Under normal circumstances, the Tampa Bay Lightning would either be gearing up for the Stanley Cup Final or they would be preparing for a busy June, with free agency and the 2020 NHL Draft just around the corner. Of course, nothing right now is normal. While it may be June, the draft is still months away.
Despite this, it has been impossible for those around THW to not talk about it constantly. The 2020 draft class is fascinating, with fantastic prospects littering every round. All of this intrigue led us to do a first-round mock draft that quickly ballooned into a full, seven-round event.
Related: THW 2020 Mock NHL Draft Round 1
Throughout the mock draft, I selected for the Lightning. My mindset was simple: I wanted to make the most out of Tampa Bay’s many mid-round picks by taking the best player available when possible. With so many great players in this draft, there was some fantastic value even in the later rounds.
So, let’s breakdown the selections made in the THW 2020 Mock Draft, so I can attempt to explain my thought process.
Round 2: Alexander Pashin
Without a pick in round one, it would be easy for Lightning fans to write off the 2020 draft as a loss. However, heading into the mock, I had Theodor Niederbach and Alexander Pashin on my ‘must-pick’ list. Both of these players had first-round toolkits but were likely to fall due to their size and injury history.
While Niederbach would eventually get chosen in the mid-second, Pashin fell all the way to the Lightning, making the choice easy.
As an undersized forward with a top-end skillset, Pashin is the sort of high-ceiling but overlooked player that the Lightning have built a Stanley Cup contender out of. Sure, their prospect pool doesn’t really need another under six-foot forward, but it’s hard to pass on a player like this, especially in the late second round.
Round 3: Samuel Knazko and Daniel Ljungman
After their deadline-day trade with the San Jose Sharks, the Lightning ended up with two third-round selections, number 88 and 90. With these nearly back-to-back picks, I took Samuel Knazko and Daniel Ljungman.
The reasoning behind selecting Knazko was simple: he was not only one of the best defensemen available at the moment, but he is just an all-around great prospect that Lightning’s system needs. As a left-shot scoring defenseman, he is playing big minutes in the Jr. A SM-liiga as well as finding meaningful playing time with the Slovakian U20 international team as 17-year-old.
All in all, he would be a fantastic get for the Lightning with the 88th pick. Ljungman, on the other hand, was a pure value add. While the Lightning are already flush with center talent, he was just too good of an overall prospect to pass on in the late third round.
In a few short years, I could see Ljungman fighting for a spot on the fourth-line, taking over the role from the likes of Cedric Paquette. Sure, many see his ceiling as being lower than some others, but he has the build of a starter and could quickly carve out a path to the NHL.
Round 4: Adam Raska and Charlie Desroches
With the first pick in the fourth-round, acquired from a trade that sent Adam Erne to the Detroit Red Wings, I took forward Adam Raska. Then with the Lightning’s original pick, I took defenseman Charlie Desroches.
Looking at these selections, I think I should have gone a different way with both picks. While Raska is a good prospect, I feel like defenseman Alexander Nikishin would have been a better choice, as it would add a big, tough, hitting defender to a Lightning franchise needing just that.
Yes, Nikishin has a long ways to develop, but after falling to round four, he would have been well worth the pick.
With the later pick in round four, I would also likely take a mulligan. This time, I would have selected Maxim Groshev, who went in the early fifth. As a true power-forward with great potential, Groshev is the kind of prospect that the Lightning would be ecstatic to get this late in the draft. If I had known about him at the time of the draft, I would not have let him slip by.
Round 6: Garin Bjorklund and Sergei Safin-Tregubov
After swapping their fifth-round pick for the Ottawa Senators’ sixth as a part of the Ryan Callahan deal, the Lightning find themselves in a similar situation as they did in round four. With the early pick, I decided to make a move on goaltending.
Originally, I was going to wait until the Lightning’s later selection to take one of the many young and talented goaltenders available in this draft, but after seeing a few names I liked going off the board, I decided to pull the trigger. With two names on my list, I took Garin Bjorklund over Will Cranley (who got selected directly after).
As a goaltending prospect, I found Bjorklund very appealing. Despite only being 17-years-old, he has been taking on meaningful playing time as a backup for the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers, posting a 20-5-1 record. He has a great frame and is in a perfect situation to develop his game with a great franchise. In a few years, he could easily be fighting for playing time with the Lightning’s AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch.
With the second pick in round six, I selected defenseman Sergei Safin-Tregubov. While playing in the MHL this season, Safin-Tregubov posted a solid 26 points in 47 games. While he is far from a prime prospect, I think he could fit well into the Lightning’s system. He’s another player that I could see getting ice time with the Crunch in a few years, and from there, anything could happen.
Round 7: Brock Gould
With the Lightning’s final pick at the 2020 NHL draft, I decided to make a bit of a reach by selecting goaltender Brock Gould. Despite taking Bjorklund one round earlier, Gould is a fascinating prospect that has massive upside if everything hits right.
Gould’s biggest selling point is his size (6-foot-4, 195 lbs as an 18-year-old) and athleticism. As said by THW’s own Larry Fisher in Gould’s draft profile:
Gould is a big goalie — he’s got the height that gets the attention of NHL scouts — and he’s fairly quick for his size.
Now, for someone with his size and potential, it may be a bit surprising to see Gould taken with the fourth-to-last pick at the draft. There’s a lot of questions surrounding his play and development, however, causing many scouts to believe that he may get passed on this year entirely.
As a late seventh-round pick, however, I believe that Gould is worth a chance for the Lightning. If things work out and he develops his game in meaningful ways over the next three to five years, then he would easily have the steal of the draft. If not, then it’s just a seventh-round pick that was a risk worth taking.
Recapping the Lightning’s 2020 Mock Draft
In all, despite a few picks that I wish I could change, I feel good about how this mock draft shook out for the Lightning. Even without a first-round pick, they added a lot of good talent with great upside.
From the first pick to their last, I believe there are prospects selected here that could, at the very least, find starting time with the Crunch in a few years. However, even if only one or two of these selections hit, that would be a big win for a franchise that was selling prime assets in order to make a run at the 2020 Stanley Cup.
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.