After trading down and out of the 1st round, the Tampa Bay Lightning held 10 selections heading into Day 2, electing to use the first 9 before moving their last pick (208th overall) to the Edmonton Oilers for a 7th rounder next year.
Unlike in previous drafts during the Steve Yzerman-Al Murray era, Tampa Bay eschewed the pure skill prospects, opting instead for more two-way, all-round players that project as lower line forwards and bottom pair defensemen, restocking their system with depth players to support what is still a very talented and well-stocked prospect pool.
There's also at least a decent chance that one or more of these picks surprises in the 2015-16 season; various mitigating circumstances may have suppressed offensive output especially with the first few forward selections, and one or more could also prove to be a late bloomer.
In any event, at least this year, Tampa Bay seemed to favor defensive responsibility and two-way play over other attributes. The result? A solid but unspectacular bunch of prospects added to the farm.
Tampa Bay had the third pick on Day 2, (33rd overall), and in spite of some of the top-end skill still on the board, went with a safer, two-way forward in Mitchell Stephens. He scored 48 points in 62 games on a middling Saginaw Spirit club, finishing 2nd in team scoring behind Dylan Sadowy.
Tampa Bay takes Mitchell Stephens at 33. Low first on my board, love the end to his season.— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) June 27, 2015
By all accounts, he was quite good at the World Junior U-18 Championships, scoring 10 points in 7 games for Canada; Pronman isn't the only one who was impressed by Stephens' second half, so there might be some latent offensive ability here that isn't showing up on the scoresheet.
Still, Stephens has mostly drawn comparisons to try-hard, middle-6 grind/scoring hybrid guys like Ryan Callahan and Mike Fisher, so the ceiling is a little bit lower than what you might expect from a 33rd overall pick in a deep draft. Character, work ethic, and energy are most often praised in Stephens' scouting reports before shooting, skating, or playmaking. There's talent there, obviously, but don't count on him blowing you away offensively.
The Bolts followed that pick with defenseman Matt Spencer from the Peterborough Petes, also of the OHL. He played with Lightning prospect Dominik Masin in Peterborough and is described as a two-way defender. 30 points in 67 games is decent offensive output overall, but again, not truly awe-inspiring. Spencer is steady and capable, but not a particularly dominant skater or passer.
Matt Spencer - Good overall skater. Plays a responsible brand of D. Doesn't back down and seems to like high traffic battle areas more.— Ross MacLean (@rossmaclean) June 27, 2015
Best case he likely slots in the NHL as a versatile 4-5 defensemen that can play all situations, again a lower ceiling than some other guys that were available with this pick. But there's nothing wrong with adding a strong, all-around defender with some size to the prospect pool.
This might be the prospect Tampa Bay chose with the highest ceiling. In his first season in the QMJHL with the Shawinigan Cataractes, he scored 64 points in 59 games, including 33 goals.
Good hands, good size, good speed, and the fact that he just turned 18 in April all spell good things for Yan moving forward.
The Nations Network ranked Yan 44th overall on their prospect profile series:
If you are looking for potential bargain players that are likely to slide into the late second or later areas, look no further.
Yan knows how to put the puck in the net. He sits 10th in the QMJHL for 17-year-olds in both points per game, age adjusted points per game, and percentage of team points. He also ranks 7th for even strength points per game and percentage of team's goals created. Finally, he ranks 6th in goals created per game.
The kid can produce offense.
Most known for the OT winner that clinched the Memorial Cup for the Oshawa Generals, the Lightning dip back into the "long-term, two way center" well early here with this pick. Scoring a huge goal in a huge game is nice, but hardly indicative of long-term offensive success moving forward.
To be fair, however, Oshawa was stacked this year so he didn't get the most ice time or offensive usage. That could change next season.
Tampa spent some time in OHL rinks this season. Anthony Cirelli to the Lightning in the 3rd. TB getting some good two-way talent— Brendan Ross (@RossyYoungblood) June 27, 2015
He was never drafted in the OHL, so best case we're looking at another late bloomer here. The OHL numbers aren't exactly eye-popping (36 points in 68 games) so you're hoping for big steps forward in the offensive third while he continues to be a strong checking-line/shutdown forward.
Skating is the number one thing consistently praised for Tammela, who split time between his Finnish clubs junior and pro team. Scoring 4 goals in 32 games as a 17 year old against men in Liiga is nothing to sneeze at, though, so there's a chance Tampa Bay landed a diamond in the rough here.
Tammela is another prospect taken here that performed well internationally, too (30 points in 30 non-league U18 games).
Flames Nation had a nice bit on Tammela leading into the draft:
I think Jonne Tammela from KalPa is a prospect who could develop into a solid pro. He's not that tall, but he competes without the puck and has some good skills. He scored slightly over point-per-game in the U20 league, but his team wasn't very strong this season. He played in the Liiga as well, where he showed some promise as a 17-year-old rookie. He's skilled with the puck with good vision. I think Tammela is already a good two-way player, plus he's quick with nice edge work.
See a pattern here yet? Another two-way winger who scored between 0.5 PPG and 1.0 PPG (42 points in 59 games for the Saint John Seadogs in the QMJHL).
My 2 sleepers Alex Carrier and Mathieu Joseph are still on the board.— Jérôme Bérubé (@Jerome_Berube) June 27, 2015
Poised, polished, reliable; again, all good attributes, but lacking in the high-end skill you'd ideally like to see. Zuhlsdorf put up 22 points in 56 USHL games and is headed to the University of Minnesota. He's a long-term, project pick. Best case is probably NHL 3rd pair and even that might be generous.
Tampa Bay had a need organizationally for another goaltender, and true to form they got one of the bigger ones who will need at least a few more years to develop. He's 6'3 and put up a .908 save percentage in 33 games in the USHL this season. He's headed the NCAA route, so think more Adam Wilcox (3-4 years before he turns pro, small chance to lose him to free agency) than Kristers Gudlevskis (drafted and played in AHL within months).
He's an enforcer. Tampa Bay seems intrigued by his size and athleticism but he's shown very little in the way of offensive skill in a league where goals are scored left and right.
This one's an odd pick after Steve Yzerman has gone to great lengths to purge the organization of players whose best attributes are fisticuffs-related.