The 2014 Tampa Bay Lightning NHL Entry Draft Class is well into their second year in the organization. Most of the players have now had two years of going to the development camps, rookie camps, and even training camp with the team. At those camps, they’ve received the benefit of instruction from professional-level coaches to take back and use to improve their game. Some players have already turned pro while others are still looking to earn an entry level contract. Let’s take a look at each of the seven players selected by Tampa Bay in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
D Anthony DeAngelo - 1st round, 19th overall
The Lightning had a fairly big weakness in the pipeline on the blue line going into the 2014 draft. While they had Slater Koekkoek coming off his third shoulder surgery and getting ready to start his professional career, the team only had a handful of defensemen prospects that mostly topped out as third pairing NHLers at best. General Manager Steve Yzerman swung for the fences with Anthony DeAngelo. He had character issues coming into the draft after having been suspended twice that dropped him down the board, but there was no denying his offensive prowess.
After being drafted, DeAngelo went back to the Sarnia Sting of the OHL. He would only stay there for 29 games and 38 points before being traded to the power house Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Surrounded by even better talent and a winning team, he would add another 51 points in 26 games and then 18 points in 13 playoff games. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury hampered him late in the playoffs and the Soo ultimately fell in the playoffs to the Erie Otters.
Owing to his late in the year birthdate, DeAngelo was eligible to join the AHL this season to start his professional career. While his offensive game is NHL ready, his defensive game is still in need of refinement as well as a need for a little added bulk. He is a smaller defenseman that has the body of a forward. He will need to rely on sound positioning in conjunction with his superior skating skills to be effective in his own zone. So far with the Syracuse Crunch, he has scored 3 goals, 7 assists, and 10 points (3-7-10) in 13 games. If he continues to improve, he could see himself in the NHL by the end of this season.
D Dominik Masin - 2nd round, 35th overall
Masin is a big, solid body out of the Czech Republic. While he could have gone straight to the AHL, being drafted out of a European league, the team decided it was better for him to go to the OHL where he is now playing in his second season with the Peterborough Petes. He could have gone to Syracuse this year. With a bit of a logjam on the Crunch’s blue line and after missing the last part of the season with a broken collar bone and facial fractures, he was better off returning to the Petes where he’d get top pairing minutes. Shortly into this season, he was rewarded with an Entry Level Contract.
Masin’s best NHL comparable is Radko Gudas, another big bodied Czech blueliner. He lacks the offensive component of Gudas’ game, but should provide a solid body moving left hander for the third pair. With any luck, he may squeeze his way into the Top Four, but bottom pairing is much more likely. He has only contributed one goal and three assists in 21 games, but is sitting with a +16 plus/minus rating, the best on the team. I anticipate more points will come as the year goes along even though offense isn’t what is expected of him. Expect to see Masin crunching opponents with the Crunch next season.
D Johnathan MacLeod - 2nd round, 57th overall
Going back to the blue line for a third pick in a row, Yzerman tabbed Jonathan MacLeod as the second second round pick. The Lightning originally didn’t have a second round pick, but had traded their 28th overall pick from the Rangers to the Islanders for two second round picks. Masin was the first pick, and MacLeod was the second. MacLeod is a project defenseman. He has a big body that he’s still growing into at 6’2" and 200 pounds.
After being drafted, he began his college career at Boston University alongside Jack Eichel. The team had a good year with a lot of talent on it beyond just Eichel. MacLeod contributed two goals and seven assists in 37 games. So far in nine games this year, he has only contributed a single goal. MacLeod is very much a stay at home defenseman and will probably never develop a strong offensive skillset. He projects out as a third pairing NHLer with some potential to move into the Top Four if his between the ears abilities catch up to his physical abilities. Expect him to remain at Boston University for another year or two before turning pro.
C Brayden Point - 3rd round, 79th overall
The Point Machine. Brayden Point has the looks of being one of the steals of the 2014 draft. All he does his product points. Point is listed at 5’11" and 160 pounds. He could stand to put on another 20-25 pounds of muscle, but he has a perfect blueprint to follow in Tyler Johnson. He shares a lot of similarities with him as an undersized center, with tons of speed, hockey IQ and skill.
Point was wearing an A for the Warriors during his draft year but has worn a C on his jersey the past two seasons and with good reason. He is the unquestioned leader of that team and he leads by example. Last season, the Warriors were basically a one line team centered on Brayden Point. While he put up 87 points (38g-49a) in 60 games, the team failed to reach the playoffs. Point missed a couple weeks playing with Team Canada for the World Junior Cup where he contributed two goals and two assists as the 13th forward. After his team was done for the season, he joined the Syracuse Crunch for 11 games, contributing 2 goals and 2 assists.
This season, Point got an extended look with Tampa Bay during the preseason playing in two games (most of any Juniors prospect) and was the last junior player to be re-assigned to his team. Additionally prior to the season, he played in a pre-season tournament with Team Canada as a prep for the World Junior Championships and scored 7 points in 2 games. Since being sent back to Moose Jaw, Point has been on a tear with 43 points (18g-25a) in 19 games. He’ll likely only play around 60 games again this year, but that would put him on pace for around 135 points. Expect Point to be back with Team Canada again, most likely centering the top line and possibly even wearing a C on his chest as well.
As for his pro career, he’ll be with the Crunch full time next year where he’ll be a top forward and need to work on rounding out his two-way play much in the same way that Tyler Johnson did. It’s not hard to envision seeing him in Tampa Bay as soon as two years from now.
D Ben Thomas - 4th round, 119th overall
Ben Thomas was another project defenseman for Steve Yzerman. This is likely his last year in Juniors and it remains to be seen if he will earn a professional contract with the Lightning. Last season, he matched his draft season point total of 31 points in 12 less games. Unfortunately this year, he got off to a slow start with only three assists in 14 games for the Calgary Hitmen. He was traded to the Vancouver Giants where he has 2 goals and 4 assists in 8 games.
He’ll need to show a lot of improvement through the latter part of this year to ensure he gets an entry level contract with the Lightning. There may be some more depth spots opening up next season with Syracuse depending on what Tampa does with their blue line next offseason. Tampa moving multiple NHL level defensemen would make Thomas getting an ELC more likely to help fill in the depth chart.
W Cristiano DiGiacinto - 6th round, 170th overall
DiGiacinto is a bit of a pest and a hard worker. He’s got speed and is effective on the forecheck when he uses that speed. When you get into the later rounds of a draft, you’re almost always looking at players being long shots and projects that need work. DiGiacinto’s draft year was his rookie season in the OHL. Most players are already on their second season in major junior hockey by then. He had 28 points and 101 PIMs in 50 games for the Windsor Spitfires and showed enough to get a chance in the sixth round.
After being drafted he went back to Windsor and became an alternate captain. He had a better year offensively, putting up 45 points and 100 PIMs in 63 games. At the end of the year, he received an amateur tryout agreement with the Crunch, but only practiced with the team for a week before being sent home for the offseason. This season, he’s gotten a bigger role with the Spitfires and has already has 24 points in 21 games with only 23 PIMs. He has reduced the penalties he’s taken and has been producing more. A point per game season is exactly what he needs this year to make sure he gets an Entry Level Contract, and it looks like he will earn it this year and be in Syracuse next season.
C/W Cameron Darcy - 7th round, 185th overall
Cameron Darcy was a bit of an odd case. He was an overage draft pick and many thought he would be in the pros immediately after the draft either with Syracuse or down in the ECHL as depth for the Crunch. Instead, he was sent back to his juniors team, the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. He struggled to start the season and was eventually traded to the Sherbrooke Phoenix where he finally picked it back up. Overall, he had 21 goals and 38 assists in 56 games.
This offseason, he signed his entry level contract with the Lightning and has been playing in the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch. However, he has been scratched fairly often and has only appeared in five games and has yet to record a point. At this point, he’s a longshot to make the NHL and will need to show vast improvement in his game over the next couple seasons. For now, he’s mostly a depth player in the AHL.
All stats from prior to 11/19/2015