A short history of the 59th pick

It will be a roll of the dice for whoever the Lightning pick on Saturday

Barring any surprises, it will be quite a while until the Lightning make a selection in the 2018 draft. When they finally hear their name called it will be late in the second round and 58 of the best prospects will have donned the jerseys of their new professional franchises.  So what can history tell us about the 59th pick? Will the Lightning find a diamond in the rough or will the player picked eventually fade into obscurity?

Based on recent history, the latter scenario is more likely. Since 1992 (the year the Lightning first drafted) 26 players have been selected 59th overall and only 11 of them have made it to the NHL. Take out Tom Poti’s (Edmonton 1996) 824 NHL game career and the average amount of games by the other 10 players  - 152.

So, it’s not likely the Lightning are going to get a game changing talent with their first pick of the draft. Which makes sense. By the time the back half of the second round rolls around, the generational talent has long since been drafted along with the most likely to have solid career players. At this point teams have to start taking chances with their picks and rely on their talent scouts.

During the Steve Yzerman/Al Murray era the organization has been extremely good at this part of the draft.  While the Lightning have never drafted 59th overall, they have had very similar picks and done quite well with them.  In 2016 they drafted 58th and selected Taylor Raddysh. The winger just  finished up a pretty good junior career and will be making the leap to the pros as one of the organization’s top prospects. They took another winger with the 58th pick in 2011 who turned out fairly well - Nikita Kucherov.

There have been some misses as well. Brian Hart was selected at 53rd in in 2012 and Jonathan MacLeod at 57 in 2014, but overall the Lightning have excelled drafting in the second round and beyond.

They might also take a flyer on a college player who might not turn pro  or a European player that they can stash overseas for a few years. While they have a glut of prospects in Syracuse, the pipeline is a bit bare after that so they might want to restock with players who might not be ready for the pros anytime soon, but might project out to be decent players in the long run.

Last season the Maple Leafs drafted Eemeli Rasanen with the 59th pick. Despite the young Finn having experience in the OHL, they are OK with him heading over to Jokerit of the KHL to work on his development instead of trying to make it in the AHL.

There is also the chance that Mr. Yzerman packages this pick with another asset to either move a bad contract or pick up future draft picks. The Lightning are in a nice position of not having too many immediate needs so he could, in essence, punt the early rounds of this draft to put him in a stronger position for upcoming drafts and seasons.

Players drafted 59th who played for the Lightning

The Lightning may not have drafted a player 59th overall during their existence, but they did have two players suit up for them that had that honor of hearing their name called with that particular pick.

In 1991, the Hartford Whalers (R.I.P Whale) selected an elusive Swedish center by the name of Michael Nylander with the 59th pick. Almost 8 years later the Lightning would trade Andrei Nazarov to the Calgary Flames for Nylander. Over portions of two seasons he would play in 35 games and record 12 points for the Bolts before being shipped off to Chicago in November of 1999 for Reid Simpson and Bryan Muir. While his time with the Lightning may not have been memorable it did lead to a very young William Nylander rocking a Tampa Bay jersey and an impressive hair cut.

The other member of the Lightning that was selected by another team with the 59th pick was there at the beginning and is still helping the franchise out to this day - Marc Bergevin. The current Montreal General Manager (at least for now) was selected in the third round by Chicago in 1983 and then went on to log 1,191 games in the NHL, 206 of those in the black and blue of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Like Nylander, Bergevin spent time in the Hartford (R.I.P Whale) organization before joining the Lightning in their inaugural season. He provided a steady, veteran presence on the blue line for two-and-a-half seasons before being shipped off to Detroit in 1995 for Shawn Burr and a 3rd round pick.

In 2003 Pittsburgh traded him to the Lightning for Brian Holzinger. His reunion lasted all of one game before the Lightning shipped him off to….the Penguins in the summer of that year. The return the Lightning received was a 9th round pick in the 2003 draft that they wisely spent on Albert Vishnyakov. Unfortunately the speedy right winger never made it out of the Russian leagues and played his last professional hockey game in 2011 for Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik of the KHL.

Hall of Fame

There was one Hockey Hall of Fame player selected with the 59th overall pick but it happened way back in 1970 which was only the second time there actually was a 59th pick. The Los Angeles Kings selected goaltender Billy Smith. He won a Calder Cup with the Springfield Kings in 1971 and then had a cup of coffee in the NHL with Los Angeles before they lost him in the 1972 expansion draft to the New York Islanders. The rest is literally history as he was in goal for the Islanders four consecutive Stanley Cups and finished with 305 career wins. Not too shabby for what was a fifth round pick at the time.

Top Five Players Drafted With the 59th Pick:

  1. Billy Smith - 679 games played, 305 wins, 3.18 Goals Against, .895 Save Percentage
  2. Marc Bergevin - 1191 games played, 36 goals, 145 assists, 1090 penalty minutes
  3. Michal Pivonka - 825 games played, 181 goals, 418 points, 27 game winning goals
  4. Tom Poti - 824 games played, 69 goals (nice), 258 assists, +44
  5. Michael Nylander - 920 games played, 209 goals, 470 assists, two NHL sons