At the end of my article discussing the Tampa Bay Lightning’s evolving draft strategy over the years, I stated that I wanted to see the Lightning take another young goaltender to get in the pipeline. They have their franchise goaltender in Andrei Vasilevskiy.
They’ve secured their back-up in the NHL for the next two seasons in Louis Domingue. They have Eddie Pasquale to be a veteran mentor and #3 goalie in Syracuse. And then they have two prospects in Connor Ingram and Kristian Oldham. Ingram is coming along nicely in the AHL and could be the back-up to Vasilevskiy after Domingue’s contract is finished. Oldham is a long way from being a professional and at this point I have my doubts that he would be signed to a contract when his college career is finished.
Since it generally takes 4-6 years to get a goaltender up to the NHL, this was a good time for the Lightning to look for another one to get into the pipeline to come along behind Ingram. I originally said a CHL or NCAA goaltender would be nice here. Well, the Lightning went with an NCAA goaltender and a European goaltender. Going both routes on this need gives the Lightning some flexibility while not investing high draft picks into either pick.
The Lightning took Swedish goaltender Magnus Chrona in the fifth round, and finished their draft with Canadian goaltender Ty Taylor in the seventh round. There was actually a bit of a hold up when the Lightning were ready to select Chrona because he was not on the draft eligible list. The Lightning needed to get that cleared up before they could make the selection. Chrona also marked the first Swedish draft pick of the Yzerman/Murray era and the first by the Lightning since Victor Hedman in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
In Magnus Chrona, the Lightning have picked up a big goaltender who measures up at 6’4” and 209 pounds. He posted a .931 save percentage in the J18 Elit league and .954 SV% in the J18 Allsvenskan league for Nacka HK in Sweden. He played in one playoff game and had a .917 SV%. He’s also very young in the draft being just a couple weeks ahead of the mid-September cut off to be eligible. He’ll turn 18 on August 28. Goaltenders are often under scouted by the public scouting services, especially in Europe, and there is very little out there about him. However, I did find a game with him playing in net (#1 in white) on YouTube if you would like to watch him play.
One benefit that the Lightning have by drafting Chrona is that as a European player, they will control his rights for four seasons. He can stay in Sweden for the next four seasons and develop at home before moving to North America to play. He also has the potential to come over if he chooses to get an earlier look at North American style hockey.
The professional team he is currently affiliated with plays in Sweden’s Division 1, which is the third level of professional hockey. However, there is a report that he will be moving to Skelleftea AIK’s system. Their junior team plays in the SuperElit league, which is the top Swedish junior league. Skelleftea AIK’s top two junior goaltenders are also moving on to the professional ranks next year which would mean Chrona has an opportunity to earn significant playing time.
Alternatively, with the CHL Import Draft now allowing European goaltenders, he could come play in the CHL now or next season. His third option is to play NCAA hockey. He hasn’t played at a high enough level in Sweden to have lost his amateur status. I feel though that it is more likely Chrona will remain in Sweden to continue his development at home.
Whichever path Chrona decides to take, he’ll have time to develop before the Lightning sign him and put him in the AHL to further develop as a professional. The timeline for him is the same as most goaltenders, in that he likely wouldn’t be pushing for the back-up job in Tampa for another 4-6 years.
With Ty Taylor, the Lightning have added another big goaltender. He is 6’3” and 201 pounds. He will turn 19 in July and was passed over in his first shot at the draft. In 2016-17, he played the most games with the Vernon Vipers in net, but was out played by Darion Hanson who had a .945 SV% in 21 games and was their starter in the playoffs. Taylor put up a .908 SV% and 2.96 GAA in 29 games.
2017-18 though saw Hanson moving on, and Taylor becoming the 1A goaltender for the Vipers. He posted a .941 SV% and 1.87 GAA in 31 games. He also played in 10 playoff games with a .929 SV%. Together with his partner, the Vipers became the stingiest team in the league only allowing 118 goals, 20 goals less than the next closest team in that stat. His impressive improvement is likely what caught the eye of the Lightning’s scouting staff.
Taylor is committed to the University of New Hampshire and will make the move to the Wildcats this fall. Two of UNH’s four goaltenders graduated this season leaving a junior and a sophomore on the roster as Taylor comes in. It appears that the competition for the net will be wide open. Junior Joseph Lazzaro has only played in two games for UNH and sophomore Mike Robinson played in six games as a freshman with an .894 SV%.
Taylor will have four years at UNH to hone and develop his game before he turns professional. It’s a possibility that he could go professional earlier, but the Lightning have always been very flexible with their NCAA prospects allowing them to make the final decision of when they want to leave college for the professional ranks.