Steve Yzerman has recently passed his fifth anniversary as Vice President and General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning. In that time, Yzerman has completely remade this team from the slim pickings he inherited.
Only Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman remain from the opening day roster of the 2010-2011 season. Between trades, free agents and draft picks, Yzerman has retooled his team and the draft picks currently owned by the Lightning are a testament to his wheeling and dealing.
For the 2015 NHL draft beginning June 26th in Sunrise, Florida, Yzerman has nine total picks in the seven rounds. Of those nine picks, only three are original Lightning picks and six selections were acquired through trade.
The first four selections were a result of Yzerman deals: In round one – the #28 pick, round two – #44, round three – #64 and round four – #118. The Lightning also have another pick in round four, #120 and #150 in round five which are their own.
In round six they have another acquired pick, #153 and their own #180 and in the final round, they have another selection #208 also secured through a deal.
Looking at Yzerman’s draft history, it would be likely that he’ll deal at least one of these picks, probably two or more. So, assuming they hang on to all these picks, let’s look at who are the best players for each of these selections.
The age-old question faced by every organization is do they draft for need or draft the best player available? Good franchises straddle that line; great teams make this distinct choice for every selection in every round and more often than not, hit it out of the park with their picks.
So far in his five years as G.M., Yzerman has more than a passing grade. Yes, there remains nobody from his first draft in 2010 but Brett Connelly and Radko Gudas were traded in the past season for Braydon Coburn and the second round pick from Boston. But in the 2011 and 2012 drafts, Yzerman and Director of Scouting, Al Murray drafted a good chunk of the players to be put around the Stamkos and Hedman foundation.
Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, Vlad Namestnikov and Nikita Nesterov in 2011 and Andrei Vasilevskiy and Cedric Paquette in 2012 to go along with Jonathan Drouin in 2013 are the draft picks that give Yzerman and Murray a strong rating.
During last year’s draft, Yzerman was very active as he traded his second round draft pick for Jason Garrison, Jeff Costello and a seventh round pick from Vancouver. He then acquired Sam Gagner from Edmonton for Teddy Purcell and then turned around a traded Gagner and B.J. Crombeen to Arizona for a 2015 sixth round pick.
Yzerman wasn’t done as he traded Nate Thompson to Anaheim for a fourth and seventh round pick in this year’s draft. Not exactly Trader Jack, but Yzerman did all of these transactions in the span of about 48 hours. In this year’s draft, I suspect Yzerman will not be quite as active but we should expect some activity as he has nine draft picks in his holster.
With the #28 selection, many of the well-known prospects will be gone by the time the Lightning are on the clock. That said, I would welcome the selection of either of the following players:
- Brock Boeser RW – Boeser is a 6’0” winger that is a scoring threat who can make plays for himself or his line mates. Has some international experience at U18 and U19 for U.S.A.
- Denis Guryanov LW/RW – Guryanov is a tall (6’2”) winger that is fast and an adept puck handler. With the rapid success of other Russians in the Lightning organization, Guryanov, if selected, would feel right at home with the franchise.
In the #44 slot, the Lighting should strongly consider either of one these two players:
- Jeremy Bracco C/RW – A smallish center with speed and great potential. No, not Tyler Johnson but Jeremy Bracco and his draft stock isn’t as high as his future because of a perceived lack of size.
- Filip Chlapik C – A point per game player in his first season for Charlottetown in the QMJHL with 75 points in 64 games. Lists the Lightning as his favorite NHL team, sounds like a plan.
If Yzerman is going to bundle a pick in a trade, this is the pick most likely to be sent away. In the event that the team hangs on to this slot, the #64 pick, the two players I’d choose between for selection are:
- Brendan Guhle D – Big, powerful defenseman that can lay out hits. Has been a workhorse for Prince Albert in the WHL for past two seasons.
- Austin Wagner C/LW – Very good two-way player with speed. Saw considerable improvement with Regina in the WHL last season over his initial year. High upside for Wagner.
The Lightning have two picks in the fourth round at #118 and two picks later at #120. Here are the four players likely to be available for Tampa to select:
- Thomas Schemitsch D – At 6’3” with a right-handed shot, Schemitsch went from a 17 point year and a minus 15 to a 49 point year and a plus/minus of zero in his second year in the OHL playing for Owen Sound. That level of improvement will have people taking notice.
- Anthony Richard C – Another center with smaller than average size that will be passed up by many NHL teams. In two full seasons for Val-d’Or in the QMJHL, Richard has produced 143 points in 132 games.
- Nathan Noel C – Noel is a gritty, tough player with high hockey IQ. Has international competition experience as well. Over a point a game in QMJHL playoffs,
- Fredrik Forsberg C – Obviously has the pedigree. Over last four seasons in Swedish Elite and Super Elite leagues has produced over a point a game. Has extensive international experience.
Near the bottom of round five with the #150 pick, the Lightning should consider either of these players should they still be available:
- Simon Bourque D – Not overly flashy as a player but a solid blue liner. Was an alternate captain for Rimouski Oceanic in the QMJHL this past season as his team won the Championship.
- Joseph Cecconi D – Solid puck handler who at 6’2” has the size to handle his own. Tremendous upside as he develops his offensive game.
The sixth round is also another round in which the Lightning have two picks, #153 and #180. They should look at these four players as options in this next to last round:
- Andrew Mangiapane C – Another forward that isn’t quite six feet tall and that’s why he may still be available in the sixth round. But in two seasons in the OHL for Barrie, Mangiapane has scored 155 points in 136 games with a +43. In 20 OHL playoff games, he has scored 17 points with a plus/minus of three.
- Bailey Webster D – Webster is 6’5” so he has the size. Needs to improve his offensive game but worth a flier in the sixth round simply because of the body.
- Adam Gaudette C – No doubt that Gaudette can score, in the USHL last season, he had 13 goals and 17 asssists in 50 games with a +23.
- Olivier Galipeau D – An offensive defenseman who is 6’1”. Galipeau is a left-handed Canadian that has the potential for a lot of upside.
In the final round, the Lightning have the 208th pick in the draft. The two players they should consider at this point in the draft are:
- Vladimir Tkachyov LW – A Russian forward that could be drafted by Yzerman. It is almost a foregone conclusion. Add the international experience of Tkachyov and there is a good possibility of this match being made.
- Jack McNeely D – Another tall defenseman, McNeely is 6’3” and a right-handed shot. Smart player with very good offensive skills.
We will see this weekend if the Tampa Bay Lightning and Yzerman hold their draft picks or begin wheeling and dealing to prepare for next season. Smart money says that with most of their team returning, there will be little to do but build for the future depth of the organization. One thing is for certain, that if there is a deal to be made, Yzerman will not hesitate to pull the trigger.