For this series, I’ve taken a list of every Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick, excluding the expansion draft, and put it into a random name picker. Also excluded are any Steve Yzerman era picks, so the players eligible are BY, Before Yzerman.
Now that the names are in the list, let’s spin the wheel and pick our random Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick.
And the selected player is...
This week’s draft pick is a ninth-round pick of the Lightning, 287th overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. At one time, the NHL Entry Draft actually went all the way to the 12th round. Then it was reduced to nine rounds in the early 90s, and then finally down to the seven rounds we know today after the 2004-05 NHL Lockout.
Today, we often look at fifth-rounders and later as having a very small chance of making it to the NHL, much less playing more than 100 games in the NHL. It was an even smaller chance for players past the seventh round. There have been some gems that have come out of those very late rounds, though. With the extra picks available, teams could take chances on European players (like 786 game veteran Mark Streit taken in the ninth round) and juniors players that were long shots to make it, or that would perhaps be specialists who with some luck could develop into a contributor.
Nick Tarnasky was one such player. A center and left winger with size and grit, Tarnasky had only put up 30 points in 81 games in the WHL. His first appearance in the WHL came in 2000-01 when he played two games for the Price Albert Raiders. In 2001-02, he played ten games with the Vancouver Giants and spent 20 games in the AJHL. In 2002-03, he made it into the WHL full time playing 39 games with the Kelowna Rockets and 30 games with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. For those that have lost count, that’s four different WHL teams over three seasons.
In his 69 games in the WHL in 2002-03, Tarnasky put up nine goals and 29 points and also had 84 PIMs. After being drafted, he had a much better offensive performer with 26 goals and 49 points in 71 games for Lethbridge, but also had 108 PIMs. With a November birthdate, he was able to make his professional debut with the Springfield Falcons of the AHL in 2004-05 during the NHL Lockout.
Over 80 games, he contributed seven goals and 17 points and 176 penalty minutes. In 2005-06, coming out of the lockout, he received time with the Tampa Bay Lightning over four call-ups and played in 12 games with an assist and only four penalty minutes. John Tortorella didn’t have much confidence in him though, and he averaged just 4:40 TOI with his lowest being one shift for 46 seconds in his final game of the season with the Lightning. The rest of the season was spent in the AHL with Springfield, putting up 14 goals and 23 points in 68 games.
At this point, Tarnasky had yet to play in a playoff game at any point in his career. 2006-07 though, he would find his way into the NHL full time playing in 77 games with five goals and nine points while averaging 6:30 in TOI. At the end of the season, he got his first taste of playoff action with six games for the Lightning without a point.
2007-08, Tarnasky again remained with the Lightning for the season and scored six goals and ten points over 80 games, surpassing the 100 games played plateau. Tarnasky was placed on IR with a broken finger at the beginning of the 2008-09 season and was traded to the Nashville Predators a few days later.
He was traded for a 2009 conditional draft pick. If he played more than 55 games, it would be a fifth rounder, if he played less it would be a sixth rounder. He didn’t hit the 55 games threshold and the Lightning received a sixth rounder from Nashville and used it to draft Slovakian goaltender Jaroslav Janus, a member of the 2011-12 Calder Cup winning Norfolk Admirals team.
Tarnasky played in 11 games for the Predators before coming back to Florida... the Florida Panthers that is. He played in 34 games for the Panthers to finish out the season. He remained with the Panthers organization for the 2009-10 season, playing 31 games for the Panthers and five games for their AHL affiliate the Rochester Americans. Those games would be his last in the NHL.
The 2010-11 season saw Tarnasky back with the Springfield Falcons before moving on to the KHL with Vityaz Chekhov in the 2011-12 season. He recorded 12 points in 36 games plus a whopping 173 penalty minutes. With his Russian sojourn completed, Tarnasky returned to North America to play in the AHL for five more seasons with the Rochester Americans, Hamilton Bulldogs, Hartford Wolf Pack, and the San Diego Gulls. He spent 2016-17 with San Diego scoring nine points in 32 games. At 33 years old, he has remained unsigned for the 2017-18 season.
Tarnasky compiled 245 games in the NHL and 486 games in the AHL over a 13 year professional career. Not bad at all for a ninth-round pick.