Ever since we had an idea of where the Tampa Bay Lightning would draft in the first round, the staff at Raw Charge began to review the prospects we thought would be available at that draft placement. After the draft lottery, we knew for certain that the Lightning would be drafting 14th overall.
One of the fun things about preparing for the draft is that there are so many varying opinions on where players rank. This is especially true when you start to get past the top five players or so. That’s the point where every prospect watcher’s list starts to vary. It’s also interesting to see certain players be pretty consistent in their positioning on lists from person to person, yet see another player that has a range of 20 spots.
When I went through a lot of these rankings lists to decide what players to cover, I knew I would be picking some players that just weren’t in the cards. Either they were going to be long gone by the time the Lightning selected or the Lightning’s draft spot would be too early to take the player, and I even chose a couple of players that I didn’t feel would fit Al Murray and Steve Yzerman’s priorities. But that’s ok. The draft, especially on draft day, can be a crazy place. Crazy things can happen.
There’s a tweet from a few years ago, renowned by SBNation writers, from when the Boston Bruins were slated to have three first-round draft picks in a row. A lot of people expected a couple of those picks to be packaged to move them up in the draft and pick easily inside the top 10. Instead they kept the picks and selected three players in a row. The funny thing is, there were some really good prospects on the board for them to select... and they surprised almost everyone with who they picked.
Oh shit, Boston could get Barzal, Connor, and Kylington here— Rhys Jessop (@Thats_Offside) June 27, 2015
The three players referenced are Matthew Barzal, Kyle Connor, and Oliver Kylington. Kylington would end up going 60th overall in the second round, but a lot of prospect watchers liked him as a first round talent. But Barzal and Connor were the next two players taken after the Bruins’ three picks. Their picks instead were Jakub Zaboril, Jake DeBrusk, and Zach Senyshyn instead.
For reference, Corey Pronman of ESPN had those players ranked 28th, 29th, and 88th. They were taken with the 13th, 14th, and 15th picks. To say that those were a surprise is a bit of an understatement. In Pronman’s same list, Barzal was ranked 6th, Connor 13th, and Kylington 15th. That does also show you how much of a difference there is in the rankings of players.
With that in mind, I cast a wide net in selecting the players we wanted to review. So now, having covered 15 potential first round prospects, it’s a good time to review what we have. I also want to give my opinion of who I would most like to see the Lightning take by ranking the 15 players.
Disagree with any of my opinions? Let me know in the comments!
- #1 - D Miro Heiskanen - Profile
When I first looked at Heiskanen, he was popping up around #15 on a lot of lists. A strong end to the season and a really strong U18 tournament at the end of the season has catapulted him up a lot of rankings. He’s easily moved into the top 10 for most people and it won’t be a surprise to see him even go in the top 5 if a team has fallen in love with him. He’s exactly the type of defenseman that Yzerman and Murray favor and if he falls to the Lightning (or they moved up to get him) it’d be a score.
- #2 - D Timothy Liljegren - Profile
Liljegren is a player that has moved around on a lot of rankings. For a little while, some thought he might be the first defenseman to go in the draft. Now, he’s fallen more into the Lightning’s budget. A bout of Mono really impacted his season and likely impacted his draft ranking. Remind you of a certain Tyler Johnson? Liljegren is more offensive-minded than Heiskanen, but isn’t a slouch in the defensive zone either.
- #3 - C Cody Glass - Profile
Offense? Check. Size? Check. Hockey IQ? Check. Likely gone before the Lightning pick? Check.
- #4 - C Nick Suzuki - Profile
Suzuki has hockey IQ and skill to spare. His biggest flaw is his skating. But he’s good defensively and doesn’t take many penalties. While he could move to the wing as a professional, the Lightning have developed a strong stable of center prospects and having another high end wing prospect would be nice. Like Glass though, Suzuki is probably gone in the top 10.
- #5 - D Erik Brannstrom - Profile
Brannstrom is another offensive defenseman, but he’s a bit on the smaller side of the spectrum compared to Heiskanen and Liljegren. He’s more likely to be available when the Lightning select and would still represent a nice addition to the Lightning’s farm system.
- #6 - W Kristian Vesalainen - Profile
Vesalainen may be a riskier take as he has some holes in his game that he needs to round out. He also had an inconsistent season as a 17 year old attempting to play in men’s professional leagues in Sweden and Finland. But if he can put it all together, he would represent a player that could take a spot in the Lightning’s top six in five years.
- #7 - C/LW Kailer Yamamoto - Profile
Much like Vesalainen, Yamamoto would be a high skill addition to the farm system. The biggest knock on him is going to be his size. His skill though could make up for his lack of size, especially in an NHL that is continually getting faster.
- #8 - D Juuso Valimaki - Profile
Valimaki is a player I’m a little more unsure on. He’s also a player that has had his draft rankings move around as the season has gone on. He has the feel more of a player that might go in the 20s and it may require Yzerman to trade down (which isn’t unprecedented) to select him.
- #9 - C/LW Lias Andersson - Profile
Andersson is a player that I really like and could be just right for where the Lightning will select. For a 17-year-old playing in the SHL, he scored at a pretty good clip with 19 points in 42 games. That’s not too shabby.
- #10 - D Callan Foote - Profile
Like Valimaki, Foote probably goes somewhere in the 20s and would require Yzerman to trade down to see him land with the organization.
- #11 - D Nicolas Hague - Profile
When I first picked Hague, I was seeing him in the mid teens on a couple lists. Since then, he’s dropped out of the top 30. So maybe if the Lightning ended up trading back in the first round and picked up a high second round pick in the deal, maybe Hague would be a possibility.
- #12 - RW Klim Kostin - Profile
Kostin is likely to be a top 10 draft pick, but I’m not as high on him. His consistency is concerning. If he falls to #14 then maybe Yzerman takes a gamble on him, but I wouldn’t be excited about it.
- #13 - C Ryan Poehling - Profile
Poehling is more of a borderline first rounder, but he seemed like an interesting player to take a look at. With having already played his freshman season at St. Cloud State in NCAA hockey, he would at most spend three more seasons in NCAA before turning pro, barring an injury costing him a season.
- #14 - LW Maxime Comtois - Profile
Comtois is another player with varying opinions on his ranking. One thing that really stands out though is his hockey IQ and that’s something that Yzerman and Murray love to see in players.
- #15 - C Michael Rasmussen - Profile
No. Just no. Read the profile. I agree with Loserpoints about this prospect.
Well that’s it, my ranking of the 15 prospects that the RawCharge staff reviewed. Knowing that the players drafted this year are unlikely to be in Tampa for at least two to five seasons, I don’t feel as much of a need to value one position over the other. If there were two players that were close on the board at #14, then I would value defenseman first since the Lightning have put together a pretty good collection of forwards on the farm.
We’re less than a month away from the draft and I’m already getting excited for it.
Who would you pick at 14th?