The 2011 draft is one of the most difficult in years to project, so doing a mock draft would not be the wisest decision. But hey, everyone else is doing it, and if everyone else jumped off a cliff, weâ€™re going to assume itâ€™s perfectly safe with no harmful consequences.
As a team, we couldnâ€™t agree on a few of these picks, so weâ€™ve provided both picks in some places and some of the conversation. Enjoy.
Heading into tomorrow night's draft, there's both anticipation and uncertainty for the Lightning. At 27th overall, Director of Amateur Scouting Al Murray believes there is a high likelihood the team will get a player it wants. In fact, in an interview with Damian Crisdotero, he noted many teams will be getting players they might have ranked as lottery players due to the wide open nature of this draft beyond the top 10-12 picks. In our own conversations with the Lightning organization, we've learned the team is currently focusing on about a dozen players for the 27th pick, and they feel confident at least one of those 12 players will be available when their turn to come one stage arrives. Of course, the team didn't share that list of 12 players with us, but it does offer us the opportunity for an interesting exercise: who would be on Bolt Prospects' list? Here's a list of a 12 players that are on Bolt Prospects' board for pick 27 at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft:
Bolt Prospects participated in a live Twitter mock draft this afternoon with Mark Pukalo (@mpukalo) of Tampabaylightning.com. Mark is a former 20-year sportswriter in the Northeast who now free-lances for the Lightningâ€™s official web site.
Bolt Prospects had the odd-numbered picks; Mark the evens.
Results on the flip:
The undisputed strength of the Lightning organization going into the 2011 NHL Entry Draft has to be the wing positions, and particularly right wing. At that position, the Lightning have not less than three bona fide, blue chip NHL prospects in Brett Connolly, Carter Ashton, and Richard Panik. Those are three players that have drawn serious comparisons to current NHL players like Patrick Marleau, Ryan Malone, and Marian Hossa, respectively. Additional depth is provided by left winger Mattias Ritola, who spent much of last season with the big club in Tampa Bay, and versatile centermen Alex Killorn and Jimmy Mullin, who can also play left wing and right wing, respectively. As a consequence, Bolt Prospects ranks the wing positions as the least pressing need heading into the draft.
Murphy's Law, of course, dictates that the wing positions might be the deepest of all in the waters the Lightning will be drafting in at 27th overall in the 1st round. We have identified not less than 16 players we feel might be legitimate options for the Lightning to select at that pick, reflecting a fascinating cross section of options: snipers, slick puck handlers, hard working heart-and-soulers, and physical, nasty experts in the fistic arts:
When your team has Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier up the middle on your roster at the NHL level, it's hard to classify the center position as a dire need. Indeed, should Steve Yzerman succeed in locking Stamkos up to a long-term deal, the Lightning should have their scoring line centerman spots well taken care of for the next half a decade. However, the Lightning need depth, particularly for future postseason campaigns when lower-liners can often be the difference between advancing and going home, and right now the Lightning organization doesn't possess that depth.
The Lightning do have some prospects of note in Harvard pivotman Alex Killorn, who can play both left wing and center, WHL scoring title runner-up Tyler Johnson, and Miami of Ohio incoming freshman Jimmy Mullin, who can play both right wing and center. But, like the Lightning's defense, there are no blue chippers in the crop that appear to be sure-fire NHLers. For that reason, we rate center as the third most pressing need for the Lightning organization going into the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Here are 7 players we feel might be available and attractive to the Lightning at their 1st round pick on draft night: