportunity to make long-term gains by adding talented depth to the system. It's also an open opportunity (with thanks to the number of draft selections in the first two rounds - five) to focus on want more so than need.
That is, unless the want is also the need.
There are quite a few different mock drafts out there on the web that I browsed over. I skipped going through the TSN.ca's mock draft and NHL.com's mock draft stories. That's not to discredit them, but I wanted to get a gauge of how others believe the chips will fall.
From browsing over a few sites, and seeing the variety of different selections the Bolts make in people's respective mock drafts, I must say that it's anyone's guess what the draft order is going to be for sure... Especially with speculation of Edmonton trading the #1 pick.
At any rate, here's a brief summary of what I've found. I want to give a hat tip to DC Sports Blog's Mock Draft DB. That's a one-stop shop for different mockups of the entry draft.
Also of note is the fact some of this mock drafts are updated on a regular basis, so what I write here and reference may not be the latest mock-draft results from certain source sites.
With the #10 selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, the Tampa Bay Lightning select...
Let's not try to imply what GM Steve Yzerman and amateur scouting director Al Murray are thinking here. What they're thinking is what they're thinking, and if the 2011 NHL Draft is anything to go by - what they're thinking is dissimilar to what the masses of fans and pundits are thinking. Vladislav Namestnikov wasn't projected to go to the Lightning in most mock-drafts. The fan perception then, like now, was the need for defensive depth in the system.
That perception has carried over with most mock drafts. There are a few outliers where the Bolts pick a forward instead (MyNHLDraft - which doesn't explain their selections) or goaltending, but the choice tends to be of a defensive variety in most instances.
Matt Dumba falling to 10th in the draft is the outlier of these defensive selections. Yet, when you look at how Cam Fowler nose-dived in the 2010 NHL draft, I don't think it's a reach that one of the top-tier defensive prospects in the draft will fall unexpectedly.
In any instance, whoever is selected with the pick, I don't expect them to be playing in Tampa Bay next season, unless said prospect shows they absolutely belong in the NHL immediately.
With the 19th selection of the NHL Draft, the Tampa Bay Lightning select...
If there is inconsistency at the #10 selection, there is even more so with the Bolts second pick of the 1st round (acquired from the Detroit Red Wings in February as part of the deal that saw Steve Downie go to the Colorado Avalanche). Al Murray has made the general "best player available" statement regarding both picks and what the Lightning will do. At the 19th pick, with the top-tier prospects gone... That's what the Bolts will likely do: The best available.
But how much will need influence what the Lightning deems as "best on the board"?
There are three goalies that are being tossed around as the best available in the draft: Andrei Vasilevski, Malcolm Subban and Oscar Dansk. Subban is the brother of Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban. He's also the top-ranked North American goalie prospect according to the Central Scouting Bureau, while Vasilevski is the top-ranked European goalie. Are any of the three this high on the Bolts draft board?
Maybe. Maybe not.
I'm not exactly thrilled with some of the deductions tied to the Malcolm Subban pick. Let me give a round-about vote to the idea Steve Yzerman would select him: Yzerman favors bloodlines, or at least has made bloodline selections in the past (Brock Beukeboom -2010; Namestnikov -2011). With an NHL pedigree already in the family, Subban might indeed be the most favored of the three goalie prospects on the Bolts draft board.
But explaining the potential selection with the reasoning that the Lightning "have absolutely zero" goalie prospects in the pipeline, as NHL News wrote in their reasoning, is erroneous, especially when you look at the numbers produced by 2008 draft pick (and Norfolk Admirals starter) Dustin Tokarski as compared to Subban:
- Tokarski (2007-08 Spokane Chiefs): 2.05 GAA .922 Save%
- Subban (2011-12 Belleville Bulls): 2.50 GAA .923 Save%
What's my point? Both players have similar numbers and size is the biggest difference (though not by much). A Subban selection simply places another cog in the system and gives Tokarski another year or more before Subban would rear his head in the professional ranks.
That's part of the reason why these mock drafts are a just a guessing game: Some of those doing the picking don't know about the teams they are selecting for beyond stereotypical notions.
Yes, the Lightning likely will select another goalie somewhere in the draft, and that goaltender will go into development behind the likes of Tokarski, Jaroslav Janus, Pat Nagle and Adam Wilcox... But Subban's numbers and accomplishments do not make him any more talented than what the Lightning already has in the system.
In the end, it's anyone's guess who the Lightning will pick and why with the #10 and #19 selections. If Yzerman shopping the picks. And with just under a month until the 2012 NHL Draft, I don't expect the mock draft guessing game to get any more consistent.