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 second draft of the Al Murray era is upon us as we move into the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. The top of this draft had a very large bust in Nail Yakupov at first overall. Griffin Reinhart at 4th overall is also one of the big busts of the first round. Overall, the top of this draft ended up with a handful of really good defensemen, but could the Lightning land one?
The Lightning ended up making eight selections with an extra first and second round pick and no fifth round pick. They did fairly well with five of the players reaching the NHL at some point, four of them over 100 games, and another player that just might do that over the next two seasons... with another team.
This is also the part of the series where it gets harder, especially later on in the draft. Most of the players selected in this draft are only around 25 years old and just getting into their primes. There are always late bloomers, like a Yanni Gourde or Jonathan Marchessault, that don’t blossom until they’re past that 25 year old mark. We also don’t get to see some players that were taken later, take some time to develop, and then end up playing into their 30s and having solid careers. But we’re going to try our best here!
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, 10th Pick, 10th Overall
Original Pick: D Slater Koekkoek, 107 GP, 6 goals, 13 assists, 19 points
New Pick: G Andrei Vasilevskiy, 208 GP, 124-59-15, 2.55 GAA, .919 SV%
We’re doing it to ourselves again. Just like the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, we’ve had a pick overlap into another Lightning pick where the Lightning took the best player available later on. The Lightning perhaps got caught up in a run on defensemen. Forward Nail Yakupov went 1st, then defenseman Ryan Murray 2nd, and then Alex Galchenyuk 3rd overall. After that, there was a defenseman taken with every pick from 4th through 10th for 7 defensemen to be drafted in a row.
Of those 8 defensemen taken in the top 10, Koekkoek is only the 2nd worst. If anyone else had dropped, other than Griffin Reinhart or Derrick Pouliot, the Lightning would of had themselves a top four defenseman. Ryan Murray. Morgan Rielly. Hampus Lindholm. Matt Dumba. Jacob Trouba. I would have gladly accepted any of those. Unfortunately, Koekkoek dealt with three shoulder injuries before he turned pro and that severely hampered his development and he never reached the projections that were hoped for of him.
I expect you all know about Vasilevskiy by now, so I won’t go over his whole career. But I do want to point out a few good players that we passed over for Koekkoek. Filip Forsberg went with the next pick and is the best of the forwards to go in the first round. Tomas Hertl and Teuvo Teravainen were also taken in the two picks before Vasilevskiy at 19th overall.
First Round, 19th Pick, 19th Overall
Original Pick: G Andrei Vasilevskiy
New Pick: D Brady Skjei, 247 GP, 17 goals, 72 assists, 89 points
There really wasn’t a stand out player here that screamed we have to take this guy. Just a lot of decent players. Tanner Pearson was my other top possibility as a middle-six forward that floundered last year. Skjei didn’t make it to the NHL full time until 2016-17, but made an immediate impact scoring 39 points in his rookie season. He’s stepped back from there with his even strength assists dropping off, but he’s still scored 25 points in each of the past two seasons while averaging around 21 minutes TOI.
Second Round, 10th Pick, 40th Overall
Original Pick: D Dylan Blujus, Never appeared in the NHL
New Pick: D Damon Severson, 361 GP, 29 goals, 103 assists, 132 points
This was another one with a lot of decent players to choose from that made it more difficult to come down to a decision. Like with the Skjei pick, there was an option of a middle six forward in Chris Tierney. But I went with Severson since he was only 20 points behind Tierney as a defenseman in four less games. Severson has played five seasons for the New Jersey Devils and put up a career high of 39 points last season. He’s not great defensively though, but has averaged just over 20 minutes of TOI in his career.
Blujus made it into the minor leagues for the Lightning on the blue line, but he never really established himself as a top player at the AHL level and was non-tendered after his entry level contract was up.
Second Round, 23rd Pick, 53rd Overall
Original Pick: F Brian Hart, Never appeared in the NHL
New Pick: F Chris Tierney, 365 GP, 50 goals, 102 assists, 152 points
Hart went the NCAA route as a power forward out of high school. He spent parts of two seasons with the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL, but didn’t work out there. He’s played the past two seasons with the Dundee Stars of the EIHL in Great Britain.
But we do go back here and pick up Tierney as he was still available with the Hart pick. Even being further down and opening up a few more players to look at, no one measured up to Tierney. He’s settled in as a middle six center having scored 40 and 48 points the past two seasons.
Third Round, 10th Pick, 71st Overall
Original Pick: F Tanner Richard, 3 GP, 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 points
New Pick: D Colton Parayko, 322 GP, 29 goals, 102 assists, 131 points
I was quite torn here. There were actually four really good picks. Frederik Andersen grabbed my attention first. Then there was Matt Murray. But we’ve already picked up Vasilevskiy in the first round, so I felt we should look at the skaters instead. That’s got us looking at Shayne Gostisbehere and Colton Parayko. It was really a tough choice. Gostisbehere has more points, but I like Parayko much better from an all around game standpoint. Gostisbehere is left handed, while Parayko is right handed. Parayko is also a bigger defenseman.
Ultimately, I went for Parayko because of his overall game, his size, and his better play at even strength. A lot of Gostisbehere’s value comes from the power play, while Parayko’s value comes from his even strength play and short handed. Parayko is also a player I’ve wanted on the Lightning for the past few years, especially when it sounded like the St. Louis Blues might be open to trading him.
Fourth Round, 10th Pick, 101st Overall
Original Pick: F Cedric Paquette, 316 GP, 40 goals, 27 assists, 67 points
New Pick: D Jaccob Slavin, 309 GP, 23 goals, 92 assists, 115 points
Paquette has made his way into the NHL as a pretty average fourth line center. He has his flaws with taking too many penalties and is often injured. But he’s shown flashes of value on the penalty kill and in the faceoff dot. Even with that, he’s still the third best player available to pick here. The only better forward is Andreas Athanasiou who really broke through last season for the Detroit Red Wings scoring 30 goals and 54 points.
But the best player available is Slavin. A left handed defenseman, Slavin has become a valuable defenseman for the Carolina Hurricanes after two years at Colorado College. He has been in the 30s in points over the last three seasons in the NHL while skating more than 23 minutes a night. He also does most of his offensive damage at even strength having recorded 20-22 assists at even strength in each of the past three seasons.
Fifth Round, 10th Pick, 131st Overall
TRADE: The Lightning acquire the rights to Benoit Pouliot for Michel Ouellet and this pick at the draft.
ANALYSIS: Pouliot was a restricted free agent with the Boston Bruins and was just a year from being an unrestricted free agent. He scored 20 points in 34 games during the lockout shortened season, but left following the lockout year. Let’s hit that undo button!
New Pick: F Alexander Kerfoot, 157 GP, 34 goals, 51 assists, 85 points
There were three decent defenseman to pick from here with Colin Miller being the most attractive. But it was hard to turn down Kerfoot. After being drafted, he spent another season in the BCHL and then made his way to Harvard eventually becoming the team Captain in his senior season when he recorded 16 goals and 45 points in 36 games. He signed with the Colorado Avalanche and over the past two seasons recorded 43 and 42 points. We’re about to see more of him this year as the Avalanche traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs along with Tyson Barrie on July 1st.
Sixth Round, 10th Pick, 161st Overall
Original Pick: D Jake Dotchin, 103 GP, 3 goals, 20 assists, 23 points
New Pick: F Vinnie Hinostroza, 178 GP, 29 goals, 49 assists, 78 points
Hinostroza is just finding his footing in the NHL. He spent his first three professional seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks organization after two years at Notre Dame. He split time between Chicago and the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL and his best season was 2017-18 when he recorded 25 points in 50 games. He was traded to the Arizona Coyotes and had a good showing last year putting up 16 goals and 39 points in 72 games. He’s obviously got more in his game than what Chicago allowed him to show and there’s still some room for him to grow in Arizona as they get better.
Seventh Round, 21st Pick, 202nd Overall
Original Pick: F Nikita Gusev, About to appear in the NHL
New Pick: Nikita Gusev
Only two players drafted after Gusev have made an appearance in the NHL. Defenseman Viktor Loov played four games for the Toronto Maple Leads in 2015-16 and moved on to Jokerit in the KHL last season. Defenseman Jaycob Megna has appeared in 43 games with 5 points for the Anaheim Ducks while spending most of his time with the San Diego Gulls in the AHL.
But Gusev is finally ready to make his NHL debut with the New Jersey Devils. The Lightning drafted him, but never came to an agreement on a contract for him to come over. A lot has been talked about on this including comments from Gusev that said the Lightning told him they thought he was only an AHL player. I honestly don’t believe that’s a perfect re-telling of what happened and maybe something was also lost in translation. What I do think happened was that the Lightning wanted him to start in the AHL, prove his game, especially on the defensive side, and earn his way to the NHL. He wasn’t going to be handed an NHL roster spot just because he showed up.
Gusev has long been considered one of the best players not playing in the NHL. But I also have to temper some of those thoughts with the fact that he’s been playing on the equivalent of the 1950s New York Yankees dynasty team in the KHL. SKA St. Petersburg is one of the richest teams in the league and is consistently able to buy talent whenever they want it. It’s a completely stacked team and Gusev has benefitted from playing with some of the best Russian players available in the KHL. That’s not to say I think he’s going to fail, but I think the Lightning’s doubts were not unreasonable, especially on the defensive end, as his offense was hard to doubt too much.
Ultimately, the Lightning traded Gusev’s rights to the Vegas Golden Knights as part of an expansion draft deal. Vegas could not come to terms with Gusev this summer with the sides reportedly being about $2 million a part (which to me also validates what I think was the perspective of the Lightning on him). His rights were traded to the New Jersey Devils and he signed for $4.5 million. We’ll finally get to see if he can handle the NHL and if the NHL can handle him.