With the 19th pick in the SB Nation Mock Draft (see all other selections here), Raw Charge selects for the Bolts defenseman Haydn Fleury of the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL.
After several years of drafting mostly forwards in the first few rounds, it has become something of a joke in the Tampa Bay Lightning blogosphere:
But what about the defense?
Highlighted last summer by Steve Yzerman and Al Murray selecting Jonathan Drouin -- and not Seth Jones -- with the third overall pick, a very vocal segment of the Lightning fanbase consistenly questions the drafting and decision making of the current regime, deserved or not.
If you're one of those fans, this pick is for you.
Originally, Raw Charge was targeting a forward with this pick and potentially taking more of a dark horse defender like Julius Honka or Travis Sanheim with our second first round selection (number 28 overall, from the New York Rangers via the Martin St. Louis trade).
Honka went off the board earlier than expected, at 13th to Japers Rink and the Washington Capitals, so that torpedoed that plan. Most mock drafts predicted fewer than five defensemen selected in the first 30 picks, and Al Murray, director of amateur scouting for the Lightning, had this to say about the draft class:
"I think there are probably more wingers than there are centers or [defensemen]," he said. "And I'd say it is a little light on goaltending. Probably the No. 1 position is wingers. Lots of wingers. ... We think the quality is there. It's not all first-line players, top-three defensemen, franchise goalkeepers. There's some good players that will be contributors to NHL teams, in our opinion."
But Fleury, largely ranked as the second best defenseman available this year behind Aaron Ekblad, somehow fell all the way to 19th -- and straight into our laps.
From Red Line Report's draft spotlight:
"Safe" is probably the best way to describe this pick. Unless something really weird happens and he's a very late bloomer, he's not going to add too much offense from the back-end. Here are his career point totals from Elite Prospects:
But with two picks in the first round, there's nothing wrong with going safe at 19th overall. Haydn Fleury might not be the next superstar defenseman in the league but he's a very strong bet to be a quality NHLer in the next 3-4 years. With trade propositions off the table for us in this mock draft, (something that Steve Yzerman will certainly consider at the real thing), and forwards like Alex Tuch and Kevin Fiala gone by the time our pick rolled around, there wasn't much discussion before we decided to go ahead and take the safe guy in lieu of a forward with a higher ceiling and a lower chance of reaching it.
While Fleury is described mostly as a 'safe' pick, that doesn't mean he is entirely without upside and potential to grow into an offensive threat. Numbers in parentheses indicate where a particular publication ranked him:
Fleury is a big, physical blueliner who shows good offensive ability. He's strong and balanced on his skates, keep his head up and understands developing plays. He rubs opposing forwards out and isn't shy to make a solid hit.
Hockey Prospectus (9th):
Expected to contribute some offense at the professional level, Fleury is first and foremost an excellent defender in his own zone. Reliable with good hockey sense, Fleury can be physical when he needs to be and distributes the puck well. He has excellent speed and is very calm under pressure.
Arctic Ice Hockey (25th):
Fleury is ranked a little lower here than in many other places. Fleury is the type of player that teams tend to fall in love with on draft day. He has great size and loves to use it. He can throw some great hits. He also has a very technically sound skating stride and is hard to knock off his skates. He makes a very solid first pass out of the zone and does not often get caught running around his own zone. He even stepped up this season offensively ,showing off a good shot and good offensive instincts. The question mark is whether that offense and all around game is strong enough for the next level. His lack of any truly dynamic talent creates a question mark next to his upside. He broke out this year wearing the "A" for the Rebels, leading their D in scoring. but was largely shown up on the big stage at U-18's. He plays a safe consistent game from Red Deer, but as the numbers narrow more is needed.
Offensively, Fleury is an above average puck mover. He can still improve on his passes out of the zone and allow his team to break out smoothly. He is not afraid to carry the puck himself into the offensive zone and provide another weapon on the rush. He has a good shot from the point, but needs to work on getting it through traffic or having a shorter back swing on his slap shots to get shots off more quickly when necessary. He does not possess elite vision or skills, but has shown that he can handle the puck well enough.