The Tampa Bay Lightning nearly missed on the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Although they did not come away with much in the way of NHL-caliber players, you could argue that one pick in particular salvaged the entire draft for the organization. So, who did the Lightning pick and where are they now?
Round 1, 19th Overall: Anthony DeAngelo
Deplorable draft picks were scarce during general manager Steve Yzerman’s tenure in Tampa. Unfortunately, the selection of defenseman Anthony DeAngelo was one of the few. DeAngelo’s talent was never a question, clearly having the potential to become a top-four defenseman. His character, however, was another story. Prior to being drafted, he was suspended eight games by the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) for “violating the league’s harassment, abuse, and diversity policy” after directing a slur at a teammate.
Ultimately, the gamble didn’t pay off for the Lightning. Although his offensive skills were on full display in Syracuse, recording 37 assists in 69 games, DeAngelo simply didn’t mesh well with the organization. His lack of work ethic and questionable play in the defensive zone led to him being a healthy scratch several times during the season. After just one season with the Syracuse Crunch, the Lightning traded him to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for a 2016 second-round pick.
Nearly a year to the day after he was traded, the Coyotes sent him to the New York Rangers for Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta. DeAngelo tallied 19 goals and 73 assists in 167 regular-season games through four seasons with the Rangers before running into trouble again. As you might expect, his tenure was full of ups and downs, but he never learned from his mistakes. The Rangers waived him six games into the 2020-21 season after an altercation with a teammate and bought out his contract in July. Less than a week later, the Carolina Hurricanes signed him to a one-year deal. The 25-year-old defenseman will get yet another chance to prove himself this season.
Round 2, 35th Overall: Dominik Masin
The Lightning are an organization with an immensely talented pool of players. Unfortunately, that means not everyone will make it to the NHL level, as was the case for defenseman Dominik Masin. The Lightning traded the first-round, 28th overall pick in exchange for the 35th and 57th overall picks in the second round.
Drafting Masin 35th overall initially looked like it was going to pay dividends for the Lightning. He demonstrated the ability to be a shutdown defenseman that killed penalties, and could even get in on the rush to help the offense. However, with players like Erik Cernak and Cal Foote climbing the ranks, Masin never got a shot at skating on NHL ice. He played 273 games for the Crunch before joining Amur Khabarovsk in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) during the 2020-21 season. This summer the Lightning did not tender a qualifying offer to Masin, a restricted free agent, and he decided to remain in Russia to play for Amur Khabarovsk during the 2021-22 season.
Round 2, 57th Overall: Johnathan MacLeod
The Lightning were all in on defensive depth during the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, selecting three blueliners in the first two rounds. Johnathan MacLeod, like DeAngelo and Masin, was a bust. MacLeod was a big-bodied defenseman that came from the US National Development Program and won gold with the U18 World Junior team. Following the draft, he spent four seasons with Boston University. Despite playing 119 NCAA games, he did not develop enough to warrant a contract from the Lightning and was never signed. He most recently played for the South Carolina Stingrays in the ECHL during the 2018-29 season.
Round 3, 79th Overall: Brayden Point
Yzerman made another trade in the third round, sending the Minnesota Wild a 2015 seventh-round pick to move up from the 80th overall pick to the 79th overall pick. Leading to the selection of forward Brayden Point, this will go down as one of the best trades in Lightning franchise history. In the season following the draft, Point scored 38 goals and 49 assists in 60 games for the Moose Jaw Warriors in the Western Hockey League (WHL). He also played 11 total games with the Crunch, tallying four points.
Exhibiting his speed, creativity, and high compete level, it was clear early on that Point had the potential to be special. He ramped up his productivity during the 2015-16 season, recording 88 points in just 48 regular-season games. After working hard to perfect his game and increase his skating abilities, he made the Lightning roster out of training camp heading into the 2016-17 season.
Point has blossomed into one of the best centers in the NHL, not to mention a fan favorite. During his five seasons in Tampa, he has scored a remarkable 310 points in 351 regular-season games. He shines even brighter during the postseason. Over the last five seasons, Point has scored more playoff goals than any other player in the league, 36, and the second-most points, 73, trailing only his linemate Nikita Kucherov. Moreover, Point led the league in playoff goals during the Lightning’s back-to-back Stanley Cup Championship run. His 2021 Stanley Cup run was highlighted by a nine-game goal-scoring streak, matched by only one other player in the history of the NHL.
At just 25-years-old, Point has played a critical role in the Lightning’s recent success and he is just getting started. He will be a member of the Lightning for the foreseeable future, signing an 8-year, $9.5 million average annual value (AAV) contract extension this offseason. Lightning fans will have the pleasure of cheering him on through the 2029-30 season.
Round 4, 119th Overall: Ben Thomas
Of the four defensemen the Lightning selected in this draft, Ben Thomas was the only one to suit up in a Lightning sweater. The Lightning moved up in the draft for him, trading the 140th and 142nd overall picks to land him in the fourth round. He became a staple on the blue line in Syracuse, playing in 290 games in six seasons with the club. He shined as an offensive defenseman, tallying 14 goals and 74 assists in that time. During the 2020-21 season, he finally got the call-up every hockey player dreams about.
Thomas played five games with the Lightning and certainly held his own, averaging 14:14 of ice time. However, the 25-year-old became an unrestricted free agent this offseason, garnering attention from teams across the pond. He ultimately signed a one-year contract with Leksands IF in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). The perennial “next man up” is off to greener pastures and it is unclear whether he will get another shot at the NHL in the future.
Round 6, 170th Overall: Cristiano Digiacinto
With the selection of forward Cristiano Digiacinto, Yzerman was grasping at straws. Digiacinto was a bottom-six forward playing for the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL when he was drafted and spent the following three seasons with them, too. He won the 2017 Memorial Cup as an overeager but never developed into the player that the Lightning thought he would.
The Lightning did not sign him, thus he subsequently joined the Jacksonville Icemen in the ECHL for the 2017-18 season. He then spent the next four seasons playing in USports for Acadia University. He is making his way back to professional hockey this season, signing a one-year deal with the Hartford Wolfpack, the New York Rangers AHL affiliate.
Round 7, 185th Overall: Cameron Darcy
The Lightning traded a 2015 7th round draft pick to move up from the 200th overall pick to the 185th overall pick, ultimately selecting forward Cameron Darcy. He was drafted after tallying an impressive 82 points in 65 games for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). The following season he failed to impress with the Screaming Eagles, leading to his trade to his Sherbrooke Phoenix where he refound his form.
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He was subsequently signed to an entry-level contract for the 2015-16 season. He scored just 19 points in 90 games with the Syracuse Crunch across the next two seasons before being sent down to the Kalamazoo Wings in the ECHL. With little room to spare on the depth chart, the Lightning released Darcy after the 2016-17 season. He has yet to make an NHL appearance, playing for the Utica Comets, San Antonio Rampage, and currently the Binghamton Devils in the AHL.
It is hard to not look back at the draft and think about what could have been, especially with the likes of David Pastrnak being drafted after DeAngelo. However, the importance of selecting Point cannot be understated. Without him, it is hard to see how the Lightning don’t win their second and third Stanley Cups. It wasn’t a perfect draft, but it was one that shifted the organization’s trajectory towards winning back-to-back Stanley Cups.
Andrew is a freelance writer who covers the Tampa Bay Lightning at The Hockey Writers. He is a passionate hockey fan who grew up near Tampa, Florida. He is a husband, father to a Golden Retriever, and is studying to be a Physician Assistant. Follow me on Twitter: @Andrew_Mulville