The NHL draft starts three weeks from today on June 22 in Dallas. The first round will be Friday night and the remaining rounds will be on Saturday. The Lightning are without their first-round pick this year because of the Ryan McDonagh trade, but they have the rest of their picks and an extra seventh-round pick acquired from the Los Angeles Kings in the trade for Boko Imama.
The Lightning’s first scheduled pick is 59th overall, which is toward the end of the second round. But the Lightning could potentially trade back into the first round. They have several players that could represent potential trade options if they go that route. The most likely option is restricted free agent J.T. Miller. As Geo discussed in his offseason primer, Miller played well but keeping him long term will be difficult given the Bolt’s cap situation.
Starting next week, we’ll be covering the players likely to go in the first round. Each day, we’ll follow along with the SBNation mock draft and profile three new players. We’ll be sure to highlight the spots where we see an opportunity for the Lightning to make a trade.
While we’re covering the players likely to go high in the draft, we’ll also be profiling some players who could slide to the end of the second round where the Lightning are scheduled to make their first pick. Projecting who will go that late is a bit of a crapshoot but we’ll cover some of the players we think are interesting to get you primed for what to look for from the Bolts on day two.
In addition to the player profiles, we have some general content including a two-part deep dive from Geo on the Lightning’s drafting philosophy under Steve Yzerman and Al Murray. That will run closer to the draft but keep an eye out for it.
To kick things off, let’s take a look at a consolidated ranking of the first three rounds according to several prominent draft lists. You’re probably familiar with these charts by now but if you’re not, blue represents a high ranking and orange represents a low ranking. Keep in mind that we’re only covering the first three rounds here so even a “low” rank in this context is still a top half of the draft player.
The scouts included are Cam Robinson, Future Considerations, Craig Button, Jeremy Davis, and two from paywalled sites. The consolidated rank represents a combined rank based on the six scouts included in the chart. The ranks here do not represent where players would be projected in a mock draft. So a scout having a player ranked 59th doesn’t mean they think the Lightning will take him. Even so, looking at the players in that area should give us an idea of who might be available when the Lightning are on the clock.
From a Bolts perspective, you’ll want to focus on the second round. Some of the players listed near the top of the second will almost certainly slide to the end of the round and those would be ideal targets.
I’m not a scout and any knowledge I have of prospects comes from reading the work of others. Acknowledging that, I’ll kick off draft season here at Raw Charge with a quick look (we’ll likely cover these players in more detail later) at five players I’m hopeful might slide to the Lightning at 59. The first three in this list are optimistic given their ranking but the last two are more reasonable.
Dellandrea is the least likely of any of this group of five to fall to the end of the second round. The lowest I’ve seen him ranked is the middle of the round so I’m reaching here. But I’m reaching because he is extremely a Lightning type of prospect. He’s a center who gets praised for his two way game and hockey IQ. He scored plenty and improved defensively this year according to multiple reports. That’s the prototype for the Bolts so if he somehow slides to the end of the second, he would be a great pick.
McShane has been on my list all year long. He’s another center with a good offensive game. The issue with him and the reason he’s not highly ranked on some lists is inconsistent effort. Multiple scouts point out that he has a tendency to disappear at times. It isn’t that he’s a one way player. He’s capable defensively and plays on the penalty kill. He would be a somewhat risky high upside pick but if the Lightning could coach him up a little, he has the smart all around game that they like from their centers.
Miller is one of the most interesting players in the draft. He converted from forward to defense a couple years ago. He’s big. 6’3”, 205. He’s ranked all over the place, anywhere from the middle of the first round to the end of the second round. A team that likes high upside players will probably take him well before the Lightning but if he slides, he would be a steal. He clearly has the physical skill set and given that he changed positions recently, he probably has more room to grow than a typical defensive prospect.
Fonstad is a player who will likely be available when the Lightning pick but could slide even further than that. He’s another player with a big disparity in his rankings. He’s the typical story of a smaller player scoring at a rate that suggests he’ll be a capable NHL player but being overlooked by some because of his size. The Lightning have a history with these types of players. He’ll be a high upside pick for someone in the second or third round. And depending what else is available, could be a perfect option for the Lighting at 59.
Dudas is another undersized high-scoring forward. He’s fast and has plenty of offensive ability including a good shot. He fits a similar general profile to Fonstad although scouts do seem to like his game a bit more. He would be another good high upside option at the end of the second round if none of the more highly ranked players slide down the draft board.
The draft is one of my favorite parts of the season and while the Lightning don’t currently have a first round pick, that doesn’t mean it won’t still be fun this year. Steve Yzerman and Al Murray have excelled at finding useful players on day two. Four of the forwards in the Lightning’s top six were either day two picks or undrafted.
The first round starts three weeks from today. Between now and then, we’ll do our best to bring you as much information to help prepare you for how the Bolts will approach draft. We hope you’ll read along between now and then as we do our best to figure out who might look good in Lightning blue.