Here's where the draft gets muddier. The Bolts are still afforded a wide selection of top-tier talent, at just about every position, but the suspected blue-chip prospects have long since been removed from the draft board. Or have they?
At this point, "best player on the board" comes into play. It is where want trumps need, but also where need and want potentially fall to the wayside as someone high-caliber slips on the draft board. Then again, the caliber of players is subjective by each franchises assessment of the players.
With the 19th overall selection of the 2012 SB Nation NHL Mock Draft, Raw Charge (representing the Tampa Bay Lightning) selects Derrick Pouliot, defenseman from Portland Winterhawks of the WHL.
There was debate over this pick. There was the want/need of a goalie prospect at the time we made the selection - Andrei Vasilievski or Malcolm Subban were ripe for the taking on the draft board. Yet, as of this writing - they aren't so much a need with the additions this week of Riku Helenius and Anders Lindback to the Tampa Bay Lightning system. Are the Lightning done developing goalies? Absolutely not, even if there is faith in Dustin Tokarski and Jaroslav Janus to become NHL netminders, there will be a goaltender selected in this draft. Just not in the 1st round.
With young forwards like Cory Conacher, Tyler Johnson, J.T. Brown, Brett Connolly, Alex Killorn, Vadislav Namestnikov and others peppered throughout the system, our assessment is that this high pick shouldn't be spent on another forward. That's why we passed up Brendan Gaunce, Scott Laughton, Stefan Matteau and other forwards on the board.
The last time the Bolts picked defense in the 1st round was 2009 with Victor Hedman. The last time they had two picks in the 1st round was the same year (after then-GM Brian Lawton traded up). Before that, though? 2000, when the Lightning had two picks in the top-10 (and traded their own pick, 4th overall, to the New York Islanders).
Before the Hedman selection in 2009, the Bolts hadn't gone defense in the 1st round since 2004 and 2005 when they had taken defensemen Andy Rogers and Vladmir Mihalik, respectively. Both players are out of the system at this point, and out of the NHL.
Why Pouliot? With Slater Koekkoek on the board, as well as several other names that have been thrown around as a later 1st round option? Pouliot, who was a former 1st round selection of the WHL Bantam draft (the Bantam draft is how the junior league stock their rosters) has reminded some of Dan Boyle... If Boyle were a left, that is.
We'll let The Hockey Writers do the rest of the talking. From their prospect profile:
Most notably, Pouliot has been lauded for his passing, which the WHL from Above blog describes as "sublime," calling him the best defensive passer in this draft class. That's pretty high praise considering it puts him above the Dumbas, Reinharts and Cecis of the world. Moreover, this improvement has resulted in more power-play time for him, which has also allowed him to improve his scoring numbers - his goal totals doubled this year over last, and his power-play markers jumped from one to six. His improvement earned him a spot on Team Orr at the CHL Top Prospects game, where he had an assist on the game-winning goal in the low-scoring affair.
While Pouliot has many assets, there are a few factors that place him slightly below the other defenders in the draft. Like a lot of maturing defenders, he sometimes struggles away from the puck and is still figuring out exactly where he needs to be without the biscuit, especially in his own zone. In addition, some scouts noted he has issues with consistency, but not to the degree that it drastically reduces his effectiveness.