Heading into the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, the holes in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization were pretty clear, with a need for quality blue liners at all levels apparent after a successful overhauling of both forward and goaltending depth in the past few seasons.
Steve Yzerman addressed that at the NHL level in a trade for Vancouver Canucks defenseman Jason Garrison and by inking playoff standout Anton Stralman, formerly of the New York Rangers, to a contract on July 1.
He then re-stocked the defensive cupboard by selecting four defensemen in total at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, including three in the top 60 picks after trading back out of the 1st round. Tampa Bay's previously held 2nd round pick (50th overall) went to the Vancouver Canucks in the Garrison trade, and dropping back with their second 1st round pick gave the Lightning two selections in the 2nd.
With their first 2nd rounder, 35th overall, the Lightning took Dominik Masin out of the Czech Republic. He comes in at #25 on our list.
Here's how the panel ranked him:
|Kyle Alexander||John Fontana||Clare Austin||Mike Gallimore||Clark Brooks|
Mike Gallimore's ranking pulled Masin into the countdown almost by itself, though Masin also appeared in the #25 slot on one list. Here's Mike on Masin's upside:
Though their circumstances were a little different, Masin reminds me, in a way, of current Bolts blueliner Radko Gudas. Gudas, you'll recall, was an overager who'd come over to North America the previous season to play in Canadian juniors when the Lightning took him in the 3rd round of the 2010 draft, and his advanced age made him eligible to begin his pro career by being assigned to Norfolk. Masin, who has a similarly stout build, is still just 18 and committed to crossing the big pond and joining the juniors club, Peterborough, that selected him in the CHL draft. As a European draftee, Masin isn't subject to the same age restrictions that North American players are when it comes to where they can be assigned. I mention this because it wouldn't surprise me if Masin, as a 19 year-old, joins Syracuse the season after next and starts his own ascension through the Lightning's organizational depth chart. Like Gudas, Masin is a mobile but hard-nosed defender who has some latent offensive ability but for whom his rugged play in the neutral- and own-zone will have to be his calling card. He's currently a breed apart from most of the defensive prospects in the organization's pipeline, so there's that, too. The Lightning can, of course, afford to be very patient with the young Czech rearguard and may very well do so but, whatever path he takes, he has a sound foundation in place for his quest to become a future NHLer, a goal I have little doubt he'll eventually reach.
The point totals aren't overly exciting, and this pick seems more like one made to fill a role than for pure upside. Reliable, physical defensemen who are also mobile and capable with the puck on their stick are rare, and stocking the farm with only one type of player puts your organization out of balance as the youth ascends through the professional ranks. Captaining the Czech U-18 and U-19 teams internationally is also a nice checkmark in the 'intangibles' column for Masin.
Masin may not be a sexy pick, especially not for a guy who was nearly a 1st rounder, but he fills a hole for the organization and is another strong addition to the improving blue line depth of the Tampa Bay Lightning farm.
After being selected with the 25th overall pick in the CHL Import Draft this summer, he's almost certain to report to the Peterborough Petes and continue his development in the Canadian major junior system. Peterborough GM Michael Oke on Masin:
"Dominik is a player with good size who makes smart plays with the puck," noted Petes General Manager Michael Oke. "He moves the puck up the ice well, and has a low, hard point shot."
As noted above, however, a stop-over with Peterborough may be short, as the rules for transfer for European imports are slightly different and Masin could report to the AHL and play for the Syracuse Crunch as soon as this season if desired. The logjam on the blue line at the AHL level and the fact that Masin will be transitioning to the North American and professional game mean a year of junior hockey in the OHL is probably the best (and most likely) thing for him long-term.