C Tanner Richard, 6'0" 182 lbs, Guelph (OHL), Shoots: Left
CSS #41 North American Skater, Red Line Report #43 Overall
2011-2012 Statistics: 43 GP, 13-35-48, +4, 46 PIM
The Lightning get fantastic value in the third round with Swiss second year eligible Tanner Richard.
Pros: Good skater with great acceleration. Soft hands and a great puckhandler and playmaker. Competes hard at both ends of the rink and surprisingly willing to play the physical game, despite his slight frame.
Cons: Nagging injuries limited him to 45 games, and those injuries may be attributed to his lack of strength and size. Second year eligible so a little less time to develop than others in this class.
Red Line Report projected Richard as a versatile top 9 forward who chips in offensively and compared him to Valtteri Filppula.
RW Brian Hart, 6'2" 216 lbs, Exeter (USHS), Shoots: Right
CSS #54 North American Skater, ISS #64 Skater, RLR # 55 Overall, THN #56 Overall, TSN #46 Overall
2011-2012 Statistics: 29 GP, 32-36-68, 20 PIM
The Lightning continue to develop the Harvard pipeline with Crimson recruit Brian Hart out of the New Hampshire high school ranks. Like Alex Killorn before him, the Lightning end up with a prospect with good size and skill.
Pros: Great size and strength already. Heavy shot with a quick release. Soft hands around the net and good on deflections. Great natural athlete who is an accomplished soccer player, too.
Cons: First step acceleration. Could use his size more in the physical game.
Red Line Report projected Hart as a third line power forward who can chip in offensively. TSN's Craig Button compared him to ex-NHLer Bill Guerin.
D Dylan Blujus, 6'3" 193 lbs, Brampton (OHL), Shoots: Right
CSS #71 North American Skater, RLR # 79 Overall
2011-2012 Statistics: 66 GP, 7-27-34, +4, 38 PIM
The Lightning address the seemingly perennial need for a righty offensive defenseman by drafting Dylan Blujus out of Brampton.
Pros: Offensively gifted. Soft hands and a big shot on the power play. Reads and jumps into the play well. Above average skater who can play big minutes. Defends well off the rush.
Cons: Prone to turnovers when he has the puck in his own third. Struggles with positioning once the opposition gains entry to his zone. More of a leaner physically than a hitter.
Red Line Report projected Blujus as a #5/6 defenseman and compared him to, ironically, Kyle Quincey.
When and how do you judge a trade or draft pick?
Earlier this week I tweeted from Bolt Prospects that it was the 10-year anniversary of then Lightning General Manager Jay Feaster sending the fourth overall pick to Philadelphia for a young forward Tampa Bay thought had some upside and two second round picks. At the time, jaws hit the floor from Nanaimo to Naples. I was standing on the line that divided my living room from my dining room and saw the trade go across the ticker on what I believe was ESPN-2. Yes, I remember exactly where I was standing when I saw the news.
According to Red Line Report, here are the 15 best players that are still available heading into Day Two of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft:
1. D Matt Finn, 6'0" 197 lbs, Guelph (OHL)(#14)
2. LW Pontus Aberg, 6'0" 198 lbs, Djurgardens (SWE)(#15)
3. RW Sebastien Collberg, 5'11" 176 lbs, Frolunda Jr. (SWE Jr.)(#24)
4. RW Scott Kosmachuk, 6'0" 182 lbs, Guelph (OHL)(#25)
5. D Damon Severson, 6'2" 198 lbs, Kelowna (WHL)(#30)
6. G Oscar Dansk, 6'2" 183 lbs, Brynas Jr. (SWE Jr.)(#31)
7. LW Phil Di Giuseppe, 6'1" 195 lbs, Michigan (CCHA)(#32)
8. LW Tim Bozon, 6'1" 178 lbs, Kamloops (WHL)(#33)
G Andrei Vasilevski, 6'3" 204 lbs, Ufa Jr. (RUS Jr.), Catches: Left
CSS #1 European Goaltender, ISS #3 Goaltender, RLR #10 Overall, THN #21 Overall, TSN #24 Overall
2011-2012 Statistics: 27 GP, 2.23 GAA, .931 sv%
Vasilevski was considered the top goaltender in this draft and likely would have been a lottery pick were it not for the fabled "Russian factor" depressing his draft stock. Fans may know him more for being pulled in the U20 World Junior Championship Semifinals against Canada, but prior to that game Vasilevski was the most dominant netminder in that tournament despite the fact he was an underage player.
Pros: Big, athletic, and very calm. Defines "economy of motion" between the pipes. Very good glove hand. Excellent rebound control for a young netminder.
Cons: Like many young goaltenders, can have a tendency to play too deep in his crease. Below average handling the puck. Developmental situation isn't ideal in Russia and he could be a flight risk to the KHL if he doesn't have immediate success when he comes over to North America. "The Russian factor."
Red Line Report projected Vasilevski as a number one goaltender for a playoff caliber club and compared him to Montreal's Carey Price.
D Slater Koekkoek, 6'2" 184 lbs, Peterborough (OHL), Shoots: Left
CSS #23 North American Skater, ISS #21 Skater, RLR #21 Overall, THN #23 Overall, TSN #16 Overall
2011-2011 Statistics: 26 GP, 5-13-18, -1, 17 PIM
Injuries made Peterborough defenseman Slater Koekkoek a wild card in this draft. The Peterborough defenseman went out after 26 games with shoulder surgery, leaving NHL teams to wonder what he might have accomplished had he not gotten hurt.
Pros: He's extremely mobile with a lot of burst and straight line speed. He's also incredibly intelligent at both ends of the ice and has a good, hard snap shot.
Cons: Not overly physical, despite possessing a pretty good sized frame. Can occasionally be prone to coughing up the puck when under forechecking pressure.
Red Line Report compared Koekkoek to Kevin Shattenkirk and projects him to be a mobile, second pairing puck mover.
The strength of the Lightning organization remains at the forward positions, where the team still boasts an impressive mix of star veterans like Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, and Ryan Malone, and the game's best young star, Steven Stamkos. The team will spend some of its offseason tweaking its third line, and they made overtures to Swiss star Damien Brunner to try to improve their scoring depth on the wings. But, ultimately, the team should feel pretty solid offensively. Keeping the puck out of the back of their own net has always been the bigger challenge.
As uncertain as things have traditionally been for the Lightning between the pipes, the defenseman position may be even more unsettled at this point in the offseason. After cheating father time for much of the 2011-2012 season, age caught up to many of the Lightning's veteran defensemen in 2012-2013. Mattias Ohlund may never play another NHL game after the 35 year old's knee finally gave out after over 900 games of NHL service.
Bolt Prospects' draft coverage begins with the goaltending position, which has been a perennial sore spot since the founding of the franchise. With the exception of short runs by Darren Puppa in the early days of the team and Nikolai Khabibulin leading up to the team's Stanley Cup run in 2003-2004, the Lightning have always seemed to face uncertainty between the pipes.