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Tampa Bay Lightning Draft Mulligan: The 1997 NHL Entry Draft

Daydreaming about Marian Hossa edition.

Tampa Bay Lightning v St. Louis Blues Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

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 its 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?”

As I said last week with the 1998 Draft Mulligan, we’ve gotten into the Lightning’s good drafts. While the 1998 draft is, and likely will be, the best Lightning draft ever, there were still a lot of great draft picks in these early years. Yeah, sometimes it was just one or two good players, but there were some major hits in here. 1997 is one of those years where there was one pretty good pick at the top of the draft, and then a bunch of not so good picks the rest of the way.

The Lightning took 12 players in the draft with five eventually reaching the NHL, but only one made it past 40 games and six points. The Lightning have the 7th overall pick, so we should have some interesting decisions to make there. The Lightning didn’t make a 4th round pick, but had two extra picks in the 5th and 7th rounds. So let’s get to it!

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, 7th Pick, 7th Overall

Original Pick: D Paul Mara, 734 GP, 64 goals, 189 assists, 253 points

New Pick: F Marian Hossa, 1,309 GP, 525 goals, 609 assists, 1,134

While the Lightning did make a good pick in Paul Mara, there was an even better player on the board. With over 1,300 games and 1,100 points, Hossa has put himself into the conversation for the Hall of Fame due to the longevity of his career and accumulation of stats. His lack of postseason hardware, other than three Stanley Cups, may keep him out of the Hall of Fame, but there’s a chance he could make it in. Imagine having Hossa with this pick, and then having Lecavalier the next year. They could have been a dynamic duo.

Second Round, 7th Pick, 33rd Overall

Original Pick: G Evan Lindsay, never Appeared in NHL

New Pick: F Kristian Huselius, 662 GP, 190 goals, 261 assists, 451 points

This wasn’t a particularly great second round, even though the first round had some real big hitters. The two best players available for our pick here are Huselius and a fellow swede, defenseman Henrik Tallinder. They both made it past 650 games. Tallinder was a solid top four defenseman averaging just over 20 minutes TOI in his career, but he only made it to 20 points twice in his career.

Huselius though was a steady 20 goal, 45 point producer through the early part of his career. He reached his peak with a couple years in Calgary and then another couple years in Columbus in his late 20s and early 30s. His career highs came in 2006-07 when he had 34 goals, 43 assists, and 77 points. He added two other 60+ point seasons after that as well. He finished his career with seven 20-goal seasons.

Third Round, 8th Pick, 61st Overall

Original Pick: F Derek Schutz, never appeared in NHL

New Pick: F Maxim Afinogenov, 651 GP, 158 goals, 237 assists, 395 points

Afinogenov made the decision easy with only two other players available that made it into the 300+ game range. Afinogenov’s career in the NHL was fairly short as he only played 10 seasons before returning to Russia, where he is still playing. He mixed in some half point per game seasons with a handful of higher end seasons, much like Huselius. He topped out in 2005-06 with 73 points. He also had two seasons of 61 points. He’s also picked up a lot of medals in his career with Team Russia: U20 WJC Gold and Silver, World Championship Gold, Silver (2), and Bronze, and an Olympic Bronze.

Fifth Round, 2nd Pick, 108th Overall

Original Pick: D Mark Thompson, never appeared in NHL

New Pick: F Jason Chimera, 1,107 GP, 186 goals, 229 assists, 415 points

Fifth Round, 3rd Pick, 109th Overall

Original Pick: F Jan Sulc, never appeared in NHL

New Pick: F Magnus Arvedson, 434 GP, 100 goals, 124 assists, 224 points

Fifth Round, 6th Pick, 112th Overall

Original Pick: D Karel Betik, 3 GP, 0 goals, 2 assists, 2 points

New Pick: F Kyle Calder, 590 GP, 114 goals, 180 assists, 294 points

I bunched these three together because the picks came in quick succession, and because all three picks were acquired in trades. In total, the Lightning traded Shawn Burr, Petr Klima, and Alexander Semak for these picks in 1997, 1996, and 1995 respectively. Pretty crazy that the picks were traded so far apart but ended up so close together. The Lightning’s own pick, which would have been 114th overall, was traded even earlier than that in March 1995.

Chimera was never a high end player, but he did come on a bit more towards the end of his career, scoring 20 goals on the dot three times with 39, 40, and 42 points in those three seasons. He lasted a long time in the NHL though before hanging up the skates after the 2017-18 season.

Arvedson was an overage pick out of Sweden. He’s actually 7 years older than Chimera. He came over to play with the Ottawa Senators for six years and then one year with the Vancouver Canucks before retiring after the 2003-04 season. He was generally in the 25-40 point range, but also missed significant time in four of his seven seasons.

Calder was a bottom-of-the-line-up forward who had a really good four year run with the Blackhawks that account for almost two-thirds of his points early in his career. Once he moved on from the Blackhawks, his point output dropped significantly and he last played in the NHL in 2009-10.

Sixth Round, 19th Pick, 153rd Overall

Original Pick: D Andrei Skopintsev, 40 GP, 2 goals, 4 assists, 6 points

New Pick: D Brian Campbell, 1,082 GP, 87 goals, 417 assists, 504 points

Slopintsev was the second most successful player of the Lightning’s draft class after Mara. Campbell, however, is a stand out. While he never won a Norris, nor was a Norris Finalist, he was a second team All-Star twice and won the Lady Byng in 2011-12 with the Florida Panthers when he had 53 points and just 6 PIMs in 82 games. Campbell averaged 22:06 TOI in his career, but for his five years in Florida in his 30s, he averaged 25:02. He put up three 50+ point seasons and 5 40+ point seasons in his career. He did a lot of his damage on the power play, but was also quite capable at even strength getting at least 15 even strength assists in eight seasons.

Seventh Round, 7th Pick, 168th Overall

Original Pick: F Justin Jack, never appeared in NHL

New Pick: F Ladislav Nagy, 435 GP, 115 goals, 196 assists, 311 points

A native of Slovakia, Nagy wasn’t an overly huge player, but he was a solid winger throughout his career. He was a consistent 20 goal, 50 point player for the Phoenix Coyotes after being traded there from the St. Louis Blues. He was a third liner for the Blues averaging 12:54 TOI, but moved up the line up and average 17:14 with the Coyotes and correspondingly increased his production with four straight years in the 50 point range. He was traded at the deadline to the Dallas Stars in 2006-07 and then played a half season with the Los Angeles Kings in 2007-08.

He perhaps could have lasted longer in the NHL, but instead decided to go play in Europe. He’s still going strong at 40 years old recording 34 goals and 61 points in 48 games for HC Kosice in Slovakia last year. He also put up five points in seven World Championship games for Team Slovakia this season.

Seventh Round, 9th Pick, 170th Overall

Original Pick: F Eero Somervuori, never appeared in NHL

New Pick: F Shawn Thornton, 705 GP, 42 goals, 60 assists, 102 points

Love him or hate him, Shawn Thornton was built for the fourth line in the NHL prior to the abolishment of clutch and grab. He lasted a long time in the NHL, including winning two Stanley Cups. If there was someone else available that had showed more in the NHL, then I would have taken him. Unfortunately, they’re not here, so we’re forced with Thornton...and, yes, there are plenty of reasons to hate him.

Seventh Round, 24th Pick, 185th Overall

Original Pick: F Smuel St-Pierre, never appeared in NHL

New Pick: F Antti Laaksonen, 483 GP, 81 goals, 87 assists, 168 points

Laaksonen is an interesting player as he is from Finland, but came to the United States to play for the University of Denver for four years. He was drafted after his senior season as an overage pick. He had a decent stretch in the middle of his NHL career where he was in the upper 20s and low 30s point range, but never got to the 35 point mark in his career. He was out of the NHL after 2006-07 and played a few years in Europe before retiring after 2009-10.

Eighth Round, 8th Pick, 198th Overall

Original Pick: D Shawn Skolney, never appeared in the NHL

New Pick: D Andrew Ference, 907 GP, 43 goals, 182 assists, 225 points

A steady defenseman, Ference played 17 years in the NHL and almost reached that 1,000 games milestone. He won a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins and also won the King Clancy award. He finished out his career with the Edmonton Oilers where he was the Captain for two seasons. He only appeared in six games during 2015-16 and had to retire due to hip surgery with that season and another left on his contract. Otherwise, he likely would have made it to 1,000 games.

Ninth Round, 7th Pick, 224th Overall

Original Pick: F Paul Comrie, 15 GP, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points

New Pick: D Karel Rachunek, 371 GP, 22 goals, 118 assists, 140 points

Rachunek stayed in the Czech Republic for a couple years after he was drafted before coming to North America. He debuted in 1999-00 with the Ottawa Senators playing in six games, but spend most of the year in the IHL. The next two seasons he was in Ottawa full time. He sat out the start of the 2002-03 season, playing nine games with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in Russia before re-signing with the Sens and continuing his season in the NHL.

He split the 2004 lockout season between the Czech Republic and Lokomotiv and remained with Lokomotiv for the 2005-06 season. He made an NHL return playing a year each with the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils before returning to Rrssia. He played for two years with Dynamo Moscow before returning to Lokomotiv for the 2010-11 season serving as the team Captain.

Rachunek returned to Lokomotiv for the 2011-12 season. He was unfortunately on a flight with the team when the plane crashed, killing all but one of the 45 people on board.