Quick Strikes: Some feel-good stories from the 2018 NHL Draft

These stories from Syracuse, Quebec, England, and Jamaica will definitely give your heart a flutter

The Bolts

So the 2018 NHL Draft was yesterday, and the Tampa Bay Lightning brought home seven young people into the system. Here’s a recap of all the picks, who they are, and briefly an overall review of Steve Yzerman’s work. [Raw Charge]

#58: Gabriel Fortier: High compete level and hockey sense. Put up good offensive numbers in the QMJHL. Projects as a bottom six energy forward. Needs a little more weight on his frame, but he’s a good skater with speed. If his offensive skills come along a big further, he sounds like he could be a Mathieu Joseph type prospect.

Another big piece of news broke on the Draft floor. Following Ilya Kovalchuk signing in Los Angeles (which we’ll get to), Max Pacioretty almost being traded (which we’ll also get to) and the Dougie Hamilton (we’ll get to that too), news that John Tavares has picked five teams (not including the New York Islanders) that he will speak to in the Free Agency window. YOU’LL NEVER GUESS WHO ONE OF THEM IS! [Raw Charge]

Yup, you heard that right, the Tampa Bay Lightning are a team that are in the running to get the premier centerman! Competing with the Toronto Maple Leafs, San Jose Sharks, Dallas Stars, and potentially the Los Angeles Kings and Las Vegas Golden Knights. I’m a little more skeptical of the Kings because they just invested over six million dollars in Ilya Kovalchuk, so making room for possibly $11 million plus could be hard.

There’s a long offseason to go through before the 2018-19 regular season, but here’s a breakdown of the schedule anyway! [Raw Charge]

The Bolts will have to play 11 back-to-backs next season, and in a lot of cases the second half of the double header involves travel. On the bright side, eight of those trips are only one state or province away or less. Relatively speaking, Tampa has it pretty good when it comes to having to play back-to-backs.

Our newest Assistant Coach Jeff Halpern was born, raised, and drafted by the Washington Capitals in his previous life. Naturally, Russian Machine Never Breaks has some fun tidbits about his life before Halpern joined the Crunch and Lightning. [Russian Machine Never Breaks]

From ObeyPuckShow (in the comments): “Halpy is one of my favorite Caps. I remember him in tears on the ice after the last game (03-04?)speaking, thanking the fans for sticking with the team. This was after Jagr but before Ovi. It had been brutal for him and the team and he knew it sucked for those of us who were there. Just love that guy.”

The Prospects

Get to know our top pick this year, Gabriel Fortier! [Raw Charge]

Habs Eyes on the Prize keeps good track of young French-speaking players, and have written a thorough draft profile on Tampa Bay Lightning’s first pick of the draft, 59th-overall center Gabriel Fortier. Scott Matla of HEOTP was at the draft combine and took video of Fortier answering journalists’ questions. At the very least, it gives us our first look at Fortier as a player.

JustinG. went back in time and looked at what kind of player you can find with the 59th overall pick. [Raw Charge]

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.

Our sixth round pick, forward Cole Koepke, was also at the Draft! Here’s a quick periscope of his press conference.

He has some interesting skills, especially for a player drafted this late. He’s a goal scorer. Of his 39 points, 28 were goals and scouts like his shot so that isn’t a fluke. He’s also a good skater and that won’t be an issue for him at the professional level. For a sixth round pick, he certainly has some upside. It seems like the Lightning may have found a player who fell off other teams’ radars because of the injury last year.

The Lightning seached far and wide for the talent they would eventually bring into the organization. Initially there were a lot of “who?”s going around, but there is some serious upside with a few of these boys. [NHL dot com]

When it was finally their turn on the clock, the Lightning took Gabriel Fortier, a 5-foot-10, 170-pound left winger from Baie-Comeau of the QMJHL with their first selection. Tampa Bay made a pick in each of rounds two through seven and had two in the final round, choosing three defensemen, two forwards and two goaltenders with their seven selections in all.

And finally, in some Syracuse Crunch news, Benoit-Olivier Groulx was drafted into the NHL yesterday! If you couldn’t guess, he is the son of Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx. Congrats to the Groulx family on the success of Bo!

This last one goes out to Associate Editor Alex. I wish the league went back to draft card pictures like this.

The Game

Dougie Hamilton, Noah Hanafin, Elias Lindholm, Michael Ferland, Adam Fox. Yep, they were all traded for each other in a blockbuster draft trade between the Carolina Hurricanes and Calgary Flames. [Sportsnet]

Calgary didn’t have a selection until the fourth round the 2018 draft after general manager Brad Treliving traded for defenceman Travis Hamonic and goalie Mike Smith at this time last year. The move is the latest shake-up for Carolina since Tom Dundon bought the team from Peter Karmanos Jr. earlier this year. The Hurricanes removed Ron Francis as GM, replaced him with Don Waddell and promoted assistant Rod Brind’Amour to head coach.

Highlight of the Night: If you’ve seen my Twitter account, you’ll see that I’m a fan of Liam Kirk. Who is Liam Kirk? Well, he is the first player born, raised, and drafted out of England! The island nation is in it’s hockey infancy and watching it grow from a glorified rec league for former goons into a place where young players are being developed and even drafted into the NHL is very cool to see. [BBC Sports]

“I don’t have any words for it. I’m just very excited and really emotional,” Kirk told NHL.com.It sounds like camp will start next week so I’ll be getting there as soon as possible. It’ll be my first time on the ice in a while when I get there. My mum and dad got tears in their eyes and I owe a lot to them for driving me back and forth to hockey games and training sessions.”

And we can’t forget Jermaine Loewen, the first ever Jamaican-born NHL draftee! Born in Mandeville, Jamaica, raised in Canada, Loewen was drafted to the Dallas Stars out of the Kamloops Blazers. [Defending Big D]

Sportsnet did a feature on the young man back in 2014! I highly encourage you to watch it.

That first highlight in the pack below had me thinking young Getzlaf, and that just makes me really excited for the diversity of the game.