What if we could take a mulligan on a Tampa Bay Lightning draft, and re-do the 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 lots of trickle down effects that could happen in such a case. But it’s still fun to ask “What If?”
Today we’ve got the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. The Alex Ovechkin/Evegeni Malkin draft. Two surefire Hall of Fame players back to back at the top of the draft. The Lightning though are at the very end of the first round because... THEY WON THE STANLEY CUP! So... how did the Lightning do with this draft? Let’s just say we’re not very likely to be keeping many players the Lightning selected. Also, with this being the last draft before the 2004 lockout, we still have nine rounds in the draft.
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 no player worthy of the pick the team traded for, or if there is a star player the team could have selected instead of trading away the pick.
All stats are as of the regular season finale of the 2018-19 season.
First Round, 30th Pick, 30th Overall
Original Pick: D Andy Rogers, Never appeared in the NHL
New Pick: F Blake Comeau, 797 GP, 128 G, 175 A, 303 P
Rogers was drafted out of the WHL with the Calgary Hitman with the last pick of the first round. Why? That’s a great question... in 64 games with the Hitman, he recorded one goal, four points, and 89 penalty minutes. He was scoreless in seven playoff games. At the U18 World Junior Championships, he somehow managed to record a goal and three points in seven games to go with 26 penalty minutes. Rogers is currently listed as being 6’5” and 207 pounds, making him a big boy.
Well, the NHL kind of made a little change to the rules with the 2004 Lockout to limit clutch and grab. That change was not great for a big defenseman who had no offense in his game. He spent two more years in the WHL with the Calgary Hitmen and Prince George Cougars. In 158 career WHL games he recorded three goals and 21 points. He then made his way into professional hockey where he scored a grand total of one goal and 12 points over four seasons and 134 games split between the AHL and ECHL. He retired from hockey after the 2009-10 season.
Comeau on the other hand has been a pretty good player in the NHL. He has played with the New York Islanders, Calgary Flames, Columbus Blue Jackets, Pittsburgh Penguins, Colorado Avalanche, and Dallas Stars. He is an effective third liner that set his career highs in goals and points in 2010-11 with 24 goals and 46 points. He has consistently scored between 20 and 35 points throughout the majority of his career.
Second Round, 35th Pick, 65th Overall
Original Pick: F Mark Tobin, Never appeared in the NHL
New Pick: D Andrej Sekera, 707 GP, 45 G, 191 A, 246 P
Tobin was a big forward that scored decently well in the QMJHL, but never put up huge offensive numbers. He played professional hockey for three years mostly in the ECHL. He continued to play semi-professional hockey up until 2014-15 before retiring.
Sekera on the other hand has proved to be a steady, if not spectacular, defenseman. Sekera was playing in Slovakia when he was drafted, but then came to the OHL to play two years before moving into professional hockey. He has spent time with the Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Los Angeles Kings, and Edmonton Oilers over his career. He’s had a few really good offensive years sprinkled into his career include 2013-14 when he set career highs with 11 goals, 33 assists, and 44 points. He has two other seasons reaching 30 points and one season at 29 points.
Fourth Round, 4th Pick, 102nd Overall
Original Pick: D Mike Lundin, 252 GP, 4 G, 32 A, 36 P
New Pick: D Mike Lundin
This is one where there aren’t a lot of other options. Forward Ryan Jones got into 334 career games with 54 goals and 100 points. But most of his production came in two good seasons. Otherwise, he was mostly a fourth liner. Forward Kevin Porter had 249 games and 29 goals and 58 points. Porter has only had two years in his career where he played a majority of a team’s NHL games.
So we’ll stick with Lundin. A big left handed defenseman, Lundin was selected out of the University of Maine where he scored 19 points in 44 games as a freshman in his draft year. Once he finished his four years with Maine, he immediately jumped into the Lightning’s line up in 2007-08 playing in 81 games. He split the 2009-10 season between Tampa and the Norfolk Admirals, but spent all of 2010-11 with the Lightning as they made a run to the Eastern Conference Finals. Lundin then moved on to the Minnesota Wild and Ottawa Senators for a year each where he barely played. Since then, he has played in the KHL and NLA, retiring after the 2017-18 season.
The reason I stuck with Lundin is that he ended up playing top four minutes in 2009-10 and 2010-11 when he was with the Lightning averaging over 20 minutes a game. He didn’t have much offense, but he was at least a decent presence for the Lightning when he was in the NHL.
Fifth Round, 29th Pick, 158th Overall
Original Pick: D Brandon Elliott, Never appeared in NHL
New Pick: F Mike Santorelli, 406 GP, 64 G, 74 A, 138 P
This pick was acquired in a trade that we get to keep since the Lightning acquired this pick and two other 2004 picks in exchange for a 2005 third round pick.
Elliott was another big defenseman pick by the Lightning that never went anywhere. He played some professional hockey mostly in the ECHL and retired following the 2010-11 season.
Santorelli on the other hand was a strong performer in the BCHL scoring 43 goals and 96 points in 60 games. He went to Northern Michigan University for three seasons and racked up 61 goals and 110 points in 121 games. He the moved to the professional ranks and has played for the Nashville Predators, Florida Panthers, Winnipeg Jets, Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Anaheim Ducks in his NHL career. His best season came in 2010-11 with the Florida Panthers when he scored 20 goals and 41 points. He also had two other seasons hitting 10 goals and 28 points. Santorelli finished his career with six games in Switzerland in 2016-17 and retired.
Fifth Round, 34th Pick, 163rd Overall
Original Pick: F Dusty Collins, Never Appeared in NHL
New Pick: D Roman Polak, 765 GP, 26 G, 110 A, 136 P
Collins was selected out of Northern Michagan University following his freshman season. His career high in NCAA hockey came in his junior year when he recorded 10 points. As a professional, he was a journeyman playing with 10 different teams over five years between the AHL, CHL, and ECHL. His final season of 2010-11, he played for two different ECHL teams and four different AHL teams.
Polak isn’t the best defenseman ever, but he’s been a consistently decent third pairing defenseman. He played most of his career with the St. Louis Blues before moving to the Toronto Maple Leafs. He spent this past season with the Dallas Stars.
Sixth Round, 25th Pick, 188th Overall
Original Pick: D Jan Zapletal, Never appeared in NHL
New Pick: G Karri Ramo, 159 GP
This pick was acquired in the previously mentioned trade of a 2005 Third Round pick. And we’re stealing the Lightning’s next draft pick. Karri Ramo never did that well with the Lightning and it took him going back overseas before he found his legs in the NHL with the Calgary Flames for three seasons in his late 20s.
Sixth Round, 28th Pick, 191st Overall
Original Pick: G Karri Ramo, 159 GP
New Pick: G Anton Khudobin, 188 GP
Alright, so there’s really not much to look at here. It’s basically the two goalies, one of which we’ve already stolen with our previous pick, and a bunch of players that have played in less than 50 career NHL games. Khudobin has turned out to be a pretty decent back-up goaltender and has an 83-68-21 record over his 188 GP.
Eighth Round, 18th Pick, 245th Overall
Original Pick: F Justin Keller, Never appeared in NHL
New Pick: G Pekka Rinne, 623 GP
Ok, this one was actually REALLY hard. And makes our third goalie in a row. I mean, to be fair, there wasn’t much to pick from for the previous two picks. But there were two really good selections here. Rinne is a career 341-187-70 in 623 career games. He also won a Vezina Trophy in 2017-18 and has been a Vezina Finalist three other times in his career.
The other big option here is defenseman Mark Streit who has 96 goals and 434 points over 786 career games. That’s really, really tempting. But in a vacuum, I have to say that Rinne as a goaltender is the more valuable of the two. If these two players weren’t here, there would have also been elite fourth liner option Daniel Winnik and his 251 points in 798 career games.
Also what makes this even rougher, is that the pick used to take Rinne was acquired from the Lightning in exchange for Timo Helbling just before the 2004 trade deadline. Helbling remained in the AHL and only played nine NHL games with the Lightning in 2005-06.
This was one wasn’t as rough to go through as some of the other draft mulligans I’ve done. While we’ve traded out some players that never made the NHL for some decent players, there wasn’t the same kind of star players passed over with a lot of picks. Pekka Rinne is easily the best of this group, but I have no faith that the Lightning of that era would have been able to bring Rinne along as the Nashville Predators did to get full value from him.