Heading into the 2019-20 NHL season, few teams were in a better position than the Tampa Bay Lightning. Not only did they have a talented roster stacked with elite talent, but they also possessed a surplus of draft capital typically unseen for a Stanley Cup contending franchise.
After the Lightning collapsed in the 2019 Playoffs, however, it seemed very likely that general manager Julien BriseBois would look to add at the trade deadline instead of standing pat with his roster as he did in 2018… and add he did.
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By the end of deadline day, BriseBois picked up two veteran forwards on good contracts in Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow, seemingly filling positions of need with luxury players. This was at a steep price, of course, costing the franchise both of their 2020 first-round picks and a top prospect in Nolan Foote.
Even if we will never know how those moves could have paid off due to the Covid-19 pandemic, they seemingly left the Lightning with little reason to be excited about the 2020 Draft. After all, their first pick won’t be until the late second round, where talent gets more and more difficult to evaluate.
2020 Draft Depth Could be a Boon for Lightning
There is, however, plenty to be excited about. The 2020 NHL Draft is one of the deepest in years, and the Lightning appear to be well equipped to take advantage. Sure they won’t have a first, but they still have a second, two thirds, and two fourth-rounders along with their fifth, sixth, and seventh-round pick. These eight selections are far from the quality firsts that they traded, but they still have plenty of value.
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The Lightning are in a position to take chances on players who may not be considered top-prosepects at the moment but have NHL caliber toolkits that can be developed. This is how they approached the 2015 Draft, a pivotal year that brought Mitchell Stephens, Anthony Cirelli and Matheiu Joseph to the franchise in the second, third and fourth rounds, respectively.
Tampa Bay got all of this NHL talent in 2015 without making a single first-round pick, and now five years later find themselves in a similar situation. They have enough chances to pull some NHL-caliber players out of this draft, which may make you forget about the traded picks all-together.
Lightning’s Targets at the 2020 Draft
While it is always a guessing game about whom the Lightning could actually be targeting, there are a few players that do stand out around where Tampa Bay is drafting this year.
In the second-round are Theodor Niederbach and Alexander Pashin, two undersized forwards with first-round toolkits who are likely to fall due to their size and other issues (injury and readiness). While it isn’t fair to compare either to someone like Brayden Point, the Lightning have had a lot of luck selecting players with great toolkits who need the right place to put it all together. Getting either with the 57th pick could be a win for the franchise.
In the third-round are a pair of power-forwards that could add some needed size and scoring ability to the Lightning’s prospect pool. They are Daniel Torgersson and Roby Jarventie, two players that have NHL-caliber builds but need some time to fully develop their game. Of the two, Torgersson appears to be the better all-around player but Jarventie could be worth taking a risk on with a late-third.
Finally would be the Lightning’s seemingly annual goaltending selection, Drew Commesso. While they invested a third in goaltender Hugo Alnefelt last year, the franchise is still pretty bare in terms of goaltending prospects. Commesso would be a bit of a luxury pick, but he is a great young goaltender who could be competing with Alnefelt for AHL playing time in just a few short years.
Lightning Have Plenty to Be Excited for at the Draft
Yes, it is somewhat disappointing that the Lightning are coming into the 2020 draft having traded not just one, but both of their first-round picks. This is a year when having a lot of selections would be a great thing, given just how much talent is available at this draft.
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This depth, however, is part of the reason why the Lightning should be excited. There’s going to be a lot of great players available at all levels of the draft, and if things go well, they could pull some NHL starters out of the later rounds once again.
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.