Lightning's List of 15

Lightning Director of Amateur Scouting Al Murray said repeatedly this week that the club has about 15 players it views as a tier above the rest of the 2012 draft class. He’s gone as far as saying they are comfortable with their top-15, there are no ties in the rankings, and his staff is confident they will get a great player with pick 10 and one of their top-15 will be available with their second first rounder, No.19.

With as unpredictable and dividing as this draft is, Murray and the Lightning appear set to let their list do the deciding for them.

It’s Murray’s job to take the philosophy and wishes of the NHL general manager, in this case Steve Yzerman, and formulate his list. A few weeks ago, Murray said Yzerman requested the list be made of players who will make an impact at the NHL level someday with an emphasis on skill, hockey sense, and compete level.

Yzerman has to assume his coach, Guy Boucher, will be his coach in a few years when these teenagers are ready for the NHL, which means they have to be fast enough to fit into Boucher’s up-tempo style. He’s also not scared to take an injured player if it means he’s going to end up with an NHLer in a few years. We’re not convinced Yzerman likes to swing for the fences, as former GM Jay Feaster used to say, by taking a player who while having a high ceiling, doesn’t also have an NHL floor.

Unfortunately, Bolt Prospects has been unable to scrape together the funds to a reputable hacker (oxymoron?) or Jason Bourne (Matt Damon, not Jeremy Renner) to obtain “the list,” so we’re going to have to guess.

Based on Yzerman’s criteria, we feel the Lightning may be targeting the following 15 prospects as their “best available for the Lightning.” It does not mean best overall for everyone.

1. Nail Yakupov, RW, Sarnia

Oozing talent. Lightning have zero chance to draft him.

2. Alex Galchenyuk, C, Sarnia

Think 2-3 years down the road; he’ll be a star.

3. Ryan Murray, D, Everett

Size and offensive ceiling the only drawbacks. Wicked Smaht.

4. Griffin Reinhart, D, Edmonton

He may be higher on the Lightning’s list. Reminds us of Victor Hedman. Slight chance he falls if teams drafting above 10 get bold instead of playing it safe.

5.Filip Forsberg, C, Leksand

A big, responsible, skilled center… that has no chance of falling to 10.

6. Mikhail Grigorenko, C, Quebec

For as low as his compete level is, his skill is sky high to outweigh it. We hear the Lightning may have their eyes on him and his predicted fall in the draft. Murray likes to look at the body of work, not just the last few months. Grigorenko has been a star in the making for years. In the words of @DownGoesBrown: “Is among the draft's most talented players but has seen his stock fall due to lingering questions about his work ethic, which is concerning because teenagers are normally so strong in that area.”

7. Teuvo Teravainen, W, Jokerit

The Lightning apparently met with him on Thursday and love his skillset. He’s a smallish skill player, which hasn’t deterred Yzerman in the past two years.

8. Mathew Dumba, D, Red Deer

There are questions about his floor, which is why he’s down on our list. It depends which way the Lightning think Dumba will develop as to if they have him higher or not.

9. Morgan Rielly, D, Moose Jaw

Maybe the most talented and best Guy Boucher system-fit on defense in the draft. His size doesn’t offer much of a fallback should his offensive game stall in development. If he pans out, Boucher will buy his kids Rielly jerseys.

10. Jacob Trouba, D, USNTDP

Trouba’s upside and downside are relatively close together. His offense has been criticized, but he really came on after just three points in his first eight games. He finished near a point-per-game in a tough league to accumulate points. He could be higher on the list, but his ability to process plays in his own zone isn’t always where you’d think it would be.

11. Olli Maatta, D, London

Maatta could be a wild card. He’s in a fine development program in London and played professionally in Finland before coming to the OHL. He has everything Yzerman/Murray are looking for. Others have higher ceilings – that’s the only reason he’s down this far. He could very well be the pick at 10.

12. Hampus Lindholm, D, Rogle

Murray told the Tampa Bay Times that there is a chance Lindholm could be available at 19. If you take him at his word – which is always dangerous when other teams are watching – then he’s not going to be the pick at 10. #draftmindgames

13. Cody Ceci, D, Ottawa

Hockey Prospectus said Ceci is No.10 of their collection of the top-10 prospects as determined by a handful of scouts. If that’s the case, Ceci, who has good size and outstanding offensive ability to go with his coveted right-handed shot, could be putting on a Lightning sweater on the stage Friday night. Yzerman/Murray don’t seem to be set on high-end physical play from defensemen, which is good for Ceci.

14. Derrick Pouliot, D, Portland

On pure skill and body of work (near a point-per-game in tough WHL, first overall pick in WHL draft), Pouliot could be much higher on this list. Like Rielly, he’s someone Boucher will fall in love with. Pouliot’s downside may not be overly high and his own-zone play, while improving, isn’t as high as others on this list.

15. Scott Laughton, C, Oshawa:

He does everything Yzerman covets in a player and is someone who could help the team win a lot of playoff games in the future. Comparisons to Mike Richards of the Stanley Cup winning Flyers Kings means NHL impact is on the horizon.

Others considered:

Radek Faksa, C, Kitchener: A great potential No.2 center, but his skill level isn’t overly high. In other words, his floor is appealing, but there may not be much ceiling. He suffered a concussion in the playoffs, which may drop him in the draft a few spots.

Matthew Finn, D, Guelph: Like Trouba, Finn’s upside and downside are close together, so he would make a nice, safe pick at 19. He can skate, carry the puck, defend well, and he grades out high on character. He’ll be in the NHL one day.

Zemgus Girgensons, W, Vermont: Skill is lacking and he may not top out as a top-6 forward. His compete level is through the roof.

Andrei Vasilevski, G, Ufa: It’s been said that if skill were the only ingredient being examined, Vasilevski could be a top-5 pick. We think the Red Wings model of not drafting goaltenders in the first round, combined with the goalie development track record (or lackthereof) in Russia over the years may scare Tampa Bay away. If he were coming to North America next year he could be taken early.

Slater Koekkoek: Going off body of work and ignoring his shoulder injury, Koekkoek could be in play at 19. However, his play in his own zone has been heavily criticized and his offensive package may not be enough to drown it out for No.19.

Tom Wilson, W, Plymouth: To throw another wild card to this list, the Lightning don’t have anyone in their system like Wilson. None. A big, nasty forward with decent skills would be a fantastic compliment (and protector) for players like Namestnikov, Conacher, and Stamkos in the future. Injury concerns reign, however.

Mark Jankowski, C, Providence/Saginaw/Dubuque: A wild-wild-wild card. If you have a first rounder to play with, do you throw the dice on the draft’s biggest mystery?

Yzerman could call any of these 16 names at the podium on Friday night, but Murphy’s Law says it’s someone not mentioned here. That is the story of this draft – it’s going to be unpredictable and one scout’s No.15 is another scout’s No.53.

Stay tuned.