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?”
I thought last week that we had wrapped up the Tampa Bay Lightning Draft Mulligan with the 1992 NHL Entry Draft. So I started to go back and look over them to do a summary. But then I realized I had a couple of drafts that I never covered. The series actually started with the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, and then we covered the 2008 and 2009 draft. But after that, I started working my way backwards to the beginning of Lightning history.
Really, we can go back and cover at least a few more draft classes. We have this one, which was the 2010 class, the Brett Connolly draft that was the first draft after Steve Yzerman took over as general manager. We can also certainly cover the first four or five years of the Al Murray era, too. Most likely, we’ll cover up through the 2015 draft class since, in theory, those players should have finished at least their third professional season, giving us enough data to go on.
In 2010, the Lightning made eight selections. After selecting 6th overall in the first round, the Lightning then had three third round picks, two fourths, a sixth, and a seventh. Only two of the Lightning’s draft picks ever made it to the NHL, and most of the rest were either traded or never signed with the Lightning organization.
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, 6th Pick, 6th Overall
Original Pick: F Brett Connolly, 427 GP, 79 goals, 76 assists, 155 points
New Pick: F Vladimir Tarasenko, 497 GP, 211 goals, 207 assists, 418 points
This one was tough. It came down to Tarasenko and Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov has a slightly lower points per game and a season less in the NHL than Tarasenko. Kuznetsov is also a center. Tarasenko’s superior goal scoring ability won out for me. But really, there are a number of players the Lightning could have selected here that would have been better than Connolly, who has finally settled in as a decent third line depth scorer in the NHL.
Jeff Skinner. Mikael Granlund. Cam Fownler. Jaden Schwartz. Tarasenko. Kuznetsov. Any of these players would have been better than Connolly. Perhaps if Yzerman had enough time to prepare and get his scouts in place for this draft, the Lightning could have made a better pick. But maybe Connolly was the guy he wanted, too.
Third Round, 3rd Pick, 63rd Overall
Original Pick: D Brock Beukeboom, never appeared in NHL
New Pick: D Radko Gudas, 416 GP, 24 goals, 81 assists, 105 points
Beukeboom came from an NHL family, but he didn’t turn out to be an NHLer. His best OHL season came in his draft year when he posted 26 points in 66 games. He never matched that point total again, including an overage season. He then went to play in USports and played one season in the ECHL before heading oversees to play last season. Yzerman apparently wasn’t a fan of the pick either, as Beukeboom was traded with a third round pick to the Blues eight months later for Eric Brewer.
On the other hand, the Lightning scouting staff did make a hit with his next pick in Radko Gudas, who we pick up here instead of at 66th. While he’s had his suspension troubles, Gudas has been a fairly reliable defenseman at the fringe of the top four during his career. The Lightning ended up including him in a trade to the Philadelphia Flyers for Braydon Coburn.
Third Round, 6th Pick, 66th Overall
Original Pick: D Radko Gudas
New Pick: F Bryan Rust, 253 GP, 51 goals, 63 assists, 113 points
After Gudas, there wasn’t much left to pick from in this range. Only seven other players available made it to the NHL, including a couple of players that have found their way into the Lightning organization in Michael Bournival and Scott Wedgewood. Rust is easily the best of the rest here having played for the Pittsburgh Penguins and winning two Stanley Cups with them. He’s a middle six type, but has occasionally gotten some opportunities to play up the lineup with a couple of future Hall of Famers.
Third Round, 12th Pick, 72nd Overall
Original Pick: D Adam Janosik, never appeared in NHL
New Pick: F Joakim Nordstrom, 352 GP, 27 goals, 34 assists, 61 points
Nordstrom has floated around the NHL during his career. He’s played for the Chicago Blackhawks, Carolina Hurricanes, and Boston Bruins. He’s not an especially physical player as evidenced by only picking up 54 PIMs over 352 games, but he’s also not been offensive enough to play much more than a third or fourth line role. He’s not shown himself to be a great defender, either.
Janosik never signed with the Lightning and returned to Europe to play after completing his OHL career.
Fourth Round, 6th Pick, 96th Overall
Original Pick: G Geoff Schemitsch, never appeared in NHL
New Pick: F Joonas Donskoi, 283 GP, 45 goals, 77 assists, 122 points
Donskoi took a little while to make it into the NHL with the San Jose Sharks after being drafted by the Florida Panthers. Of his four seasons in the NHL, he has scored in the 30’s in three seasons and had a scoring slump in his sophomore season. He’s good depth scoring on the third line that helps out on the power play.
Schemitsch never signed with the Lightning and after a USports career, never played professional hockey.
Fourth Round, 28th Pick, 118th Overall
Original Pick: F Jimmy Mullin, never appeared in the NHL
New Pick: D John Klingberg, 367 GP, 52 goals, 207 assists, 259 points
A right handed defenseman, Klingberg didn’t come to North America full time until the 2014-15 season. He became an instant hit in Dallas scoring 40 points in 65 games as a rookie. He followed that up with seasons of 58, 49, and 67 points. He dropped back to 45 points last season for the Stars. While it took Klingberg some time to make it to the NHL, once he did, he turned into a bona fide top four defenseman right away.
Mullin dealt with some injuries during his NCAA career and hasn’t played much since and never signed with the Lightning. He missed all of 2016-17 with the Kalamazoo Wings in the ECHL. He played well in 2017-18 with 45 points in 68 games for Kalamazoo, but then only played in nine games last season.
Sixth Round, 6th Pick, 156th Overall
Original Pick: F Brendan O’Donnell, never appeared in NHL
New Pick: F Jesper Fast, 353 GP, 43 goals, 75 assists, 118 points
Fast went with the next pick to the New York Rangers. He’s been a good depth scorer from the third line hovering in the 20-35 point range. He’s also worn an A as an Alternate Captain the past two seasons for the Rangers.
O’Donnell never dominated in NCAA and didn’t sign with the Lightning. After two years playing mostly in the ECHL, he went overseas to play hockey, including 25 games in the KHL with Kunlun Red Star.
Seventh Round, 6th Pick, 186th Overall
Original Pick: D Teigan Zahn, never appeared in NHL
New Pick: G Frederik Andersen, 317 GP, 184-79-38, .918 SV%, 2.59 GAA
Andersen was selected by the Carolina Hurricanes with the very next pick. Only two other players available to use with this selection have made it to the NHL, playing a combined seven games. Andersen never signed with the Hurricanes and re-entered the draft two years later where the Anaheim Ducks drafted him in the third round in 2012. He spent one season in the AHL in 2012-13 dominating with the Norfolk Admirals.
The following season he became the back-up for the Ducks in the NHL and followed that up with two solid seasons as the starter. He was then traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs and for the past three seasons has played at least 60 games each season. While he has never put up an incredible season in his career, he has been a very consistent goaltender that has put him in the upper tier of NHL starters.
Zahn was a re-draft as he had been a 5th round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2008 but wasn’t signed. The Lightning didn’t sign him either. Two years later he started playing in the ECHL and has carved out a decent career for himself. He has only played in 13 AHL games, but has won two ECHL Championships.