Over the past few weeks, the crew here at Raw Charge has given insight into a number of the prospects that are likely to be targets of the Lightning with the 14th overall pick.
Geo did a great job of summarizing them here (link) and giving his opinion on the order of which he would like these prospects selected.
"One of the fun things about preparing for the draft is that there are so many varying opinions on where players rank."
Geo is right, ask 10 different scouts who they would pick at #14 and you're likely to get 10 different answers; ask ten fans and you're likely to get ten more. With that in mind, I have been asked to give my input. Here is how I would rank the players we have looked at here at Raw Charge.
Disagree with any of my opinions? Let me know in the comments!
#1 - D - Miro Heiskanen - Profile - Geo Rank: #1
He is likely the hottest player in the draft right now - the hype train is running wild after an incredible U-18 tournament this spring. He's moved up to the top-5 for many and there is next to no way he's available when the Lightning's pick comes around. If he is, you run to the podium as fast as you can and select him - wondering how you were so fortunate.
#2 - C - Nick Suzuki - Profile - Geo Rank: #4
Personally, I think Nick Suzuki might be the third best center in the draft. He is an incredible offensive talent that led a young Owen Sound team to one of the best records in the OHL this season. He finished second in the league with 45 goals and did so while being the best passer and forechecker on his team. He could still be around at pick 14 because some feel he might not be able to stick at center in the NHL, and if he's available it would be a huge win for the Bolts.
#3 - C - Cody Glass - Profile - Geo Rank: #3
Another guy that is likely to be gone by the time the Lightning pick, Glass is a big, smart center that projects to be a low-end 1C or elite 2C in the NHL. He's likely to be drafted before Suzuki because of his size and strength, but he's still #3 on my list.
#4 - C/LW - Kailer Yamamoto - Profile - Geo Rank: #7
If he were a few inches taller, Kailer Yamamoto would be an undisputed top-3 pick in this year's draft - he's that skilled. He plays both center and wing in Spokane but he is going to end up being a winger at the next level. He'd instantly become the most talented offensive player in the Bolts' prospect pool and he is very likely to still be around at pick 14. Unfortunately, the size bias is still all too real in the NHL [Editor’s Note: *cough*Brayden Point*cough*] and I have a suspicion he is going to drop a lot further. I'm not saying he's Mitch Marner good, but he's got a chance to be pretty darn close.
#5 - D - Erik Brannstrom - Profile - Geo Rank: #5
Brannstrom is a very good offensive defenseman. He lacks the ideal size you'd like to see from an NHL defender, which is the only reason he might still be available at #14. He shows great poise with the puck, has incredible instincts and has the ability to be the quarterback of a top powerplay unit. For a team that could use some defensive depth in the system, Brannstrom would be a very nice pick.
#6 - C - Ryan Poehling - Profile - Geo Rank: #13
Poehling is a personal favourite of mine. After skipping his senior year in high school, he spent last season as the youngest player in NCAA hockey - playing with his older brothers at St. Cloud State. He is a very smart, very skilled center, with the size scouts love to see. In only one year at college, he was able to show a development curve much steeper than you'd usually see from a kid his age. My gut tells me he could be the steal of the draft and even though most have him in the 20s, Yzerman and crew would not regret selecting him at #14.
#7 - D - Timothy Liljegren - Profile - Geo Rank: #2
Coming into the season Liljegren was the consensus #2 prospect in this year's draft. The puck-moving defender had a bit of a rough year - missing time and taking a while to get his legs back - but that doesn't take away from how skilled he is. Much like Brannstrom, his calling card is his possession and puck moving from the back end. He is a very good right-handed option in the middle of the first round.
#8 - W - Kristian Vesalainen - Profile - Geo Rank: #6
Vesalainen might be the most boom or bust player in the draft. He has the skill and potential to be an absolute monster of a power-forward, but a lack of consistency and offensive production have scared some off. That said, he was playing pro hockey as a 17-year old and produced as well as any U18 players that have ever played in the SHL.
#10 - D - Juuso Valimaki - Profile - Geo Rank: #8
Valimaki is a bigger defender than both Brannstrom and Liljegren - and is believed by some to be just as skilled. He had incredible offensive numbers playing in the WHL and being one of the older first-time eligible players in the draft, he might be closer to the NHL than others.
#9 - C/LW - Lias Andersson - Profile - Geo Rank: #9
Andersson is a tenacious forechecker that brings something to a team that coaches love. He plays with speed, aggression and has the ability to play up and down the lineup. If it's a smart player that can be used in every situation that Yzerman is looking for, don't be surprised if Andersson is the pick.
#11 - D - Callan Foote - Profile - Geo Rank: #10
Foote is big, strong and plays a simple game. He doesn't have the high-end puck skills of others on the list and he'll never be a guy to lead the breakout with the puck on his stick, but he'll be a dependable defender that will look really good on the middle pair of an NHL blueline one day.
#12 - D - Nicolas Hague - Profile - Geo Rank: #11
I have Hague behind Foote only because he is a riskier pick. He's got a cannon from the point. Despite being huge, his skating ability is among the best of the blueliners in this draft. The knock on Hague is that he seems to lack the instincts necessary to be an elite defender in the NHL. In Junior, his size and strength allow him to make up for mental blunders but that might not work at the net level. He's got all the physical tools to succeed and if it ever clicks between his ears, Hague could be an absolute force.
#13 - LW - Maxime Comtois - Profile - Geo Rank: #14
Comtois is a safe pick. He is a good skater that has the hockey IQ to overcome other shortcomings in his game. If the Lightning decide to be risk adverse and are ok selecting a guy who will only be a 3rd line winger, but that has a lower chance of being a bust - Comtois is their guy.
#14 - RW - Klim Kostin - Profile - Geo Rank: #12
Kostin is a guy that has been all over the map. A lot like Vesalainen, he's got the size and potential to be a high-end power forward in the NHL, but NHL scouts likely haven't seen enough from him yet to get a true grasp on what he will become.
#15 - C - Michael Rasmussen - Profile - Geo Rank: #15
He is definitely the worst option on the list. His decent goal scoring numbers are buoyed by a ridiculously high percentage coming on the powerplay. He might make the NHL on size alone, but he's definitely not a guy you want to spend a pick on this high in the first round.
Who would you pick at 14th?