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Tampa Bay Lightning Draft Mulligan: The 2008 NHL Entry Draft

Who doesn’t love a little bit of “What If?”

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

What if we could take a mulligan on a Tampa Bay Lightning draft, and re-do the draft picks the team made? Maybe the team isn’t where it is now. Maybe some of it’s future draft picks don’t get made because the team ended up being better and got worse picks in future drafts. Maybe the team has another Stanley Cup in the trophy case. There’s obviously a lot of trickle down effects that could happen in such a case. But it’s still fun to ask “What If?”

Last time out, we looked at the 2007 NHL Draft class. In that draft mulligan, we weren’t able to make any huge splashes, finding a star player that the Lightning missed out on draft. We did end up finding some diamonds in the rough though as far as some middle-six forwards and border line top-four defensemen.

So this year, we’re going to move up a season to the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. This was the Steven Stamkos draft, so obviously we won’t be changing the top of the draft. However, the Lightning still had a lot of draft picks with seven picks from the 4th round to the end with two each in the 5th, 6th, and 7th rounds. Surely we’ll find some gems, right?

The rules for this Mulligan are that I can only select a player that was drafted within the next 20 draft picks after the Lightning’s selection. This is to give some reality to the possibility of having made the “right” pick according to who was available and who might have been on the draft board at the time. That means that I can’t turn a bust of a first round pick into a super star long shot seventh rounder. Any trades that were made at the draft, including trading draft picks away, can be undone if there is a star player the team could have selected instead of trading away the pick. The decision to keep the trade or not will be based on who could have been picked with the pick being traded for or traded away, not based on the draft picks given up.

Now that we know the rules that we are playing by, let’s dig in to the fun part!

All career stats are as of 11/8/18 from EliteProspects.com.

First Round, 1st Pick, 1st Overall

Original Pick: Steven Stamkos, Forward, 679 GP, 353 goals, 328 assists, 681 points.

New Pick: Unchanged

Ok, so this one isn’t actually as easy as it might sound. The 2008 draft class is absolutely loaded with talent, especially on the blue line. Within our 20 pick range that we can consider, the players drafted have picked up two Stanley Cups, three Norris trophies, ten end of season All-Star nods, and a Calder Trophy. Not to mention the two Rocket Richards and two All-Star selections that Stamkos has picked up for himself.

Drew Doughty and Erik Karlsson are both available here and stack right up there with Stamkos in terms of talent and impact on their teams. Even outside of those players, you have some A+ players in Alex Pietrangelo, Josh Bailer, Tyler Myers, and Jake Gardiner. I suppose that is to be expected when you’re talking about the top 21 players taken in a draft, but it’s still unbelievable the amount of talent at the top of this draft class. Of the first 21 players, 12 have played over 500 games in the NHL, with Luca Sbisa being just two games from that mark.

I admit that knowing we’re going to pick Victor Hedman next year and have a defenseman that belongs in the same breath as Doughty and Karlsson is probably shading my opinion, and the presence of Vincent Lecavalier still in his prime makes Stamkos less of a giant need for the team than a star defenseman. But even knowing that, I still have a hard time giving up the future Captain.

Third Round, 1st Pick, 62nd Overall

TRADE: The Lightning traded this third round pick for a 2008 fourth round pick (117th), 2008 fifth round pick (147th), and a 2009 third round pick on draft day to the San Jose Sharks.

Analysis: There are four or five good caliber NHLers available to pick here. Forwards Jori Lehtera, Lance Bouma, and Zack Smith, defenseman Michael Stone, and goaltender Michael Hutchinson. Michael Stone is the most intriguing pick here as a border line top-four defenseman. So I’m sitting here asking myself the question of if I’m happy with that for a third round pick, or do I think I can get more value out of a fourth and fifth round pick later in this draft.

The third round is generally where you’re still looking at some players with good NHL upside, but the odds are going drastically down and will go down even further in the fourth and fifth round.

Decisions: Scrap the trade, keep the pick.

New Pick: Michael Stone, Defense, 435 GP, 29 goals, 87 assists, 116 points.

In the end, the decision has to be to go with the guarantee here. Remember that I can’t look ahead to what we could pick with those other two picks. So let’s go with the surefire, NHLer here. Stone is a right handed defenseman that scored 35 points in 71 games in his draft year. In the following two seasons for the Calgary Hitmen, he was just short of a point per game.

His best offensive season in the NHL came in 2015-16 with the Arizona Coyotes when he had six goals and 36 points in 75 games played. That was the only season in his NHL career that he got significant power play time and was a top defender for the Coyotes. He’s averaged 19:05 TOI in his career, making him a border line top-four defenseman in the league.

Fifth Round, 1st Pick, 122nd Overall

Original Pick: Dustin Tokarski, Goaltender, 34 GP, 27-10-12, .904 SV%, 2.84 GAA

New Pick: Matt Calvert, Forward, 431 GO, 73 goals, 79 assists, 152 points.

Tokarski made a big splash in his NHL career in 2013-14 when he took over for an injured Carey Price in the playoffs and got all of the Canadiens fans excited. Unfortunately for them, he fizzled out after that. So instead, we can take winger Matt Calvert. He had 24 goals and 64 points in 72 games in his draft year, but slipped down to the 5th round because of his size and lack of elite speed. He is currently listed at 5’11” and 185 pounds. More of a bottom six performer, he hit the 20 point plateau in five of his seven full NHL seasons, though he likely would of had another if the 2012-13 season hadn’t been shortened by a lockout.

Sixth Round, 1st Pick, 152nd Overall

Original Pick: Mark Barberio, Defenseman, 243 GP, 14 goals, 40 assists, 54 points.

New Pick: Jared Spurgeon, Defenseman, 523 GP, 59 goals, 154 assists, 213 points.

This is one of those picks that I really debated. Cam Atkinson was the other big name that stuck out in the list of eligible players. He has been a consistent 40 point scorer since his first full season in the league in 2013-14. He did take a while to develop though and was 24 in that season. But he now has five straight seasons of 20 or more goals including a career high 35 in 2016-17 when he also set a career high of 62 points.

But Jared Spurgeon just carries more weight as a legitimate top-four defenseman and a right hander. He’s small, listed at 5’9” and 168 pounds, but he’s proven that he is a very good defenseman. He broke into the NHL as a 21 year old in 2010-11. Since his second season, he hasn’t posted less than 21:33 average TOI. He has consistently contributed on the offensive side of the score sheet with six 20+ point seasons out of eight with one of those seasons being the lock-out shortened 2012-13 where he scored at a 31 point pace.

That kind of player is too hard to pass up on, even for a goal scorer like Cam Atkinson, and especially in the sixth round.

Sixth Round, 9th Pick, 160th Overall

Original Pick: Luke Witkowski, Defenseman, 89 GP, 1 goal, 7 assists, 8 points.

New Pick: Tommy Wingels, Forward, 448 GP, 62 goals, 81 assists, 143 points.

Witkowski was a very popular in the Lightning organization. Unfortunately, he wasn’t as good on the ice as a lot of fans wished he would be. He’s reinvented himself as a fourth line forward that can also step in on the blue line when needed for the Detroit Red Wings. But here with this pick, we can get a bona fide, good fourth liner.

Wingels actually had a couple of very good years for the San Jose Sharks putting up 16 and 15 goals with 38 and 36 points in back to back seasons. After that, his played dropped and so did his place in the line-up. His name is one that over the past couple of seasons constantly came up at the trade deadline as a player that was desired for his fourth line play, showing how much those around the league thought of his usefulness. He was traded at the deadline in 2016-17 to the Ottawa Senators, signed with the Chicago Blackhawks in the summer, and was subsequently traded to the Boston Bruins at the deadline.

Wingels decided to take a stab at playing in Switzerland this year, but not before proving himself a capable NHLer.

Seventh Round, 1st Pick, 182nd Overall

Original Pick: Matias Sointu, Never appeared in the NHL.

New Pick: Jason Demers, Defense, 586 GP, 43 goals, 150 assists, 193 points.

A right handed defender with decent size, Demers has easily had the biggest NHL impact of any seventh rounder in this draft. Only two other skaters have broken the 100 games played mark, along with one goaltender. While not a huge offensive threat, he has consistently scored around the 20 point mark in most of his career, topping out at 34 points in 2013-14 with the San Jose Sharks. As a second or third pairing defenseman, he makes the cut in the NHL.

Seventh Round, 22nd Pick, 203rd Overall

Original Pick: David Carle, Defenseman, Never appeared in the NHL

New Pick: Unchanged

So, I could actually take Anders Lindback here as he has played 130 career NHL games. We also already know how that went for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Only one other draft pick after Carle played in the NHL, and he only played in seven games.

But the reason that this pick remains unchanged is because of David Carle’s story. Carle is the younger brother of Matt Carle. You may be thinking that this pick was because Carle was with the Lightning, but this pick was actually made a couple weeks before the Lightning acquired the elder Carle from the San Jose Sharks.

This was a sentimental pick though. Carle was diagnosed with hypertropic cardiomyopathy that forced him to retire from hockey. He had put up an outstanding season for Shattuck St. Mary’s with 51 points in 61 games before receiving his diagnosis. The Lightning made the pick so that his dream of being drafted into the NHL would still be fulfilled.

Carle went on to the University of Denver where he had committed to play college hockey. He spent his four seasons there as a Student Assistant Coach. He spent a year and a half after graduating as an assistant coach in the USHL with the Green Bay Gamblers. He served under now Lightning assistant coach Derek Lalonde.

He returned to the University of Denver during the 2013-14 season to serve as an Assistant Coach. He was elevated this season to the Head Coaching spot for Denver succeeding Jim Montgomery who left to take the head coaching job with the Dallas Stars.

Conclusions

There were definitely some debates here about some players. Taking back the trade of the third round pick also works out pretty well for the Lightning getting Michael Stone. Now that we can look at the picks the Lightning receiving, it would have made the sixth round pick debate a little easier. The Lightning could have taken Gustav Nyquist with the fourth round pick they acquired instead of James Wright.

The fifth round pick they acquired in that trade also would have made the debate I had for the sixth round pick a little easier too. In that situation, the Lightning could have taken both Jared Spurgeon and Cam Atkinson as they both fell within the range of candidates for both picks.

Even knowing that after having made my decision to scrap the trade, we do fairly well in our mulligan. We keep Stamkos, and pick up a couple of top-four defenseman and some very usable middle or bottom six forwards.