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Tampa Bay Lightning Draft Preparation and Primer

It’s already that time!

2017 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

I’m so used to there being weeks between when the Tampa Bay Lightning finish the playoffs to when the NHL draft happens. Well, going to the Stanley Cup Finals (AND WINNING IT!) has made that timeline very short. It’s been just over a week and it’s time to look to the future of the franchise. The draft is always an exciting time for me. This is the first look we’ll get at players that could be potential impact players down the road.

Projecting prospects is always a hard job. Make no mistake about it, there’s a lot of educated guesswork going about it. Much of the public scouting you see on the internet is fairly limited by a variety of factors. If it’s a one-person operation, there’s no way they could have watched enough games over the past year to rate and evaluate well over 200 potential players. Even if it’s a multi-scout crew, there are often blind spots, particularly in the European leagues.

The last few drafts, the Lightning have come “off board” a bit with a few of their picks. That’s left us here at RawCharge scrambling to find something, anything about a draft pick the team has made because the player was missed by public scouts, but the Lightning got their eyes on. Alexander Volkov was taken in the second round in 2017, and there was literally nothing out there about him. There was a lot about an MMA fighter of the same name though.

Dmitri Semykin was a third round pick in 2018 and he was unknown, playing on a low tier Russian junior team. The Lightning had to pause the draft in the fifth round of 2018 to make sure goaltender Magnus Chrona was on the eligible list. Mikhail Shalagin in the seventh round of 2019 was likewise a bit of a mystery.

As we go through the draft, we’ll be doing our best to gather as much information and scouting reports as we can about each of the Lightning’s draft picks. We’ll probably be wrong on some things, and we’ll have limited time to really dig deep on a player. But we’ll be attempting to give you, the fans, a glimpse into the possible future for these players with the Lightning organization.

As I write this, the Lightning do not have a first round pick. However, we know that Julien BriseBois is working the phones on potential trade deals. Alex Killorn is an obvious choice as he has a modified No Trade Clause that allows him to submit a 16 team no trade list. That list is not required until Friday under the modified NHL calendar, but the team could ask him for the list earlier to facilitate a trade before the draft starts.

Pierre LeBrun has also reported that BriseBois has approached Tyler Johnson’s camp about facilitating a trade. Either of these players could potentially bring a first round pick in return. So we will be keeping an eye out tonight for any moves that will bring the Lightning back into the first round.

As it stands right now, the Lightning’s first pick won’t come until the last pick of the second round. The Lightning have two picks each in the third, fourth, and sixth rounds. They have no pick in the fifth round. And then will finish off the draft with the last pick of the seventh round. Despite missing their first and fifth round picks, the Lightning have eight picks overall.

The first round pick was involved in the Barclay Goodrow deal with the Lightning getting Philadelphia’s third round pick in return. The extra fourth round pick came from the Detroit Red Wings in the Adam Erne trade. Their fifth round pick was involved in the Ryan Callahan trade that resulted in the Lightning swapping their pick for the Ottawa Senator’s sixth round pick. Funny thing about that is with the Lightning winning the Stanley Cup and Ottawa being the second worst team, the Lightning only moved down two spots in that trade.

  • 2nd Round, 62nd Overall
  • 3rd Round, 85th Overall (from Philadelphia via San Jose)
  • 3rd Round, 93rd Overall
  • 4th Round, 94th Overall (from Detroit)
  • 4th Round, 124th Overall
  • 6th Round, 157th Overall (from Ottawa)
  • 6th Round, 186th Overall
  • 7th Round, 217th Overall (Mr. Irrelevant)

A few interesting bits in here just looking at the picks. The Lightning will have three picks, including back-to-back picks, over a span of ten picks at the end of the third round to the first pick of the fourth round. The Lightning have the last overall pick, which in the NFL is often referred to as Mr. Irrelevant.

The Lightning will also have some opportunities to move up in the draft using an extra pick or two if they need to to pick a player they are in love with. The Lightning could use one of their third round picks, or the 94th overall pick in the fourth round, to move up 10-15 spots in the second round. Or they may use all three of those picks to move up from 62nd overall to the top third of the second round. They could also use two of those picks to move up to the beginning of the third round. They could use the two fourth round picks to pick up another third round pick. They could use both sixth round picks to get a fifth rounder. In other words, they have options.

We’ve seen the Lightning sometimes be very aggressive at the draft in moving picks to move up. We’ve also seen them be happy to pick up more picks in moving down. Anything is possible. Though it will be interesting to see how much trading happens with the executives not being able to get up and walk to someone else’s table to hash things out and instead have to pick up the phone to do it.

I’m not going to list out any specific players to watch for. Every team’s draft list is going to be different. A typical draft list will have between 75-115 players listed on it even though there are just over 200 picks to be made. Every team has different priorities and different preferences in the type of players they want to draft. Instead, I want to look more at player types and profiles that I believe the Lightning will target, both because of their history, and also because of needs in the farm.

  • Impact skill - The Lightning are light on high impact players in the farm system. I won’t be surprised if the Lightning take a home run swing on a player that has high skill, but has some question marks that the team feels they can smooth out and work through.
  • Hockey IQ and compete level - The Lightning have made it clear over the past ten seasons that they highly value hockey IQ and compete in their draft prospects. That priority comes down to the fact that hockey IQ is a hard skill to teach, and often has to be innate to the player. They can help a player fix their skating. They can teach the player to play better defense. They can’t do as much to teach the player to think the game at a high level. Same with compete level. That competitive fire can bring a player further than they might otherwise go based on their skills alone.
  • Defensemen with size - While at forward, the Lightning have shown little inclination that size matters, that couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to the blue line. The Lightning have only had a few defensemen, with Anton Stralman as a regular, that were less than 6’0”. The team much prefers their defensemen to be big bodied. So, when drafting defensemen, they will take size more into consideration.
  • No need for a goaltender - The Lightning have taken Magnus Chrona and Hugo Alnefelt, both Swedish goaltenders, in the middle rounds of the past two drafts. Chrona had a big season in NCAA last year and Alnefelt had a good season playing a lot in the SHL. They’re still a year or two away from coming to Syracuse to play in the AHL, but both project as potentially solid back-up goaltenders in Tampa Bay. Additionally, the Lightning have goaltender Ty Taylor, a seventh round pick in 2018, playing in NCAA. The Lightning pipeline of goaltenders is pretty solid at the moment, so taking another goaltender is not necessary.
  • Watch for USHL/NCAA players - Over the past four drafts, the Lightning have looked to the USHL and NCAA bound players for draft picks. The reasoning is that they feel that by taking these players, they have an opportunity to build a relationship with the player and get them to sign with the organization instead of having to compete for them on the open market.

Ross Colton and Ryna Lohin from 2016 have already signed entry level contracts with the team. Alex Green, a 2017 draft pick, also left a year of college eligibility and signed with the Lightning this summer. Nick Perbix, Cole Guttman, and especially Sammy Walker from the 2017 draft have also been looking like good players in NCAA. The Lightning seemed to find a bit of a market inefficiency here, especially in drafting overage players that were late bloomers.

Hopefully that has given you a good primer for what to expect tonight and tomorrow from the Lightning. Follow along here at RawCharge as we’ll cover all of the trades and draft picks that happen involving the Lightning over the next two days!