On June 22nd, the Tampa Bay Lightning are going to draft a teenager to play hockey. In all likelihood he won’t see NHL ice until after the next presidential election. He won’t change the world; in fact, at best, all the Lightning can hope is that he fills a role.
The Lightning have the 14th overall pick. Never in the history of their franchise have the Tampa Bay Lightning drafted 14th overall. That’s not a bad thing. Not drafting 14th overall means they’ve been good enough to make the playoffs or bad enough to draft higher.
Now that’s not to say they haven’t picked in the middle of the pack before. They’ve had the 16th pick (1996 Mario Larocque) and the 15th (2006 Riku Helenius). They also had the 16th pick in 2007, but they traded it to Anaheim with Gerald Coleman for Shane O’Brien and a 3rd round pick (Jay Feaster had no shame in trading first round draft picks).
As you can see from that list, the chances of drafting a star are slim. Not only have the Lightning never drafted 14th, no player drafted 14th overall since the the inception of the Lightning has ever played for the team. Which, based on the overall mediocrity of the pick and Tampa’s early history of trading for diminished prospects, is a bit of a miracle.
As of right now, there are several candidates for the Lightning with the 14th spot. There is also the chance that General Manager Steve Yzerman decides to blow off the first day of the draft and trades the pick to Boston. Chicago in June is very nice! Maybe he’d rather sit at a rooftop bar (Cindy’s Rooftop is nice) and sip a mojito instead of being crammed into the United Center with a bunch of teenage hockey players and their families.
Breaking down the last 25 years of picks (because hockey didn’t exist before the Lightning entered the league) does show a few interesting trends. If Mr. Yzerman does decide to show up for the first night of the draft and use his pick, what can he expect with the 14th pick?
The good news is that the player he selects should one day play in the NHL. Since 1992, only one person selected 14th overall failed to make it to the NHL. In 2005, the Washington Capitals selected Sasha Pokulok. He signed his entry-level contract a year later, but never made it above the AHL level.
However, should the young man drafted make it to the NHL level, not much should be expected. Most likely they will be a role player or back-pair defender. Only six players picked in that slot have been selected to an All Star game (and one of those, Zemgus Girgensons, made it due to a groundswell of Latvian support).
Out of those six, only one will get even the slightest consideration for the Hall of Fame: Sergei Gonchar. As a matter of fact, no player has ever gone to the Hall of Fame after being drafted in the 14th position going all the way back to 1970. So, that’s not a great sign.
Since the newest member of the Lightning is probably not going to set the world on fire, Tampa might be inclined to trade the rights to the pick. That has happened five times (2002 -Chris Higgins, 2001 - Chuck Kobasew, 2000 - Vaclav Nedorost, 1995 -Jay McKee and 1993 - Adam Deadmarsh). Since Boston has drafted 14th the last two seasons, maybe they’d be interested in swapping picks with the Lightning. After all, most of the same players the Lightning are targeting are likely to still be available with the 18th pick.
Even if Mr. Yzerman holds onto the pick and uses it, there is no guarantee that player is going to complete his entire middle-of-the-road career with Tampa Bay. Fourteen of the last twenty five players have been traded at some point in their career. Sometimes fellow 14th pickers are traded for each other. In 2001 Marty Reasoner, who was drafted in 1996, was part of a trade package from St. Louis to Edmonton that included Michel Riesen, the Oilers 14th overall pick in 1997.
Seeing so many of these players traded does make sense. They have the cachet of being a first round pick, but also weren’t picked high enough that they are a “can’t miss” prospect or the type of player that can alter a franchise. They do possess enough talent that another team might be intrigued and think that they can fill a role for them.
Below is a list of all of the players drafted with the 14th overall pick since 1992.
(I checked the list. There is no reason to go past 1992. Trust me.)
2016 - Charlie McAvoy (Boston)
2015 - Jake DeBrusk (Boston)
2014 - Julius Honka (Dallas)
2013 - Alexander Wennberg (Columbus)
2012 - Zemgus Girgensons (Buffalo) All-Star
2011 - Jamie Oleksiak (Dallas)
2010 - Jaden Schwartz (St. Louis)
2009 - Dmitri Kulikov (Florida)
2008 - Zach Boychuk (Carolina)
2007 - Kevin Shattenkirk (Colorado) All-Star
2006 - MIchael Grabner (Vancouver)
2005 - Sasha Pokulok (Washington)
2004 - Devan Dubnyk (Edmonton) All-Star
2003 - Brent Seabrook (Chicago) All-Star
2002 - Chris Higgins (Montreal)
2001 - Chuck Kobasew (Calgary)
2000 - Vaclav Nedorost (Colarado)
1999 - Jeff Jillson (San Jose)
1998 - Patrick DesRochers (Phoenix)
1997 - Michel Riesen (Edmonton)
1996 - Marty Reasoner (St. Louis)
1995 - Jay McKee (Buffalo) (rights)
1994 - Ethan Moreau (Chicago)
1993 - Adam Deadmarsh (Quebec) - All Star
1992 - Sergei Gonchar (Washington) - All Star