It’s Draft Day in the NHL, that day when fans of teams that have suffered through a terrible season can look forward to the hope that their misery at least brings some hope for the future. A lot of ink will be spilled, and a lot of words will be uttered, about how a bunch of 18-year-olds might develop into future superstars (while in truth the bulk of the 225 players selected over the next two days won’t make it past the AHL).
This year’s class has been described as solid if not spectacular. There are no real franchise-altering prospects to be had, all though quite a few could develop into top-end players that rack up multiple All-Star nominations. Of course, with these things, you never really know how the players are going to turn out and when we look back at this draft class in five years we might kick ourselves for not seeing the future superstars. But probably not.
Montreal will be selecting first in their home town and will be looking to add another young offensive forward to their growing ranks that include Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki. By all indications it will be Shane Wright, but it’s not a lock. After the first pick their will be plenty of intrigue and the possibility of some teams trading down, or out of the first round all together. A certain section of Philadelphia Flyers fans are all but convinced that the fifth overall pick is heading to Chicago for Alex DeBrincat.
For the first time since 2019 it appears that Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois will be stepping up to the podium to announce a first round pick. And for the first time since 2016 that pick won’t be part of the Foote Clan (I checked, there are no Foote brothers in this draft). Will he go offense or defense? The Bolts could use help in replenishing all the shelves in their prospect cupboard, so the best player available should be the way to go.
We’ll see if that is what they do or if they go way off the board and draft some goalie from a second-division Finnish league that no one has ever heard from before.
Here are the details heading into tonight’s action.
Where is it Being Held?
After two virtual drafts thanks to the pandemic, the league is back to a live draft and it’s being held at the Bell Center in Montreal. All of the leagues GMs and scouting staffs will be on hand to select their next generation of players (and perhaps work on some side deals). Selected players expected to go in the first round will be there as well.
The last time the league gathered in person for a draft in Montreal was in 2009 when the Lightning held the second overall pick. Things worked out for them pretty well as they went with Victor Hedman over Matt Duchene.
How to Watch:
The first round will be Thursday night starting at 7:00 PM and will be broadcast in the United States on ESPN with streaming available on ESPN+. Friday morning at 11:00 AM, the draft resumes with rounds 2-7 televised on the NHL Network with streaming live on ESPN+.
What is the Draft Order?
5. Philadelphia Flyers
10. Anaheim Ducks
11. San Jose Sharks
12. Columbus Blue Jackets
14. Winnipeg Jets
16. Buffalo Sabres (from Vegas Golden Knight)
18. Dallas Stars
22. Anaheim Ducks (from Boston Bruins)
23. St. Louis Blues
24. Minnesota Wild
26. Montreal Canadiens (from Calgary Flames)
27. Arizona Coyotes (from Carolina Hurricanes via Montreal Canadiens.
28. Buffalo Sabres (from Florida Panther)
29. Edmonton Oilers
30. Winnipeg Jets (from New York Rangers)
31. Tampa Bay Lightning
32. Arizona (from Colorado Avalanche)
How Many Picks do the Lightning Have?
As of right now the Lightning have seven picks, but they are not evenly distributed.
First Round - 31st overall
Fourth Round - 103rd overall (originally Chicago’s pick)
Fifth Round - 160th overall
Sixth Round - 169th overall (originally Detroit’s pick)
Sixth Round - 192th overall
Seventh Round - 223rd overall (originally New York Rangers’ pick)
Seventh Round - 224th overall
Who are the Lightning Going to Pick?
Who the heck knows?
After using their first rounders from the last two years in deadline deals, it appears the Lightning are going to actually use their pick tonight. (Lightning trade pick 15 minutes after this posts).
They’ve never had the 31st pick in their franchise history, although they did draft 30th twice (2004 - Andy Rogers, 2005- Vladimir Mihalik). Overall, it hasn’t been exactly a position of future greatness. Twenty-six of the players selected with the 31st pick never made it to the league (although, remember this wasn’t a first round pick until the Vegas Golden Knights joined the league in 2017). Some highlights are Felix Potvin, Georges Laraque, Dave “Tiger” Williams, and Jacob Markstom. Montreal used the pick in 2021 to draft Logan Mailloux.
There are a ton of factors that go into picking this late in the first round so it’s hard to determine exactly how the Lightning are going to go about their business tonight. We did profile a few possibilities that are expected to go around where they are drafting:
Sam Rinzel - Right-side defense, USHL
Jagger Firkus - Right Wing, Moose Jaw Warriors
Nathan Gaucher - Center, Quebec Remparts
Owen Pickering - Left-side defense, Swift Current Broncos
Owen Beck - Center, Mississauga Steelheads
There is the strong possibility that the Lightning deal the pick to a team looking to jump back into the first round to grab a particular player. It would be very much in the wheelhouse of Mr. BriseBois to swap the 31st pick for a second round pick or multiple mid-round picks. They may also trade it for future picks as they are lacking their first round picks in 2023 and 2024 as well as their second round pick in 2023.
Al Murray and his scouting staff are well-known for their ability to find value in mid-round picks and that is going to be tested over the next couple of days. Expect them to fill out their draft cards with players that have skills that match their style of play. It’s almost impossible to predict where players will go outside of the first round, but if you’re wondering where they may go, Corey Pronman with The Athletic predicted every pick.
His predictions for the Lightning:
31. Luca Del Bel Belluz, C, Mississauga (OHL)
103. Artem Duda, LHD, Cska 2 (RUSSIA-JR.)
160. Connor Kurth, RW, Dubuque (USHL)
169. Jacob Newcombe, C, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
192. Luca Di Pasquo, G, Maryland (NAHL)
223. Marian Mosko, LHD, Selects U18 – South Kent (HIGH-CT)
224. Hunter McKown, C, Colorado College (NCHC)
Who is going to go Number One?
For most of the season it was an easy answer - Shane Wright. The Kingston Frontenacs center has been billed as a potential first overall pick ever since he was granted exceptional status to play in the OHL as a 15-year-old. He became just the sixth player to receive that status and three of the previous five (Connor McDavid, John Tavares, and Aaron Ekblad) went first overall. Current Lightning prospect Sean Day and Red Wings forward Joe Veleno are the two that weren’t drafted first overall.
Wright missed all of the 2020-21 season due to COVID protocols that affected the OHL and had a slow start to the 2021-22 season. He still ended up with 94 points (32 goals, 62 assists) in 63 games. He added another 14 points (3 goals, 11 assists) in 11 playoff games.
Still, some prospect watchers felt that other players in the draft class closed the gap, most namely Slovak forward Juraj Slafkovsky who has spent the last few years playing for TPS in the Finnish Liiga. In 31 games he posted 10 points (5 goal, 5 assists) in 31 games. It was on international ice that he really raised his profile as he notched 7 goals in 7 games for Slovakia in the Olympics, leading them to a bronze medal. He added another 9 points (3 goals, 6 assists) in 8 games in the World Championship.
Wright is a solid two-way center who projects to be a solid player for many years to come. However, he’s not predicted to be a generational player in the sense of McDavid or Sidney Crosby. Slafkovsky is 6’4”, with speed and skill and has that ability to beat defenders multiple ways. If he reaches his max potential he could be a true top-line winger that can score goals in bunches.
Does Montreal go with the safe pick or the potential superstar?
What about the Russians?
Welcome back to the Russian factor. It’s like it’s the 1990s all over again. There are a couple of Russian players projected to go in the top half of the draft, namely Danila Yurov and Ivan Miroshnichenko. Will general managers shy away from them due to the possibility that the players won’t be able to come over to North America? With the controversy surrounding Russian players Ivan Fedotov and Kirill Kaprizov status in the league, it is something to keep an eye on.
Will there be any big trades?
It’s really the last chance before free agency for the general managers to pull off large scale deals that can alter their franchise’s futures. Last season saw the Columbus Blue Jackets deal Seth Jones to Chicago.
The Bolts have a few big deals on draft day in their history. In 2000, they dealt their first round pick (fifth overall), a fourth, and a seventh for Kevin Weekes, a second, and the rights to Kristian Kudroc. That was just a year after they had traded their fourth pick overall to the Rangers for Dan Cloutier, Niklas Sundstrom, a 2000 first round pick, and a 2000 third rounder. More recently they moved JT Miller to Vancouver for Marek Mazanec, a first, and a third on the second day of the draft in 2019.
Oddly enough Miller is once again on the trade block as Vancouver is rumored to be interested in dealing him (possibly back to New York, thus completing the cycle). Young Chicago forward Alex DeBrincat has long been rumored to be on the move as the ‘Hawks look to kind of rebuild despite still hanging on to Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
Some Mock Drafts and Rankings to Ponder: