HockeyDB.com has a neat little tool called “NHL Best Players Drafted by Draft Position.” This tool lists the players that have the most games played, most goals, most assists, and most points for each draft position, and then further subdivides by forwards and defensemen. Goaltenders are judged by games played, save percentage, win percentage, and goals against average.
With the offseason underway, it’s a great time to look at subjects like this for fun. The question here obviously is, are there any Tampa Bay Lightning draft picks that show up? Are any Lightning draft picks leading their position group for a draft pick position in one of those stats?
Pick #1 - D Roman Hamrlik
Roman Hamrlik was the Lightning’s first draft pick ever and was picked 1st overall. He played 1,395 games in the NHL which is best among defensemen drafted 1st overall.
Pick #19 - G Andrei Vasilevskiy
Vasilevskiy has turned into a franchise goaltender after being drafted 19th overall in 2012. With his .917 SV%, .624 win%, and 2.61 GAA, he’s the top goaltender for those three categories, although he’s a long way behind Olaf Kolzig who played 719 games.
Pick #29 - G Tyler Moss
Raise your hand if you remember Tyler Moss being selected in the 2nd round of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft by the Lightning? Anyone? Just Matt Sammon? Ok. Well, he’s tops with an .891 SV% and 3.25 GAA. Pretty impressive! Hannu Toivonen in that spot has him in games played and win percentage. Oh, Moss had a .283 win%. Good news is, he never played in the NHL for the Lightning instead spending time with the Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Vancouver Canucks, and Edmonton Oilers.
Pick #64 - F Brad Richards
Brad Richards is easily the greatest player ever selected with the 64th overall pick. he went on to win two Stanley Cups, a Lady Byng, and a Conn Smythe. He also played in 1,126 games with 298 goals, 634 assists, and 932 points to lead all 64th overall forwards in each category.
Pick #66 - D Radko Gudas
Oh look here at our old friend Radko Gudas. Right now, he leads all 66th overall defensemen with 20 goals. He’s got a ways to go to overtake Cale Hulse’s 619 games with his 339 games. But he’s not far from his assists and points totals, trailing Hulse by 14 assists and 10 points.
Pick #138 - D Bryce Salvador
Salvador might have been a nice player for the Lightning if they would have held on to him. Instead, they chose not to sign the 1994 6th round pick and he was picked up by the St. Louis Blues. He joined the New Jersey Devils later in his career, eventually spending his last three years there serving as the Captain. He came to the Devils after their Stanley Cups, but he did get to play in a final when the Devils made it their in 2011-12. His 785 games played, 24 goals, 86 assists, and 110 points leads 138th overall defensemen. He also tops the forward leading the 138th overall forwards in games played, assists, and points.
Pick #145 - G Derek Wilkinson
Hey look! Another goalie that only Matt Sammon will remember! Selected in the 7th round of the 1992 draft, Wilkinson actually played in the NHL for the Lightning playing all of his games with Tampa. He finished his career in 2000-01 playing for the Belfast Giants. He leads the 145th overall goalies in every category with 22 games, .874 SV%, .250 win%, and a 3.67 GAA. Just marvel at those stats.
Pick #148 - D Nikita Nesterov
Nesterov was one of the picks in Steve Yzerman’s first full draft of 2011, being selected in the fifth round. He didn’t stick in the NHL and decided to return home to Russia. But not before taking the lead among the 148th overall defensemen with 132 games, nine goals, 24 assists, and 33 points.
Pick #153 - D Andrei Skopintsev
Selected in the 6th round of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, Skopintsev spent three seasons in North America split between the NHL and IHL. His first two seasons were spent with Tampa Bay and his last with the Atlanta Thrashers. He leads the 153rd overall defensemen with 40 games, two goals, and six points. He was surpassed by Milan Tichy, a 1989 draft pick by Chicago, in assists with five to Skopintsev’s four.
Pick #161 - D Jake Dotchin
One of the few current Lightning players on this list, Dotchin makes the cut as a sixth round pick from 2012. He leads the 161st overall defensemen in all four categories with 83 games, three goals, 19 assists, and 22 points. Not bad Dotchin. Not bad. Good thing you didn’t go a pick later when you would have had Andrei Markov’s 990 games, 119 goals, 453 assists, and 572 points to contend with.
Pick #183 - D Paul Ranger
A big defenseman, Ranger spent the majority of his career with the Tampa Bay Lightning. After being drafted in 2002, he spent two more years in the OHl before turning professional. He spent the 2004 lockout in the AHL, and then made the NHL full time in 2005-06 with the Lightning. He had some good seasons posting 18, 28, and 31 points over his first three seasons.
Ranger left the team though for personal reasons and did not return to hockey for three years. There’s still not much known about why, but whatever he needed to deal with, he did, and eventually returned to hockey in 2012-13. He returned to the NHL in 2013-14 with the Toronto Maple Leafs, spent the next season in Switzerland and then retired from hockey.
He leads all 183rd overall defensemen with 323 games, 24 goals, 82 assists, and 106 points.
Pick #191 - G Karri Ramo
This is another pick where the player had most of his success away from the Lightning. He tried to make it work in Tampa, but it did not go well after being selected in the 6th round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He spent three seasons split between the NHL and the AHL for the Lightning getting into 48 games. He left North America and spent four seasons playing for Avangard Omsk in the KHL where he revitalized his career.
With that success, he returned to the NHL and played for three seasons with the Calgary Flames. He started the 2016-17 season with the Toronto Marlies in the AHL, but decided to return to Finland in finished the year with the Pelicans in Liiga. He returned to the KHL with Jokerit last season. After only playing in 18 games, he has signed a new contract with Avangard for 2018-19 to continue his career.
He leads the 191st overall goaltenders with 159 games, a .906 sv%, .486 win% and 2.85 GAA.
Pick #201 - F Matthew Peca
There must not have been a very big bar to clear with this pick for Matthew Peca. It also happens to be the same pick that was used by Montreal on Vyacheslav Fetisov. For Peca, in his two short stints with Tampa Bay over the past two seasons, he has set new marks for the 201st overall forwards with 20 games, three goals, four assists, and seven points. Incidentally, he has been signed to a two-year, one-way contract with the Montreal Canadiens where he will surely increase his lead.
Pick #208 - F Ondrej Palat
One of the best NHL value to draft position in Lightning franchise history, and certainly the best by Steve Yzerman, Palat got himself onto this list over the past season. He has been chasing down the New York Islanders’ 1984 208th overall pick David Volek’s 396 games played, 95 goals, 154 assists, and 249 points. Palat overtook him in assists with 168, and points with 253 over the past season. Palat sits just 34 games and 11 goals from knocking Volek off his spot among 208th overall forwards.
Pick #212 - G Zac Bierk
And here we have, yet another goaltender. Bierk was a 9th round pick in 1995 by the Lightning out of the OHL. As a professional rookie, he played in 13 games for the Lightning with a 4.16 GAA and .857 sv%. He did get a bit better, but only lasted with the Lightning organization for two more years and 13 more games. He moved on and ended up playing in NHL games with the Minnesota Wild and Phoenix Coyotes before retiring following the 2003-04 season. However, he was good enough to lead the 212th overall goaltender group with 47 games, a .901 SV%, .338 win% and 3.18 GAA.
Pick #213 - G Fredrik Norrena
Yet another, another goaltender. Are we noticing a theme? Probably mostly has to do with the fact that so many goaltenders don’t make it to the NHL, and even more so when they are late round draft picks. After all, there’s only two spots per team for a goaltender to make it. Norrena was also selected as a very overage draft pick. He was drafted in 2002. The other November 1973 born players? They were drafted in 1992. So he was drafted at 28 years old and proceeded to spend four more years playing in Europe, though he had moved from Finland to Sweden after he was drafted.
He finally entered the NHL at 32 years old with the Columbus Blue Jackets playing over parts of three seasons before returning to Europe. His three years with Columbus were good enough to lead the 213th overall goaltenders with 100 games played, an .899 sv%, .445 win percentage, and 2.79 GAA.
Pick #224 - G Gerald Coleman
ANOTHER GOALTENDER! Well, I guess it shouldn’t be that big of a surprise. A seventh round pick in 2003, Coleman was a big goaltender at 6’4”. He played in two games for the Lightning in 2005-06 as a professional rookie. The rest of his career was spent in the AHL and ECHL. He finally retired from hockey after four seasons of primarily playing in the ECHL with the Alaska Aces winning two ECHL championships.
Coleman is probably the only goaltender selected 224th overall to ever play in the NHL, but that still gets him on the list with his two games, .882 SV%, .500 win% and a 2.79 GAA.
Pick #255 - F Ryan Craig
Fooled you with this one didn’t I? You thought it was going to be another goaltender! Well, it’s not. It’s Ryan Craig. Craig had a decent career and ended up with 711 games played in the AHL which is no small feat. He played most of his NHL games with the Lightning, but also made NHL appearances for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets. He’s now an assistant coach with the Vegas Golden Knights having retired from hockey after the 2016-17 season.
Craig leads the 255th overall forwards with 198 games played, 32 goals, 31 assists, and 63 points.
That’s it. Over 293 draft picks and 879 total spots that Lightning draft picks could occupy, Lightning draft picks occupy 18 spots. That’s 2%.
There really isn’t a whole lot to draw from here, but it was certainly fun. With so many draft picks all-time, it’s hard for a lot of the Lightning’s current and former players to have broken their way into the list in the slots they were drafted. Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier had Mike Modano and Mario Lemieux to chase down. Victor Hedman has Dave Babych’s 1,195 games, and Brad Park’s 213 goals, 683 assists, and 896 points to overcome.
Even Nikita Kucherov drafted 58th overall is chasing Steven Konowalchuk and Jiri Hudler. It’ll be a minimum of 5+ more seasons before Kucherov takes over the 790 games played mark of Konowalchuk. But, he’s only 24 goals from tying him for the goals lead. He needs 77 assists to take over Hudler in the assists column and 94 points to take him in the points column.