Did the Tampa Bay Lightning use their lower-round draft picks to draft for Best Player Available (BPA), or players that filled a particular positional need? Assessing BPA might tend to favor faster-developing forwards rather than goalies or defenders. Considering that the Bolts took two goaltenders and three defenders with five of their seven picks (garnering TBL across-the-board low grades for their drafting acumen), did they draft with certain positions in mind? Maybe they did, and this might be the case in the Bolts’ selection of Cornell defender Alexander Green, 121st overall, this past Saturday.
For example, 5’9”, 158 lb center Justin Almeida was taken 129th overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins -- and left on the draft board by the Lightning, who chose Green instead. At age 18, Almeida finished 10th in the WHL in scoring last season for Moose Jaw; on the other hand, Green is a 20-year-old NCAA defenseman who is not known for his offensive push, with 2G/8A in 29 GP — the equivalent of about six NHL points, using NHLe’s conversion table. Maybe the Lightning feel that their system is already full of undersized offensive forwards, but that the biggest need going into playoffs was right-shot D?
Last season the Bolts were hammered by writers for lacking defensive depth, and for failing to properly develop defenders like Slater Koekkoek or Jake Dotchin. The big move that TBL made at the trade deadline was to give away offense for defense -- Vladislav Namestnikov and a first-round pick for Ryan McDonaugh and JT Miller, for example.
We discussed this in our recap of TBL’s defense for the 2017-18 season:
The blue line was the weakness of the team this year. Whether that’s the case next year depends heavily on how McDonagh adjusts to a full season in Tampa and how Sergachev develops in his second season. The Lightning have the ingredients to turn their blue line into a strength, but it requires the pieces to come together in the right way.
I don’t expect all nine of these players to be back next year. Sustr and Coburn seem like the most likely find new teams this summer, but either Koekkoek or Dotchin could also be moved depending on the trade market.
Green is likely going back to Cornell for a Sophomore season. In a few years, with more seasoning, would he fill a role on the Bolts’ right side?
Raw Charge wrote our initial reaction to this selection on Saturday:
Green is a big right shot defender. He was unranked by all but one of the services we reviewed. But the one that did rank him had him 76th overall. [...] According the scouting report we read, he’s a smart defensive player who makes a good first pass with a limited offensive game. He isn’t a particularly physical player so this isn’t a “pick the big D who hits” situation. His defensive game is more about his smarts than anything else and that’s a decent profile for a player at this point in the draft. He’s an interesting addition to the prospect pipeline and because he’s 20 years old already, could be on an accelerated timeline.
Let’s talk about why Green was an interesting, if underrated, selection for the Lightning. He was scouted by by Northeast Region amateur scout Brian Putnam, who had this to say about him after the draft: “He’s got a really bomb of a shot. His offensive game’s coming along every year. He gets a lot of responsibility playing power play now. He had a great freshman year at Cornell, and he’s got nothing but upside to him. We’re real happy to have him on.”
In Green’s first season with Cornell (25-5-2 ECAC), he was part of a top-four defensive corps that was best in the NCAA in 2017-18. Green played in every game situation and was instrumental in spearheading the penalty kill. This, on top of their goaltender Matt Galajda’s shutout streak, gave the team a more-than-solid 1.58 goals-against average in a high-scoring league.
This was Green’s last year of NHL draft eligibility. His coach, Mike Schafer, discussed his upside with the Cornell Sun: “[Green] contributed offensively, too, his skating skills and getting up and down the ice and contributing in that area. He [also] killed penalties for us. He’s such a great skater. I think that’s what sets him apart from a lot of people is his ability to get around the ice.”
Green also gave a frank assessment of his own drawbacks, which, to him, is bulk. He’s already got the height, but feels he has to work on muscle mass. “I’m not the biggest guy ever… I’m on the slighter side,” Green said to the Cornell Sun. “I think putting on some good weight is definitely a goal of mine, and that’s definitely attainable through Cornell and the facilities we have.”
As an additional note, perhaps Steve Yzerman was also drafting for intelligence — both on and off the ice. When Green was asked why he chose to attend Cornell, and why he specialized in Industrial and Labor Relations, Green pointed out to the Cornell Big Red that this was also the school of Gary Bettman. He has plans to be a sports agent after his hockey career is done:
Q: You’re in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. What do you hope to do with that degree some day?
A: I want to be a sports agent. Who knows if it will work out, but that’s the reason I chose ILR.
Q: Did you know about that way back when you committed?
A: My mom and I did some research on what I would want to study at Cornell when I was still in high school. ILR is really intriguing to me, and obviously they have a good really big alumni — especially (NHL commissioner) Gary Bettman ‘74 and the commissioner of Major League Baseball (Rob Manfred ‘80). It kind of was just the perfect fit.
We’ll get to see Green at development camp this week alongside fellow American-born defender Callan Foote.