Yesterday, I took a look at some patterns and trends from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s last eight NHL draft classes. If you hadn’t had the chance to check that out yet, I’d highly recommend that you do — it would make this second post less confusing.
With the Lightning not having made significant changes to their scouting staff in the last decade, the same group of scouts will conduct the 2020 draft as did last season (and if you’d like to familiarize yourself with them, here’s another post).
Although it is nearly impossible to predict who the Bolts could possibly take with their first pick in this year’s draft, which will likely be a late-second round pick depending on how the NHL decides to finalize the draft order, I thought it would be a fun project if I took the patterns and trends from yesterday’s post and tried to find players who seemed to fit ‘the Lightning mold’.
I hinted in yesterday’s post that the Lightning have a history (and pretty good track record) of drafting players from the Saint John Sea Dogs. Well, that team has two top-tier defenders eligible for this year’s draft, and the Lightning should be interested in both of them.
As far as size goes, the team certainly doesn’t shy away from larger players. In fact, height is preferred when it comes to blueliners. But they don’t seem to have that expectation when it comes to drafting forwards.
In two of the eight drafts on which I collected data, the Bolts didn’t have a first round pick and ended up picking forwards with their first selections of those drafts: Gabriel Fortier (2018) and Mitchell Stephens (2015). Although the Lightning do have more of an organizational need on the blueline than up front, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them take a forward with their first pick of the draft.
It is worth noting that in all of those eight drafts, the Lightning’s first selection was a player from the CHL. However, in the last three drafts, the team has opted to take a European player with their second round pick: Hugo Alnefelt (2019), Dimitri Semykin (2018), and Alexander Volkov (2017).
When I was compiling the following list of players, I tried to include an even amount of forwards and defensemen (I honestly don’t see the Bolts picking a goalie in the 2nd round this year, especially having taken two in the last two drafts). I tried my best to pick later round players, as well as ones who did and didn’t necessarily fit the Lightning’s draft trend.
So I came up with the following list of 19 players:
There are a couple of players here that I could see jumping into the first round, as well as players who are likely early second round draft picks. However, I decided to include them because stranger things have happened on draft day and there is always a chance someone ends up sliding further than expected.
Sebrango would be a bit of a reach for the Bolts to take in the second round, but the team has two third and two fourth round picks, and they could easily take him with one of those. The two-way, left-shot defenseman was ranked 59th amongst North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, and has the ability to play with a bite to his game as well as help provide offense. Sebrango put up 30 points in 56 games with the Kitchener Rangers (OHL) this season.
Sebrango’s passing is top-notch. He will deliver crisp stretch passes and seam passes. Sebrango will often drive the puck up into the offensive zone. Almost every other shift, you will see Sebrango create a pinch. At times, shot selection can be a challenge for Sebrango and he will shoot the puck into traffic on occasion. In terms of his skating, he always keeps his feet moving, displays solid crossovers and his hockey stop is NHL caliber. [Dobber Prospects]
The power forward fits the bill as far as his size and build go, and Cuylle boasts a powerful shot that would make him a possible replacement for Nolan Foote in the Lightning’s depth chart. Cuylle is an excellent two-way player whose goal-scoring potential at the next level would give him higher upside than what the Lightning already have in players like Boris Katchouk and Taylor Raddysh. Cuylle finished the year with 22 goals and 42 points in 62 games with the Windsor Spitfires (OHL) and was ranked 34th on NHL Central Scouting’s final season rankings and is currently projected to be a mid-second round pick.
A powerful skating winger, Cuylle has a deceptive and elite-releasing shot, and uses his size to open up shooting lanes and push past defenders in the offensive zone. It doesn’t take any time at all for him to shoot the puck and he can get the puck off his stick in any position he finds himself. He is an incredibly reliable player in his own end, using his size and stick effectively in puck battles. [Raw Charge]
The Lightning are no strangers to drafting players who were developed out of Moose Jaw — see: Brayden Point, Brett Howden, and Oleg Sosunov. Daemon Hunt’s draft season was cut short after sustaining a serious cut to his arm (and due to the pandemic), but he has proven when he is on the ice that he is smooth-skating, quick-thinking defenseman. On a really poor Moose Jaw team, Hunt led Warriors defenders in scoring, with 15 points in 28 games during the shortened year. Hunt was ranked 25th by NHL Central Scouting and should be a mid-second to mid-third round pick.
“Skating first and foremost,” [Warriors head coach Mark] O’Leary said. “It’s with and without the puck. Right away when he’s in the lineup we spend less time in our zone because of his ability to skate the puck out of trouble. He skates on top of the ice. Everything he does since he’s been 15 playing games with us, he does it so fast, whether it’s going back to get a puck or just getting the puck in the forwards’ hands, he does everything full speed. You can see the pro game in him. He’s just as quick without the puck as well, defending through the neutral zone, skating forward, cutting guys off before they can even enter the zone. He just does everything so fast. That’s the thing that stands out for sure is his ability to play quickly.” [NHL dot com]
Another big power forward from the Soo is something the Bolts have been interested in before (see: Katchouk). Does that mean they want another one? Not necessarily, but Pytlik hit the 50-point mark in 56 games on a retooling Greyhounds team and is a reliable, well-rounded player. There are questions about his lower-than-expected offensive production given that he is a late-2001 birthday and that his production tapered off as the season continued, but the Greyhounds rely on him in almost every game situation and Pytlik delivers when needed. Though I had Pytlik ranked 30th at midseason, he’s probably more of a early-mid second round pick at the draft — he was ranked 46th by Central Scouting.
“Jaromir Pytlik is the quintessential all-around player. Particular amongst his notable attributes are skating, puck control and finishing. He has the ability to break away in an offensive area and create a lot of scoring opportunities which makes him very effective. He’s an active playmaker who can lead the team with a number of combinations and final passes, but he can also take responsibility when needed with good defensive skills. Overall, he has excellent hockey sense. As a result of his speed and strong physical skill, he can make some tough one-on-one moves and often out-muscle defenders.” [Elite Prospects]
Since the Bolts’ MO seems to only be to draft Swedish goaltenders (at least according to the last eight drafts), this seems like a pretty big long shot. However, Wallinder fits the bill when it comes to his 6-foot-4 frame, and will undoubtedly fill out as he continues to develop. The left-shot defenseman had 24 points in 37 games this season for MODO’s U20 team and was the 14th ranked European skater by NHL Central Scouting.
I had Wallinder ranked 31st at midseason and although my final rankings haven’t come out, at the moment, I don’t have him in my top 31 anymore. However, there doesn’t seem to be much consensus on where he should go in the draft, and based on rankings, Wallinder could go anywhere from the late first round to the end of the second. Wallinder’s offensive potential and high ceiling, combined with his size, will make him a tantalizing target for NHL teams, but he does need to get significantly better in his own end.
Wallinder is a puck-rushing defenseman with great size and a left-handed shot. He loves to join the rush and he’s often times even leading the rush. He is a great skater and has good puck skills which allow him to play that type of a role. But sometimes he has a tendency to keep the puck on his stick for too long. His strengths are mostly in transition and on the rush attack, though, as he isn’t the most natural offensive threat in the offensive zone. His biggest weakness can be found at the other end. At times, he seems disinterested in defending, almost like he’s just waiting for his team to get the puck back so that they can start rushing towards the offensive end once again. [Dobber Prospects]
Colangelo fits the Bolts’ MO a lot better than the majority of players on the list. The power winger packages an NHL-ready frame with speed and skill. Colangelo spent the last season with the USHL’s offensively-loaded Chicago Steel, finishing third on the team in scoring with 58 points in 44 games. Colangelo was ranked 31st on NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings. Though not projected to go as high in the draft as fellow teammate Brendan Brisson, scouts seem to have reached the unanimous decision that Colangelo is a mid-to-late second round pick, which is where the Bolts would be picking.
“He can get himself into spots on the ice a lot of other people can’t… Strong on his feet, strong with his hands. Then he can fire a puck. When he gets an opportunity to shoot, he has a good shot. But he’s got to learn to get into those spots a little bit more during the game to utilize that… He also has a bit of an edge, which is good… He’s very strong for his age. He’s heavy on the puck. He can strip guys of pucks, which allows him to create more offense for him.” [Former Steel coach Greg Moore via NHL dot com]
The final player — and truthfully, the most likely candidate in my opinion — really fits the Bolts drafting criteria the best. The Sea Dogs were led by their two 17-year old defensemen in Villeneuve and his partner Jeremie Poirier (who is also a candidate), but I see Villeneuve as the better fit. Poirier likely won’t be available by the time the Bolts are up, and he is definitely the riskier option of the two. Plus, Villeneuve not only out-paced Poirier on the scoresheet this season, but led the entire Sea Dogs roster in points with 58 points in 64 games.
Villeneuve is a reliable and well-rounded right shot defenseman, whose ability to read and react to plays is much further along than Poirier’s. Villeneuve packages the size, mobility, and hockey IQ that the Lightning look for in defenders and many have thought he could be one of the steals in the draft. Even though Villeneuve was ranked the lowest of players on this list — 99th by NHL Central Scouting amongst North American skaters — he is projected to be a late second to early third round pick.
I see Villeneuve as a player with a very real shot at becoming a top-four defenceman at the NHL level. He’s an all-around player capable of impacting the game in all three zones, with his influence being most pronounced in transition. His sense for space on the breakout and mobility to navigate forechecking pressure to create time for himself is a terrific base of tools that should allow Villeneuve to transition into a successful NHL player. [Draft Geek]
Statistics and information from Elite Prospects.