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Tampa Bay Lightning Draft Mulligan: The 1994 NHL Entry Draft

The Facepalm edition.

Florida Panthers v Boston Bruins Photo by Jared Wickerham/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 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?”

The top of the 1994 NHL Entry Draft was an interesting one. There were a handful of good players, but no big award winners. The Lightning, still struggling in their start in the NHL, had the 8th overall pick in their third draft class. This was also the last year of 11 rounds in the draft. In 1995, it dropped down to just nine rounds. The Lightning ended up without a 5th round pick and with an extra sixth round pick for a total of 11 picks. Three players made the NHL with two being impact players. Unfortunately, one of the two impact players was never signed by the Lightning as they allowed his rights to expire.

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, 8th Pick, 8th Overall

Original Pick: F Jason Wiemer, 726 GP, 90 goals, 112 assists, 202 points

New Pick: D Mattias Ohlund, 909 GP, 93 goals, 250 assists, 343 points

This was an honestly hard pick. While the Lightning did end up picking one of the players that had a longer career in the NHL, Wiemer wasn’t as impactful of a forward as Jeff Friesen and didn’t have as long of a career as Ethan Moreau. Dan Cloutier, who spent two and a half seasons in net for the Lightning, was also an option as he had a 10 year career, but he was never a high end goaltender going 139-142-37 in his career and only having two positive GSAA years in his career.

Instead, I ended up with the Swedish defensemen who found his way to Tampa Bay at the end of his career. Over a 13 year career, he put up very respectable numbers while averaging 24:16 in ice time mostly with the Vancouver Canucks. While the length of his contract with the Lightning was certainly questionable at the age of 33, if not for his knees giving out, he still could have been at least a passable defenseman for a couple more years beyond 2010-11. Ohlund was never a Norris finalist, but he was a consistent 25-35 point scorer for the majority of his career. His points total dropped off in his two years in Tampa mostly because he no longer got much power play time.

Second Round, 8th Pick, 34th Overall

Original Pick: F Colin Cloutier, Never appeared in NHL

New Pick: F Patrik Elias, 1,240 GP, 408 goals, 617 assists, 1,025 points

The one other big name available here is Jose Theodore. Theodore won a Hart Trophy and Vezina Trophy in by far his best season while Elias was never a contender for post season hardware. However, Elias had a ton of really good seasons.

Elias played the entirety of his 20 year career with the New Jersey Devils. He played into his age-39 season in 2015-16 when he appeared in 16 games for the Devils and still managed to put up 8 points at that age. Elias topped out with a 40 goal, 96 point season in 2000-01. He added another 80 point season, three 70 point seasons and in total finished with 12 seasons over at least 50 points. That doesn’t count some shortened seasons where he put up 48 in 58 games, 45 in 38 games, and 36 in 48 games.

Third Round, 3rd Pick, 55th Overall

TRADE: The Lightning traded up from the 67th overall pick, adding in a 1995 fourth round pick to move up to this selection. This is one of the most awkward trades I’ve had to analyze. By trading up, they actually put us out of the range of taking a player that is better than any player we’d get by moving up.

VERDICT: Undo the trade.

Original Pick: F Vadim Yepanchintsev, Never appeared in the NHL

With this pick, the Lightning could have selected Chris Drury, Fredrik Modin, or Sheldon Souray and gotten really good value.

Third Round, 15th Pick, 67th Overall

New Pick: F Milan Hejduk, 1,020 GP, 375 goals, 430 assists, 805 points

In the analysis for undoing this trade, the most appealing player was Chris Drury who scored 615 points in 892 career games and would have still been available with the 67th pick. Modin wouldn’t have been available. Hejduk though outpaced all of them in length of career and hardware. All three actually won a Stanley Cup with Hejduk and Modin earning Olympic Gold Medals. Modin was able to finish off the Triple Gold Club feat with a World Championship Gold Medal while Hejduk only got up to a Bronze in that tournament. Drury picked up the Calder Trophy and two Olympic Silver Medals.

But for hardware, Hejduk beats them out with a Rocket Richard trophy in 2002-03 as well as having a longer career. Hejduk played 14 seasons, all for the Colorado Avalanche. In that Richard season, he also recorded 98 points and a league high +52 plus-minus rating. He added four other seasons with at least 30 goals and 70 points. He only finished below 37 points once in his career, when he only played 29 games during the lockout shortened 2012-13 season and scored 11 points.

Fourth Round, 8th Pick, 86th Overall

Original Pick: F Dmitri Klevakin, Never appeared in NHL

New Pick: D Brad Lukowich, 658 GP, 23 goals, 90 assists, 113 points

So, the Lightning actually had another chance to pick Hejduk here since he didn’t go until 87th overall (but we can’t consider that when considering keeping or undoing a trade). Instead, we get Brad Lukowich for the blue line. Lukowich was drafted by the New York Islanders but made his NHL debut with the Dallas Stars. He came to the Lightning for the 2002-03 season and was with the team for the run to the Stanley Cup in 2003-04. He left the Lightning after the lockout, but came back for the 2007-08 season. He last appeared in the NHL in 2010-11 for five games and spent most of the last three seasons of his career in the AHL and retired after 2011-12.

Sixth Round, 7th and 8th Pick, 137th and 138th Overall

These two are grouped together since they were back to back picks.

Original Pick 137th: F Dan Juden, Never Appeared in NHL

Original Pick 138th: D Bryce Salvador, 786 GP, 25 goals, 68 assists, 110 points

New Pick 137th: D Bryce Salvador

New Pick 138th: F Alexander Selivanov, 459 GP, 121 goals, 114 assists, 235 points

Bryce Salvador turned into being a solid, stay at home defenseman. However... the Lightning never signed him after taking him with the 138th overall pick. He started his pro career with three seasons in the AHL with the Worcester IceCats. In 2000-01, he made it to the NHL with the St. Louis Blues. He moved to the New Jersey Devils in 2007-08 at the trade deadline and finished out his career with the Devils eventually becoming their Captain. Salvador averaged 18:58 TOI in his career but never broke 20 points with just six of his 13 years reaching 10 points.

Selivanov was actually acquired by the Lightning just over two months later for a 1995 fourth round pick after the Philadelphia Flyers selected him in the sixth round. Selianov was already 23 years old, and made his NHL debut with 16 points in 43 games. He broke out in 1995-96 with 31 goals and 52 points, but only had one season, in 1999-00 with the Edmonton Oilers, that approached that success again. He was traded to the Oilers at the trade deadline in 1998-99. After spending 2000-01 with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Selivanov went back to Europe.

One of the more intriguing things about Selivanov is that he married Phil Esposito’s daughter. He provided Phil with two grandsons that play hockey. Niko was never drafted and will be playing NCAA hockey this season. Rocco is eligible for the NHL Entry Draft next year, but he only played for Tampa Bay Juniors in the USPHL Elite league this past season and so is unlikely to be drafted, though he is on the younger side for next year’s draft class.

Seventh Round, 8th Pick, 164th Overall

Original Pick: D Chris Maillet, Never appeared in NHL

New Pick: D Shane Hnidy, 550 GP, 16 goals, 55 assists, 71 points

For this one, I simply picked the player with the most games, goals, assists, and points. He didn’t make it to the NHL until 2000-01 at 25 years old with the Ottawa Senators. He only hit double digits in points in three of his nine full seasons in the NHL. He was a part of the 2010-11 Stanley Cup winning Boston Bruins squad, but only played in three games in the regular season and three games in the playoffs, but did not qualify for his name to be on the cup. He then retired from hockey.

Eighth Round, 8th Pick, 190th Overall

Original Pick: F Alexei Baranov, Never appeared in NHL

New Pick: D Ray Giroux, 38 GP, 0 goals, 13 assists, 13 points

He leads all available players for this pick in goals, assists, points, and games. He also went to Yale and won a Russian Super League (predecessor to the KHL) championship with Ak Bars Kazan. Baranov only played in the RSL in two seasons. So there’s that.

Ninth Round, 8th Pick, 216th Overall

Original Pick: D Yuri Smirnov, Never Appeared in the NHL

New Pick: Just cry. Now. Get it out of the way.

Honestly, I couldn’t make a pick here. It’s too insane. The Lightning literally could have rolled a dice on all of the goaltenders that were still available and they probably would have gotten a good one. In the next 20 picks after this one, there were five goaltenders selected, including three in the next three picks. So, let me just list those five goaltenders. You can probably eliminate two of them right away, but good luck picking between the other three.

  • Tim Thomas, 217th overall - 426 GP, 260-196-121, .921 SV%, 2.48 GAA, Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe, Jennings, 2x Vezina Trophys, 2x 1st All-Star, Olympic Silver, World Championship Bronze, Liiga Champion
  • Johan Hedberg, 218th overall - 373 GP, 161-143-36, .901 SV%, 2.82 GAA, World Championship Gold, Silver, 2x Bronze
  • Evgeni Nabokov, 219th overall - 697 GP, 353-227-86, .911 SV%, 2.44 GAA, Calder Trophy, World Championship Gold
  • Tomas Vokoun, 226th overall - 700 GP, 300-288-78, .917 SV%, 2.56 GAA, 2x World Championship Gold, Olympic Bronze
  • John Grahame , 229th overall - 224 GP, 97-86-18, .898 SV%, 2.78 GAA, Stanley Cup, AHL Champion, World Championship Bronze.

Oh, and besides those five goaltenders, there was forward Steve Sullivan who had 1,011 games, 290 goals, and 747 points in his career. He would have been an alright pick too.

Honestly, I think this is the one pick I’ve looked at in this whole series, and facepalmed the hardest at how badly the Lightning missed on talent at a position that they failed at for a long time in the draft.

Tenth Round, 8th Pick, 242nd Overall

Original Pick: F Shawn Gervais, Never appeared in NHL

New Pick: F Tomas Holmstrom, 1,027 GP, 243 goals, 287 assists, 530 points

There were actually a few pretty good picks here, but Holmstrom stood out above the rest. Oh, and he won four Stanley Cups and an Olympic Gold Medal in his career. If he hadn’t played his entire career with the Detroit Red Wings, playing in the playoffs every single season, he might have gotten more than one opportunity in the World Championship to be able to make it into the Triple Gold Club. But that one chance came before he moved to North America and he never played in the World Championship again, but played in the Olympics twice.

Eleventh Round, 8th Pick, 268th Overall

Original Pick: D Brian White, 2 GP, 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 points

New Pick: D Kim Johnsson, 739 GP, 67 goals, 217 assists, 284 points

Not a bad career for the very last played selected in the draft. He was pretty consistently in the 20s in points for most of his career with a stretch of three seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers where he scored at least 10 goals and 39-42 points each season. He also averaged 22:53 TOI in his career and retired after 2009-10.