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Trading Up for Brayden Point

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Steve Yzerman traded up one spot to select Brayden Point. What if he hadn’t?

Moose Jaw Warriors v Calgary Hitmen Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

At the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, the Lightning’s 3rd round selection was coming up. General Manager Steve Yzerman and Director of Scouting Al Murray had their eye on a certain small center from the WHL that perhaps reminded them of Tyler Johnson. His name? Brayden Point. He was a center for the Moose Jaw Warriors. He was small, underweight, but highly skilled. He had a lot of the characteristics to his game that both Yzerman and Murray put a premium on, particularly hockey IQ.

But to select him, Yzerman made the decision to trade a 2015 7th round pick and the team’s 3rd round pick, 80th overall, to move up one spot in the 3rd round to 79th overall. They made the trade with the Minnesota Wild. To be completely candid, I’ve searched around looking for quotes from Murray or Yzerman on the trade and have not had any luck. Who knows if Yzerman was hearing that the Wild were ready to take Point, or if he just got antsy and wanted to guarantee that he’d get his guy.

Looking back at it now two years after the draft, it looks like it was a smart decision if the Wild were indeed ready to select Point in that spot. That raises a question, though: what if Yzerman hadn’t made the trade and the Wild took Point? Who would have been picked instead by the Lightning? What options were out there?

It’s hard to know precisely who was next on the Lightning’s board. There are often large divergences in rankings by different teams the further you get into the draft. For simplicity, though, we’ll take a look at the rest of the 11 players taken after Point in the 3rd round.

For a point of reference with these 11 players, I used Corey Pronman of ESPN’s Top 120 prospects list, which can be found here if you are an ESPN Insider. Brayden Point was ranked 29th in his list before the season started. By comparing rankings, we can get at least some idea of the current outlook of these prospects according to one respected source.

Louis Belpedio

Pronman Ranking: NR
Selection: 80th overall, Minnesota Wild

Belpedio is a 6’0”, 200 pound right handed defenseman. In his draft year, he played for the U.S. National Development Program in the USHL and their U18 team. In USDP play with the U18 team, he had 23 points in 60 games and in the USHL he had 15 points in 26 games. He committed to the University of Miami (Ohio) and has begun his Junior season there. So far he has 39 points over 77 games in NCAA hockey.

Dylan Sadowy

Pronman Ranking: NR
Selection: 81st Overall, San Jose Sharks

Sadowy is a left winger that runs on the lean side. He is listed at 6’1” but only 181 pounds. He was coming off of a 36 point season in 68 games with the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit after an 8 point, 61 game season his rookie year. He picked up his scoring though, justifying the pick with 74 points in 65 games following the draft. He added 34 points in 36 games with Saginaw in 2015-16 before being traded to the Barrie Colts. With the Colts he picked up another 36 points in 28 games. The Sharks traded Sadowy to the Red Wings prior to this year’s draft for a third round pick. He turned pro this season and is playing for the Grand Rapid Griffins in the AHL.

Jake Walman

Pronman Ranking: 44
Selection: 82nd Overall, St. Louis Blues

A left handed defenseman, Walman is one of the handful of Canadian born players that played lower level junior hockey in the OJHL to maintain his NCAA eligibility. After putting up 33 points in 43 games for the Toronto Jr. Canadiens, Walman started his NCAA career with Providence College. He has begun his junior year with the team and is looking to build on his 28 points in 27 games performance from last year. Providence was also an NCAA champion during his freshman season.

Matt Iacopelli

Pronman Ranking: NR
Selection: 83rd Overall, Chicago Blackhawks

A bigger right wing, Iacopelli is an American-born forward that was headed for NCAA hockey. He had 64 points in 58 games for the USHL Muskegon Lumberjacks and went back for a second season after being drafted. He fell off and only accumulated 37 points in 56 games. He began his collegiate career in 2015-16 with Western Michigan University, but only had 7 points in 27 games. He’s off to a better start this season with four goals in their first four games of the season.

Kyle Wood

Pronman Ranking: NR
Selection: 84th Overall, Colorado Avalanche

Wood is a big, right handed defenseman listed at 6’5” and 209 pounds. Wood had 12 points in 33 games for the North Bay Battalion in the OHL during his draft year. His next year saw a big improvement as he jumped to 40 points in 67 games and then 39 points in 49 games in 2015-16. He made his professional debut at the end of 2015-16 in the AHL with the Springfield Falcons. He was traded to Arizona at the trade deadline as part of a package for Mikkel Boedker and is playing for the Tucson Road Runners of the AHL this season.

Keegan Iverson

Pronman Ranking: NR
Selection: 85th Overall, New York Rangers

Iverson, an American born forward playing in the WHL, was selected by the Rangers. In his draft year, he had 42 points in 67 games with the Portland Winterhawks. Over the following two seasons, his scored declined as he only contributed 39 points in 68 games and 29 points in 55 games. The Rangers did not sign him to an entry level contract and he re-entered the draft in 2016. He went undrafted and signed a professional tryout with the Minnesota Wild. They released him from training camp five days later and he returned to the Winterhawks as an overager.

Mark Friedman

Pronman Ranking: NR
Selection: 86th Overall, Philadelphia Flyers

An NCAA bound player, Friedman is a smaller right-handed defenseman. He had 40 points in 51 games in the USHL in his draft year. He has begun his third season with Bowling Green State University. During his first two seasons with BGSU, Friedman has 42 points in 81 games, which isn’t a bad stat line for a defenseman in NCAA hockey. He likely has a future in professional hockey, but may not start it for a couple more seasons.

Anton Karlsson

Pronman Ranking: NR
Selection: 86th Overall, Arizona Coyotes

Hailing from Sweden, Karlsson is a winger with some decent size. He is listed at 6’1” and 187 pounds. He is the younger brother of Erik Karlsson. No, not that one, this one. After putting up 22 points in 28 games in the SuperElit league, Sweden’s top Junior league, in his draft year, Karlsson has failed to establish himself in Sweden’s top professional leagues. He has 4 points in 40 SHL games and 10 points in 40 Allsvenskan games. Allsvenskan is Sweden’s second tier professional league. He remains under contract in Sweden and under Arizona’s control for another season after 2016-17.

Beau Starrett

Pronman Ranking: NR
Selection: 88th Overall, Chicago Blackhawks

From Massachusetts, Starrett is a big forward standing at 6’5” and 212 pounds. He was selected out of the USPHL Premier league. That league is a Tier 2 Junior league in the United States. Prior to being drafted, he had 47 points in 48 games for the South Shore Kings. In 2014-15, he suffered a shoulder injury and only played in 7 games. In 2015-16, he started his collegiate career with Cornell University with 1 goal in 15 games. He has yet to play in 2016-17 and is likely still being hampered by his shoulder injury from last season. He has to be hoping to turn things around in his sophomore season.

Nathan Walker

Pronman Ranking: NR
Selection: 89th Overall, Washington Capitals

Hailing from Great Britain and having played internationally for Australia, Walker is a rather rare player in the draft. Standing at 5’8” and 185 pounds, he is a small winger. He was also an overage draft choice and is currently 22 years old. Prior to coming to North America, he played in the Czech Republic’s junior and professional leagues. He had 10 points in 54 games in the Czech top league. He was also around a point per game in the U18 and U20 leagues.

In 2012-13, he played 29 games in the USHL and had 27 points. Prior to being drafted, he signed with the Hershey Bears of the AHL and put up 11 points in 43 games. Hershey is the Capitals’ farm team and that likely played into them selecting him. He broke out in 2015-16 with Hershey, scoring 41 points in 73 games. While he still has a chance to make it to the NHL, he’s not as high-end of a talent as Point has become.

Michael Amadio

Pronman Ranking: NR
Selection: 90th Overall, Los Angeles Kings

Coming from the OHL, Amadio has good size at center standing at 6’1”. He had 34 poitns in 64 games in his draft year with the North Bay Battalion. He followed that up with a 71 point in 68 game and 98 point in 68 game seasons. He made his professional debut in the AHL at the end of the 2015-16 season playing in 11 playoff games for the Ontario Reign. He had 5 points in the playoffs. He is a full time pro now playing for Ontario this season.

7th Rounders

It’s impossible to attempt to determine who Steve Yzerman might have taken in the 7th round if he had the 2015 pick he traded away. The draft boards of teams diverge around the middle of the first round and get wider apart the deeper into the draft you go. By the time you get to the 7th round, they are worlds apart. But, an interesting note is that the Lightning owned four different 7th round picks in 2015 and traded all of them.

Since Yzerman and Murray took over with the 2011 draft, the Lightning have selected eight players in the 7th round. While he’s done fairly well with the selections of Ondrej Palat, Matt Peca, Nikita Gusev, and Joel Vermin, they are the exception when it comes to 7th rounders. Seventh rounders often have a very low likelihood of making it to the NHL, much less becoming the kind of player that, say, Palat has turned into. Since the 2008 draft, only 9 players selected in the 7th round have played more than 100 games, including two goalies. Only 2 of the 7 skaters have broken the 100 point mark.

Conclusions

Looking at the players that came immediately after Brayden Point in the draft, it definitely looks like Steve Yzerman made the right choice. Only Jake Walman appeared on Pronman’s Top 120 list at the beginning of the year. Others have had injury or performance issues. Still others are just developing into what they likely were expected to be. Point has quickly ascended above his draft ranking, proving he was well worth the wait and well worth giving up a seventh round pick for Yzerman to guarantee he got the player he wanted.