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?”
We are right in the middle of the worst stretch of drafting the Lightning ever had in their franchise. After my last Mulligan on the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, Brooks Roland of The Scrum Sports tweeted this to me and it couldn’t be more true.
I tell people all the time that if they want to recoil in horror, look at the Lightning’s draft history from 1999-2007. It is BRUTAL.— Brooks Roland (@BrooksRoland82) June 5, 2019
From 1992 through 1999, the Lightning drafted at least one player that played at least 700 games in the NHL during their career. Steven Stamkos in 2008 was the next Lightning draftee after Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards in 1999 to make it to 700 games. Alex Killorn from the 2007 draft though is likely to make it there as he sits at 517 games and will make it to 700 games over the next two and a half seasons barring a major injury.
But today, we’re talking about the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. The Lightning made a lot of draft picks with 14 total picks. Only two appeared in the NHL. Neither one broke 200 games or 50 points in their careers. This includes the Lightning having a bust of a third overall pick after Ilya Kovalchuk and Jason Spezza, easily the two best players of the draft, went to the Atlanta Thrashers and Ottawa Senators first and second 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, 3rd Pick, 3rd Overall
Original Pick: F Alexander Svitov, 179 GP, 13 goals, 24 assists, 37 points
New Pick: F Mikko Koivu, 973 GP, 201 goals, 487 assists, 688 points
This was during a time period when the Lightning were going pretty hardcore on Russian players. Svitov spent another year in Russia after being drafted, but only played five professional games and five games for Team Russian at the U20 WJC. He then made his NHL debut in 2002-03. He was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets during the 2003-04 season. After spending the NHL lockout in the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch, he returned to Russia for one season and then gave the NHL one more shot with the Blue Jackets in 2006-07. He then returned to Russia for the remainder of his career where he has won two KHL championships.
Koivu remained in Finland for three seasons after he was drafted before coming to North America. He spent the 2004 lockout in the AHL with the Houston Aeros scoring 20 goals and 48 points in 67 games. Once the lockout was over, he never returned to the minor leagues and has been a mainstay of the Minnesota Wild. He has served as their Team Captain since 2009-10 while maintaining a high level of play. Koivu has never won a Stanley Cup, but has been prolific internationally for Team Finland picking up 11 medals in 14 tournaments from the Olympic Games, World Championships, U20 World Junior Championships, and U18 World Junior Championships. His two gold medals came in the U18 WJC and World Championships. In the Olympics, he has picked up a silver and a bronze medal.
Second Round, 17th Pick, 47th Overall
Original Pick: F Alexander Polushin, never appeared in the NHL
New Pick: F Jason Pominville, 1,060 GP, 293 goals, 434 assists, 727 points
This one was a really hard one to pick. Michael Cammalleri was also here and had a slightly higher points per game. The difference though is that Cammalleri retired after the 2017-18 season and Pominville is still playing. With Koivu, Pominville would represent another top six option, but this time on the wing instead of at center like Koivu. Polushin on the other hand never repeated his success with CSKA Moscow in the year following the draft and never came over to North America. He retired after the 2012-13 season.
Second Round, 31st Pick, 61st Overall
TRADE: The Lightning trade 2002 second round pick to the Washington Capitals for this pick. This one is a keeper since it’s a future asset.
Original Pick: D Andreas Holmqvist, Never appeared in the NHL
New Pick: F Tomas Plekanec, 1,001 GP, 233 goals, 375 assists, 608 points
Holmqvist spent a couple years in the minors for the Lightning, but never produced at the AHL level. Plekanec, the man who always wears a turtleneck when he plays, on the other hand, had a fantastic NHL career. He spent almost the whole of his career with the Montreal Canadiens with the exception of a 17 game stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs at the end of the 2017-18 season. He came back to Montreal last year just long enough to get to the 1,000 games played mark and then left to play back home in the Czech Republic helping Rytiri Kladno earn promotion to the top Czech league.
Third Round, 31st Pick, 94th Overall
TRADE: The Lightning trade 2001 fourth and seventh round picks (99th and 218th) to move up to this pick.
ANALYSIS: Keep it. You’ll see why in a second.
Original Pick: Evgeni Artyukhin, 199 GP, 19 goals, 30 assists, 49 points
New Pick: F Patrick Sharp, 939 GP, 287 goals, 333 assists, 620 points
If the Lightning didn’t trade up, the two best options they could go for were back-up goaltender Ray Emery and defenseman Christian Ehrhoff. While Ehrhoff has had a good career with 789 games played and 340 points from the blue line, Patrick Shark is a higher impact player.
Sharp took a few years to make it to the NHL full time and then quickly blossomed with the Chicago Blackhawks after he was traded there by the Philadelphia Flyers. With multiple 30 goal seasons, and three Stanley Cups, he’s been a solid player throughout his career. He also won an Olympic Gold Medal with Team Canada.
Fourth Round, 26th Pick, 123rd Overall
TRADE: The Lightning traded a 2002 first round pick to the Philadelphia Flyers for this pick, a fifth round pick (138th), and seventh round pick (219th). Once again, with a trade of a future asset, we get to keep this trade.
Original Pick: F Aaron Lobb, Never appeared in the NHL
New Pick: F Kyle Wellwood, 489 GP, 92 goals, 143 assists, 235 points
Not an overly flashy player, Wellwood had a decent career. His best years came with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Unfortunately, his career mostly dropped off after a trade to the Vancouver Canucks, though he did put up a career year in 2011-12 with the Winnipeg Jets. He retired after the 2013-14 season when he spent part of the season in Switzerland.
Fifth Round, 7th Pick, 138th Overall
TRADE: This pick was acquired in the previous trade.
Original Pick: D Paul Lynch, never appeared in the NHL
New Pick: D Kevin Bieksa, 808 GP, 63 goals, 215 assists, 278 points
Rarely a highly offensive player, Bieksa did manage three 40 point seasons over his career. He spent all but three seasons with the Vancouver Canucks after his 2005-06 debut and spent the last three seasons of his career with the Anaheim Ducks. He retired after the 2017-18 season.
Fifth Round, 21st Pick, 152nd Overall
TRADE: The Lightning trade this pick for two sixth round picks (184th and 188th).
ANALYSIS: Keep it. There’s only one good pick, but it’s one I feel we need to take. While I’m not allowed to take this part into account, if we kept this trade, there would be two really good players available with those two picks. So that’s unfortunate, but I must follow the rules I’ve laid out.
New Pick: G Mike Smith, 571 GP, 243-236-68, .912 SV%, 2.70 GAA
Mike Smith should already be familiar to many Lightning fans. He was acquired from Dallas in 2007-08 and played in Tampa through the 2010-11 season. He ended up having better years with the Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes after departing Tampa, but that’s part of what makes him the pick here. He’s proven himself to be a starter in the NHL at times. While not an elite player, he’s had some really good good seasons in the NHL.
Seventh Round, 23rd Pick, 219th Overall
TRADE: This pick was acquired previously in trade for a future pick.
Original Pick: F Dennis Packard, Never appeared in NHL
New Pick: D Johnny Oduya, 850 GP, 41 goals, 149 assists, 190 points
Oduya has been a solid defenseman throughout his career as evidenced by his longevity in the NHL. He made it to the NHL in 2006-07 with the New Jersey Devils and also played for the Atlanta Thrashers, Winnipeg Jets, Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, Ottawa Senators, and Philadelphia Flyers in his career, winning two Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks. He also won an Olympic Silver Medal with Team Sweden in 2014.
Seventh Round, 26th Pick, 222nd Overall
Original Pick: D Jeremy Van Hoof, Never appeared in NHL
New Pick: G Martin Gerber, 113-78-21, .911 SV%, 2.63 GAA
Gerber was mostly a back-up during his seven year NHL career. He was the main starter in two years of his career though. The first time came in 2005-06 when he was the starter for the Carolina Hurricanes leading them to a Southeast Division championship and playoff berth. He struggled early in the Canes’ playoffs and was replaced by eventual Stanley Cup hero Cam Ward. Gerber became the second Swiss player to win the Stanley Cup.
Eighth Round, 25th Pick, 252nd Overall
TRADE: The Lightning traded a 2002 seventh round pick for this pick and a 2002 ninth round pick. Once again as the trade is for futures, we get to keep this one.
Original Pick: F Jean-Francois Soucy, Never appeared in NHL
New Pick: F Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau, 491 GP, 114 goals, 182 assists, 296 points
P.A. Parenteau was a solid third liner throughout his NHL career which spanned nine seasons. His best season came in 2011-12 when he recorded 18 goals and 67 points in 80 games. He began to trail off in his 30s and eventually left for the KHL in 2017-18. He spent one season there before retiring.
Eighth Round, 32nd Pick, 259th Overall
Original Pick: F Dmitri Bezrukov, Never appeared in NHL
New Pick: D Ivan Majesky, 202 GP, 8 goals, 23 assists, 31 points
We already took the best player available with the pick in P.A. Parenteau so we had to go to the next best player. Hailing from Slovakia, Majesky only played for three years in the NHL with the Florida Panthers, Atlanta Thrashers, and Washington Capitals. Since the 2005-06 season with the Caps, he’s played in Finland, Sweden, Czech Republic, and Slovakia. He finished his career following the 2016-17 season.
Ninth Round, 2nd Pick, 261st Overall
Original Pick: Vitali Smolyaninov, Never appeared in NHL
New Pick: D Ales Pisa, 53 GP, 1 goals, 3 assists, 4 points
At this point, we’ve exhausted pretty much all of the players left in the draft. Parenteau and Majesky were the only players to break 100 games in the NHL and have any real meaningful value.
Ninth Round, 22nd Pick, 281st Overall
Original Pick: F Ilya Solaryov, Never appeared in NHL
New Pick: F Toni Dahlman, 22 GP, 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points
At least Dahlman appeared in the NHL? I guess? Ok...
Ninth Round, 30th Pick, 289th Overall
Original Pick: D Henrik Bergfors, Never appeared in NHL
New Pick: Mr. Irrelevant
Why are we still doing this? Why are you still reading? If you’re reading this right now, please leave a comment in the comment section about what I should have for dinner tonight. Thanks.