Bolt Prospects 2012 NHL Entry Draft Coverage: Introduction

With the Lightning prospect season finally completed, it is now time to turn our attention to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. While the team's prospect system enjoyed unprecedented success, the team's struggles at the NHL level last season left the Lightning with a draft pick bonanza after a bevy of pre-deadline deals. Heading into the draft, the Lightning currently holds a pair of first round picks, and at least one second round pick following the trade of picks 37 and 50 to Nashville in the Anders Lindback trade. As of right now, they hold picks 10, 19, and 40 with Florida holding the option on pick 53. In all, the Lightning will have at least three picks in the top sixty selections of the draft, where the largest majority (approximately 70%) of NHL players come from. That means the same organization that just saw a rookie-laden AHL roster complete a record setting season will have the opportunity to add not less than three top-notch picks to their system. Times are good.

Most teams don't draft based on need, but over the past few years the Lightning have lucked out in that the best player available has often been at the position the Lightning most needed to fill. After the departure of Brad Richards via trade, the Lightning were fortunate to maintain their top pick in the draft lottery and find an instant replacement in Steven Stamkos. A year later, with a troika of star forwards in Stamkos, St. Louis, and Lecavalier, the Lightning got to make a move to shore up the future of their blueline by drafting Victor Hedman. The last two years have broken with that tradition, though, as the continued need to improve the blueline has not stopped the Lightning from selecting Brett Connolly and Vladislav Namestnikov.

Fortunately for the Lightning, this looks like another year where their needs and the prospects available will line up perfectly. The 2012 NHL Entry Draft is incredibly shallow if you're looking for a skilled forward, but it's as deep as the Marianas Trench when it comes to defensemen. For instance, Red Line Report's top 30 prospects includes 14 blueliners, and 8 of the top 15 prospects come from that position. That depth continues on down into the second and third rounds, as well, so the Lightning could walk out of draft day with a lot of their long term defensive needs met.

The team's second most pressing need became less of a concern with the signing of Riku Helenius this week. However, the Lightning find themselves with a glut of goaltending prospects in the 22-24 age range between Helenius, Dustin Tokarski, and Jaroslav Janus. Once that group moves through the pipeline, though, the next wave looks more like a trickle. That's why we wouldn't be surprised to see the Lightning use one of their top sixty picks on a goaltender, either, especially now that the Lightning have acquired the less experienced, less pedigreed Lindback rather than Los Angeles' Jonathan Bernier. Lindback will get 2-3 seasons to prove himself, but he's not a sure thing, which is why we wouldn't mind the Lightning drafting a blue chip goaltender if they feel confident in whatever is available on their board.

Least pressing are the forward positions, where the Lightning boast the best young forward in the game in Stamkos, two recent high picks in Connolly and Namestnikov, and a ton of high quality prospects ranging from Bolt Prospects number one prospect J.T. Brown to AHL MVP Cory Conacher to the prospect with perhaps the most potential in the organization, Richard Panik. The team is deeper on the wings than they are at center, and we wouldn't mind adding another centerman, but it's not like the team is hurting with Namestnikov and Tyler Johnson on the way.

Because of the high number of picks the Lightning hold, we've made the decision to provide expanded pre-draft coverage this year. In the past we've typically profiled about a dozen or so potential draftees. This year, we're going to twenty-four. That's right, it's Bolt Prospects' Dirty Two Dozen. And, like any successful organization, we'll start from the nets out. For our first story in the coming days we'll profile the 3 goaltenders we feel have a chance of being selected in the first round. We'll then move on to defenseman, and the 11 potential picks we feel might be getting Lightning hats in the first round on draft day. Finally, we'll move on to the forward positions, where 10 skaters will try to prove to the Lightning they're just too good to pass up.

Our schedule will be as follows:

Monday: Introduction
Tuesday: Goaltenders
Wednesday: Defensemen
Thursday: Forwards

And on Friday, Day One of the draft? Might there be a Mock Draft in Bolt Prospects' future? Check back throughout the week to find out!