After reaching the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, then Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman decided to take an active approach to continue building his already strong roster. To do so, he reached back into his bag of tricks, trading the Lightning’s first-round pick to the New York Islanders for the second-straight year.
In exchange for the 28th overall pick, the Islanders sent Tampa Bay the 33rd and 72nd. For New York, this gave them a chance to swoop in and grab one of the high-skill forwards still available. For the Lightning, they got two quality picks in an incredibly deep draft.
Now, as the Lightning and Islanders face off in the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals, you can really see the full aftermath of this trade, as players selected take on key roles in the series.
What the Lightning Got From the Islanders
With their extra pick in both the second and third round of the 2015 Draft, the Lightning had an additional shot at pulling some game-breaking talent out of a deep class. First, with the 33rd overall pick, Yzerman went a bit off the draft board, selecting forward Mitchell Stephens.
While Stephens may not have been an expected pick at the time, he has developed well for Tampa Bay. He was expected to be a full-time starter for 2020-21 until a major injury kept him out of the line-up for most of the season. While he has been on the bench throughout the 2021 postseason, he will likely factor into the Lightning’s plans for 2021-22.
While Stephens has been a great value-add for the Bolts, pick 72 is where they truly struck gold. With this selection, the Lightning took 2015 Memorial Cup hero Anthony Cirelli.
Despite being a relatively low-expectation third-rounder, Cirelli quickly put his stamp on the Lightning’s line-up. He scored two goals in his NHL debut back in 2018, and made a case for the 2019 Calder Trophy, posting 19 goals and 39 points in 82 games.
Throughout his sophomore season, he developed into one of the best defensive forwards in the entire NHL. While he didn’t get nominated for the 2020 Selke Award, there was a push for him, and he could earn that recognition in the coming years should he continue developing his game. After signing a three-year, $14.4 million extension during the 2020 offseason, he looks to be part of the teams’ future for years to come.
What the Islanders Got From the Lightning
While the Lightning drafted a defensive star in Cirelli and a potential nightly starter in Stephens, the Islanders didn’t do too bad for themselves in this trade either. With the 28th overall pick, they took undersized but highly-skilled forward Anthony Beauvillier.
Since his selection, he has done nothing but excel in New York, working his way into a top-six role with the franchise. After playing 66 games in the 2016-17 season, he went on to post 21 goals in 2017-18. To follow this up, if not for the shortened seasons, he would have comfortable chipped in 20 goals in both 2019-20 and 2020-21, showing that his offensive upside is here to stay.
Where Beauvillier has shined, however, is in the playoffs. In 2020, his nine goals scored tied him for the lead in New York, and in 2021, he currently sits tied for second in team scoring with 11 points. His strong offensive play has been a major contributing factor for the Islanders both seasons as they pushed their way into the Eastern Conference Final/ Stanley Cup Semifinals in back-to-back seasons for the first time in decades.
Lightning and Islanders Both Won This 2015 Trade
This draft-day trade is a rare example of both sides getting exactly what they wanted. For the Lightning, they pulled two NHL-caliber forwards out of a deep draft, giving them some young, cost-controlled options. While Stephens has yet to make a big impact on the franchise, Cirelli has defied all expectations with how quickly he developed.
For the Islanders, they drafted a top-end scorer for a team in need of offensive potential. 20 goal-scoring forwards are costly to sign in free agency, after all, so New York took a risk with this trade and went about developing this talent from within.
So far, this gamble has worked out, as Beauvilier is playing meaningful postseason minutes while scoring game-winning goals for the Islanders.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.