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Tampa Bay Lightning Draft Mulligan: The 1998 NHL Entry Draft

The Rimouski Oceanic edition!

Los Angeles Kings v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Mike Carlson/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?”

Finally. Finally we’ve made it back to a good draft, with players where the Lightning took the best possible option. It feels good.

From 1999 to 2006, the Lightning’s drafting acumen was... not good. While we have ended up keeping a few players here and there in those draft mulligans, they were not big stars. Paul Ranger was the only player in those drafts to break 300 games played, and only three players made it to 200 games played with two more getting within a couple games of that mark. Not good.

But now we get into a great stretch of Lightning drafting. Maybe it was luck. Maybe it was good scouting. But from 1992 to 1998, the Lightning drafted five players that reached 1,000 games, and nine players that made it to 700 games played in the NHL. The difference is pretty stark.

Let’s get into the fun part!

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, 1st Pick, 1st Overall

Original Pick: F Vincent Lecavalier, 1,212 GP, 421 goals, 528 assists, 949 points

New Pick: F Vincent Lecavalier

This was actually a pretty decent first round. The 2nd and 3rd overall picks made it to 1,000 games in David Legwand and Brad Stuart. Alex Tanguay, Robyn Regehr, and Scott Gomez also made it to 1,000 games played. No player in the top 21 picks that we’re allowed to select from for this pick, though, comes close to Lecavalier.

Lecavalier leads his draft class in games played, goals, and points. He is sixth in the draft class in assists, but he never was a super playmaker as evidenced by his Rocket Richard win with 52 goals. Lecavalier won the Cup with the Lightning, and also won a King Clancy Memorial Trophy for his philanthropic endeavors. Lecavalier is a borderline Hall of Famer, and he’s still clearly the best player in this draft class.

Also of note here is that the Lightning actually had the 2nd overall pick. However, at the trade deadline, the team had traded Andrei Nazarov and the right to swap first round picks to the San Jose Sharks for Bryan Marchment and David Shaw. The first round pick originally belonged to the Florida Panthers, but had been traded to the Sharks the November before.

Third Round, 6th Pick, 64th Overall

Original Pick: F Brad Richards, 1,126 GP, 298 goals, 634 assists, 932 points

New Pick: F Brad Richards

As he was one of the three best players from this draft class, keeping Brad Richards is the obvious pick here. A fantastic playmaker, Richards racked up assists throughout his career. Richards won two Stanley Cups, adding one with the Chicago Blackhawks to his 2004 Cup win with the Lightning. He also won the Lady Byng and the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP. Like Lecavalier, Richards is a borderline Hall of Famer who may never get over the hump to be elected in due to his lack of post season hardware.

The Lightning acquired this pick at the trade deadline and then later traded their own 3rd round pick and a second round pick to the Washington Capitals for Bill Ranford. Luckily Richards fell a handful more spots to the Lightning.

Third Round, 14th Pick, 72nd Overall

Original Pick: F Dmitri Afansenkov, 227 GP, 27 goals, 27 assists, 54 points

New Pick: F Brian Gionta, 1,026 GP, 291 goals, 304 assists, 595 points

Wow. Another 1,000 gamer. I did debate this a little bit because 900 game defenseman Francois Beauchemin was available here too. But I couldn’t resist adding Gionta to the mix here for another player that earned a Silver Stick in the NHL. He also adds another Stanley Cup to the count with his 2003 win with the New Jersey Devils.

I also have to at least give a nod to Afansenkov here though because he was a decent enough draft pick for a third rounder. He had the 8th most games played and 7th in goals and points among this year’s third rounders

Fourth Round, 6th Pick, 92nd Overall

Original Pick: F Eric Beaudoin, 53 GP, 3 goals, 8 assists, 11 points

New Pick: F Shawn Horcoff, 1,008 GP, 186 goals, 325 assists, 511 points

Are you kidding me? Another Silver Stick player. 12 players in this draft reached 1,000 games played and we’ve already taken four of them. Amazing. Horcoff was never a high end player in the NHL, but he had a very solid career, playing mostly with the Edmonton Oilers. His best season came in 2005-06 when he set career highs with 22 goals, 51 assists, and 73 points.

Fifth Round, 7th Pick, 121st Overall

Original Pick: D Curtis Rich, never appeared in the NHL

New Pick: D Rob Scuderi, 783 GP, 8 goals, 102 assists, 110 points

I don’t know what’s more amazing: The fact that we finally have a player that played less than 1,000 games, or that Scuderi only scored 8 goals in 783 games. That’s 0.01 goals per game played.

Let that sink in. Just a minute. Think about it. Really hard.

That’s amazing.

For a player that did not find the back of the net and did not assist on very many pucks that made it into the back of the net, he lasted in the NHL for a LONG time. 12 years. And he won Two Stanley Cups! Jeez!

Scuderi played for four seasons at Boston College. If we include his play at all levels and include the playoffs including his time in NCAA, Scuderi played seven seasons without scoring a single goal. He scored more than one goal in seven seasons. His career high for goals in a year was four, which he did once in NCAA, once in the AHL regular season, and once in the AHL combined regular season and playoffs. The last time he scored double digit goals was for New York Apple Core in the MetJHL in 1996-97, when he scored 42 goals in 82 games played.

Sixth Round, 1st Pick, 146th Overall

Original Pick: F Sergei Kuznetsov, never appeared in NHL

New Pick: D Andrei Markov, 990 GP, 119 goals, 453 assists, 572 points

So, I could have picked another 1,000 game player in Chris Neil. But, I really didn’t want to take a guy with over 10 penalty minutes per point in his career just to continue piling up 1,000 gamers. Instead, I picked one of the best defensemen in this draft in Russian Andrei Markov. Markov had a long career with the Montreal Canadiens including a 64 point season in 2008-09. As good as he was with at least seven seasons over 40 points, he was never a Norris finalist. But that doesn’t take anything away from how good of a player he was averaging 23:00 a night over 16 years well into his 30s.

Seventh Round, 1st Pick, 174th Overall

Original Pick: F Brett Allan, never appeared in NHL

New Pick: F Tyler Arnason, 486 GP, 88 goals, 157 assists, 245 points

A shorter but heavy center, Arnason had a good career as a playmaker with the Chicago Blackhawks, Ottawa Senators, and Colorado Avalanche. In his prime he was putting up 45-55 points, but that only lasted for a few years. He trailed off as his career went on and was out of the NHL after the 2008-09 season.

Seventh Round, 21st Pick, 194th Overall

TRADE: The Lightning trade a 1999 sixth round pick to the Colorado Avalanche for this pick, the 221st pick in the eight round, and 252nd pick in the ninth round. We’ll keep this since it’s a trade for futures.

Original Pick: F Oak Hewer, never appeared in NHL

New Pick: F Jaroslav Svoboda, 134 GP, 12 goals, 17 assists, 29 points

This is kind of disappointing after all of the great picks we’ve made in this draft mulligan. But Svoboda is one of the two best players available with the other option being a defenseman that played 92 games and had 25 points in his career.

Eighth Round, 21st Pick, 221st Overall

TRADE: This pick was acquired with the trade for the previous pick.

Original Pick: D Dan Hulak, never appeared in NHL

New Pick: D Karlis Skrastins, 832 GP, 32 goals, 104 assists, 136 points

Another player that lasted in the NHL for quite a while though he was drafted in the ninth round. Skrastins played for the Nashville Predators, Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, and Dallas Stars and retired after the 2010-11 season. Skrastins was the Captain for Team Latvia later in his career including the 2006 and 2010 Olympic Games.

Ninth Round, 1st Pick, 229th Overall

Original Pick: D Chris Lyness, never appeared in NHL

New Pick: F Toby Petersen, 398 GP, 33 goals, 48 assists, 81 points

Petersen bounced around the NHL and AHL after leaving Colorado College. He started in the Pittsburgh Penguins system, but also played for the Edmonton Oilers and Dallas Stars. In addition to his 398 NHL games, he played in 550 AHL games with 374 points. He won the Calder Cup with the Texas Stars in 2013-14 and then retired from hockey to go into coaching.

Ninth Round, 24th Pick, 252nd Overall

Original Pick: F Martin Cibak, 149 GP, 5 goals, 18 assists, 23 points

New Pick: F Martin Cibak

There’s only seven players to pick from here. One player had more goals and points than Cibak, but he also had less games played. Let’s just do ourselves a favor and stick with the same player.

Conclusions

Absolutely wow. Really only two picks ended up being meh, and the Bolts kept three of the players the Lightning actually drafted. Four players that played 1,000 games with another that came 10 games from doing that. Lots of Stanley Cups. Two of the three best players from the draft. Just an amazing draft mulligan.

Too bad this isn’t real life.

The one big player that we missed out on from this draft was sixth rounder Pavel Datsyuk. Unfortunately, our sixth round pick was too early to allow the Lightning to take Datsyuk. However, it does feel good to be able to keep some of Tampa’s draft picks and see them as impactful players.