2006 Draft Review

Boltprospects was recently able to catch up with Lightning Head Scout Jake Goertzen to get his thoughts on the Lightning’s 2006 draftees. In addition to providing comments on each player, Mr. Goertzen was kind enough to provide some insight into the immediate future of the 2006 class. The Bolts took towering goaltender Riku Helenius in the first round at No.15. Speaking on behalf of the team, Goertzen states that the Finnish goaltender is “a very competitive kid and has all the qualities that we look for in a goaltender.” There has been some confusion as to where Helenius will play next year, be it in Finnish Juniors, the Finnish SM-Liiga, or the Canadian Hockey League if taken in Wednesday’s Import Draft. According to Goertzen, Helenius will spend the upcoming season in Finland, pending any new information the club may receive. Because Bruin’s prospect Tuuka Rask is the No.1 with Ilves’ top squad, this may mean Helenius is again relegated to junior league duty, possibly causing a stall in his development. A sure way to control his development is to sign him early, however Goertzen states that is not an immediate option. “[Riku] will find a way to get developmental playing time in Finland,” he says. “It will take some time for him to develop into an NHL goalie and there is no urgency to get him in to Tampa or Springfield, given we have the likes of [Gerald] Coleman, [Jonathan] Boutin and [Karri] Ramo and [Morgan] Cey ahead of him in the contributing stage of the game right now.” The Lightning will, however, try to get Helenius to come to North America this summer for a prospects camp, and then “watch him closely” over the 2006-2007 season before reevaluating his situation next spring. Though draft day for the Lightning this year seemed as fast paced as a Shady Acres lawn bowling tournament, it’s important to remember the 2005 selections acquired with 2006 draft picks. The Bolts did not have a second round pick this year as during the 2005 draft, Philadelphia traded pick #89 (Chris Lawrence) and pick #102 (Blair Jones) to Tampa Bay for Tampa Bay's second round pick in the 2006 Entry Draft. Jones had an exceptional year for Moose Jaw of the WHL, finishing in the top-10 in WHL scoring, and was in contract negotiations with the Lightning leading up to the 2006 draft. Lawrence’s game took off after a trade to Mississauga of the OHL. In the third round of the 2006 draft, the Bolts took Connecticut high school defenseman Kevin Quick. Commenting on the pick, Goertzen says, “Kevin is a superior skater and that was the main attraction in taking him. His style of play is ideally suited for today's game.” Quick was drafted by Green Bay of the USHL this spring and among the options he has are returning to Prep School or joining Green Bay. Goertzen says that Kevin has indicated he is heading back to Prep School, though discussions on different possibilities are ongoing. Tampa Bay was without a fourth or fifth round pick this year due to multiple deals in last year’s draft. In 2005, San Jose traded pick #73 (Radek Smolenak) to Tampa Bay for pick #162 in 2005 and Tampa Bay's fourth round pick in 2006. Tampa’s fifth round pick in 2006 was sent to Dallas for #165 (Kevin Beech) in 2005. Smolenak scored 42 goals in 65 games for Kingston of the OHL and earned a professional contract from the Lightning. Beech struggled early, then was a solid No.1 for Sudbury, leading them to a first round playoff win over Smolenak and Kingston. In the sixth round of the 2006 Entry Draft, the Lightning took Swift Current (WHL) defenseman Dane Crowley. Born in ’87, Crowley will return to the WHL this year, Goertzen confirmed. Goertzen said what made Crowley, who is a physical defenseman that can provide offense, attractive to the Lightning was his competitiveness and character. “His character is what put him over the top with us,” Goertzen stated. With their fourth and final pick, Tampa Bay selected the brother of current Lightning prospect Dmitri Kazionov, Denis Kazionov. The towering winger spent last season with Tver of Russia’s top league, but may not be there to start this coming season. Should Denis Kazionov be selected in Wednesday’s CHL Import Draft, it is possible he could make the trip his brother didn’t make to North American juniors. Dmitri Kazionov, currently with Moscow Dynamo, was selected by Kingston of the OHL in 2002, the same year the big center was taken in the fourth round of the NHL Entry Draft. Goertzen said the younger Kazionov is unlikely to make the trip to North America, but the organization is currently involved in discussions with him about the possibility. Goertzen stated the club liked Denis for his “size, exceptional speed, and good attitude.” If Denis does not come to North America this year, his trip may only be delayed a year as Goertzen reported the brothers have indicated they are [i]both[/i] going to come over to play in the Lightning’s system next season (2007-2008). Of course, this is pending successful contract negotiations between the Lightning and the brothers, as well as any potential complications with the subsequent transfers. Overall, the 2006 draft was the lightest in the club’s history. The 1996 draft only netted six prospects, but did include all-star and Stanley Cup champion Pavel Kubina. However, when factoring in Blair Jones, Radek Smolenak, Chris Lawrence, and Kevin Beech into those prospects acquired with 2006 picks, the draft’s depth and quality increases exponentially. Looking ahead to next year, it’s encouraging to know the Lightning, barring any trades, will enter the draft with a full set of picks.