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 are obviously a lot of trickle down effects that could happen in such a case. But it’s still fun to ask “What If?”
We’ve already looked at the 2007 Draft Class and the 2008 Draft Class and had some fun with those two. Today, we can look at the 2009 Draft Class. This is the Victor Hedman draft, so I think you can already figure out there’s at least one pick that we won’t be changing. But how did the rest of the draft go for the Lightning? Well, not great seeing as how only two players are currently playing in the NHL out of the seven picks the Lightning had. They ended up with two picks in the first round and then one in each of the other rounds except for the third round.
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 12/2/18 from EliteProspects.com.
First Round, 2nd Pick, 2nd Overall
Original Pick: Victor Hedman, 646 GP, 86 goals, 291 assists, 377 points.
New Pick: Unchanged
Duh. Hedman is easily the best defenseman of this class though Oliver Ekman Larsson, the next defensemen drafted at 6th overall, is no slouch either with 304 points in 601 games for the Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes. Hedman is fourth overall in his draft class for points and the top defenseman. A handful of players are likely to pass him before all is said and done, but that’s also the nature of forwards and their level of scoring.
First Round, 29th Pick, 29th Overall
TRADE: The Lightning traded a 2009 second and 2009 third round pick to move up from the 32nd pick to the 29th pick. The Lightning selected Carter Ashton who only appeared in 54 NHL games with three points. They wouldn’t have missed on a star with the trade up as no one selected from 29th to 32nd has been great. They could have remained where they were and taken a great player. So, we will be undoing this pick so that we get to keep our third round draft pick the team traded to move up.
Second Round, 2nd Pick, 32nd Overall
Original Pick: Traded Away
New Pick: Ryan O’Reilly, 676 GP, 167 goals, 283 assists, 450 points.
This one was not a very hard pick. There are a few nice players picked up after O’Reilly, but he is clearly the best player available at this pick. He was selected one pick later by the Colorado Avalanche and ranks third in the draft class for total points. A premier faceoff man, O’Reilly has been a great second line center.
Second Round, 22nd Pick, 52nd Overall
Original Pick: Richard Panik, 357 GP, 66 goals, 68 assists, 134 points.
New Pick: Tyson Barrie, 429 GP, 64 goals, 204 assists, 268 points.
This slot had some very interesting names going for it. Anders Nilsson, who has recently come on nicely for the Vancouver Canucks, was a possible pick here to take a goalie. There were also two very similar forwards in Tomas Tatar and Reilly Smith. Ultimately though, I’d snag another pick that the Colorado Avalanche eventually selected in the third round 64th overall. Barrie is a very good defenseman and would have been a nice fit behind Hedman in the lineup, though he took a few more years to make his mark in the NHL.
Third Round, 14th Pick, 75th Overall
Original Pick: Traded away
New Pick: Cody Eakin, 484 GP, 86 goals, 112 assists, 198 points.
More of a bottom six forward, Eakin is the most attractive option available at this pick. No one stands out as a star, but there are some decent defensemen sprinkled in with Kevin Connauton and David Savard. No goalie really stands out though and so we end up picking the best forward we can.
Fourth Round, 2nd Pick, 93rd Overall
Original Pick: Alex Hutchings, Never appeared in the NHL
New Pick: Sami Vatanen, 359 GP, 37 goals, 127 assists, 143 points.
This pick was interesting in that the Lightning originally traded it to the Philadelphia Flyers for Vinnie Prospal. They reacquired it five months later sending Matt Carle and a third round pick to take this pick back along with Steve Eminger and Steve Downie.
For this pick, Mattias Ekholm from the Nashville Predators was also available. He may actually be the better pick, but Sami Vatanen being a right hander, and the scarcity of that attribute on the blue line tipped the scales for me.
Fifth Round, 27th Pick, 147th Overall
TRADE: This pick was acquired by the Lightning on trade day. They sent a 2010 fifth round pick to the Nashville Predators to acquire it. Since it’s a future draft pick and there are some options to take here, we’ll keep the trade.
Original Pick: Michael Zador, Never appeared in the NHL
New Pick: Anders Lee, 368 GP, 133 goals, 94 assists, 227 points.
This one was fairly easy. Marcus Kruger is the only player available with more games played, but he has only scored 114 points in his career. Lee on the other hand has become a top six goal scorer for the New York Islanders.
Sixth Round, 11th Pick, 162nd Overall
Original Pick: Jaroslav Janus, Never appeared in the NHL.
New Pick: Erik Haula, 357 GP, 73 goals, 78 assists, 151 points.
Haula just barely makes it into the range of players that we can pick here being the 20th player selected after the Lightning’s pick. No other player in the range has played more than 37 games, and that was goaltender Joni Ortio. The next best skater was Eric Wellwood with 10 points in 31 games in his career. But Haula makes up for that as a middle six player that chips in offensively. He took some time to develop in Minnesota but was given a golden opportunity in the expansion draft when the Vegas Golden Knights selected him.
Seventh Round, 2nd Pick, 183rd Overall
Original Pick: Kirill Gotovets, Never appeared in the NHL.
New Pick: Nic Dowd, 153 GP, 13 goals, 20 assists, 33 points.
There isn’t a whole lot to look at here for this pick. While Gotovets was the first player from Belarus the Lightning ever drafted, he never made it to the NHL. Only two players selected after him have appeared in more than a handful of games; Dowd and Jordan Nolan. Nolan has appeared in 361 games in the NHL, but has scored at a little lower rate than Dowd and is now playing in the AHL. Dowd though is still on an NHL roster. He just took a little more time to get to the NHL as he went the college route.
In this parallel universe where the Lightning get to make the perfect picks, this draft class would be amazing! Victor Hedman was obviously worthy of his selection at 2nd overall. But we also got to take two other top four defensemen, a great two-way second line center, a couple of middle-six scoring forwards, and a couple of bottom six forwards. Not bad. Not bad at all. Or it would have been, if the Lightning could have been perfect.