Last season’s catch phrase, “We’re bigger. We’re faster. We’re younger,” appears to still hold true. Of the fourteen players selected by the
Lightning over the weekend, only one was under 6’3” … he was 6’2”. Included in this group are hulking 6’7” defenseman
Art Femenella and 6’5” forward Dennis Packard.
The average size of the fourteen draftees is 6’3”, 200lbs,
three inches taller and ten pounds heavier than last year’s median.
In the 2000 draft, Rick Dudley chose overage European
players with three of his ten total selections. It was expected he would do the same again this year, but when
all was said and done, Dimitri Bezrukov ended up the only player over the age
The draftees all fit the prototypical Dudley mold, which
consists of size, speed, grit and youth.
In other words, “Bigger, Younger, Faster.”
While Dudley used his first four selections to take European
players (3 Russians, 1 Swede), the next six were used to take North Americans,
a bit out of character for Dudley, who is known to have a liking for
Europeans. Dudley especially likes
Russians, which probably explains why six of the 14 picks were a product of the
Russian hockey system.
The first North American selected, 123rd overall,
was Aaron Lobb of the London Knights
(OHL). The 6’4” winger is said to be a
strong skater who has good passing and puck handling skills. Lobb totaled 48 points while with London
this season, including twenty-three goals.
He is especially effective in front of the net, with a good percentage
of his goals coming on deflections and rebounds. He is praised for his solid play in front of the net and good
Tampa’s fifth round selection was the EJHL’s Paul Lynch, a smooth skating defenseman
with good puck handling and passing skills.
His hard shot and ability to pinch in give him good offensive potential,
but his defensive game still needs work.
Lynch plays a hard-hitting, aggressive style, which the Lightning
likes. In 21 games with the Valley
Junior Warriors of the EJHL, Lynch had 3 goals, 4 assists and 43 penalty
minutes. He tallied 46 points in 23
games the season before, while attending Brooks High School. He was not put in an offensive role during
the 2000-01 season, which led to his poor numbers. Valley coach Andy Heinze, brother of Buffalo Sabre Steve Heinze,
feels Lynch has much more offensive potential than he has displayed. As he recently told the Hockey Journal, “I get the feeling
when you look at Paul, he’s just scratching the surface in terms of what he can
bring scoring wise.”
The sixth round saw Tampa bring in a monstrous defenseman
that even Kristian Kudroc will have
to look up to. 6’7”, 240lb Art Femenella is the second largest
player ever to put on a Lighting sweater, just behind 6’7”, 260lb Kyle Freadrich. Femenella, who played the 2000-01 season
with the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL, ended the season with only one
goal and one assist, but was second in the league in penalty minutes. He has no flashy skills, but with his size
he doesn’t need them. He protects his
end of the ice and his players well.
After a solid season this year, Femenella was selected to play in the
UHSL All-Star game for the World Team.
As the seventh round came, so did two more big, fast, young
players: Harvard University right wing
Dennis Packard came 219th
overall, and defenseman Jeremy Van Hoof,
who re-entered the draft after failing to come to terms with the Pittsburgh
Penguins, at 222nd overall.
In 33 games with the Crimson, Packard, a freshman, had eight
points (4g, 4a). He played the 1999-00
season on the U.S. National Under-18 team, where he tallied 13 goals and 15
assists in 67 games.
Van Hoof had one goal and fourteen assists during the
regular season with the Ottawa 67’s and another three goals and four assist
through 20 playoff games.
Jean-François Soucy was
the Lightning’s first 8th round choice at 252nd. The Montreal Rocket’s LW has 11 points (3g,
8a) in 27 games this season.
Bezrukov became the first European pick for Rick Dudley on day two,
selected at 258th overall.
The 6’3”, 196lb winger from Kazan played the 2000-01 season with
Nfetekhimik of the Russian Hockey League, where he totaled 17 points and 54 PIM
in 35 games. At 24, Bezrukev is the oldest
of Tampa Bay’s draft selections. With
four years experience in Russia’s top league, he could have an immediate impact
on the club.
The Bolts’ final three selections came in the ninth
round. Rick Dudley chose Vitali Smolyninov, from Neftechimik of
the Russian Jr. League, 261st overall. He then selected another Russian, Ilja Solarev, at 281.
Solarev played five games last season with Molot-Prikamie Perm of the
RHL. He did not post any points in his
brief appearance. Finally, with the
last selection in the draft, the Tampa Bay Lightning chose Swedish Junior
League defenseman Henrik Bergfors. In 14 games with Södertälje SK, Bergfors had
one goal and 16 penalty minutes.
In the few spare moments that Rick Dudley was not announcing
his many draft picks, he was executing trades…five to be exact. “I don’t even remember how it
happened,” Dudley told the Tampa Tribune after the draft. “But because there were so many players we
liked – and as we looked a lot of those guys were still available – we kept
saying, ‘We need more draft picks’.”
And it was draft picks he got.
Saturday morning, the Lightning held 9 picks…by Sunday afternoon, Dudley
had turned those into 14 selections and defenseman Nolan Pratt.
Pratt is expected to fill the defensive hole that seems to
be looming amongst the offensive minded defenseman on Tampa’s blueline. Pratt had one goal and two assist with the
Avalanche this season and is yet another “Dudley” type player.
After two exhilarating days of drafting and dealing, the
Lightning added 15 new bigger, faster, younger faces to their line-up.
Tampa Bay Draft Trades
June 24, 2001
Philadelphia’s 4th (123rd overall), 5th (138th
overall) and 7th (219th overall) round picks in the 2001
draft, for a 3rd round selection in 2002
two 6th round (184th and 188th) choices to Los
Angeles for a 5th round (152nd) selection, all in 2001
Nolan Pratt from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Los Angeles 6th
round (184th) pick in 2001
Philadelphia’s 8th round (252nd) selection in 2001 for a
7th round pick in 2002
Colorado’s 9th round choice (289th) for a 9th
round pick in 2002
Acquired New Jersey’s 2nd
round (61st) selection from Washington for the New York Islander’s 2nd
round choice in 2002
New Jersey’s 3rd round (94th) selection from Ottawa, for
a 4th round (99th) pick and Buffalo’s 7th
round (218th) pick.