Since the draft on Saturday, I have seen and heard reactions from various people, their comments covering the entire spectrum. Some have said that the Lightning had the worst draft of all the teams and others have said that they had one of the best. Let me give you my views on why I think that they had one of the better drafts on Saturday.
Let’s start with the focal point of the entire controversy, the first round trades. Everybody who says that Tampa blew it, says so because they traded away the chance to draft Pavel Brendl. In fact is, if the trades had not come along, they would have drafted Brendl even if they had kept the first overall pick. They would not have taken a chance on Stefan, and the only other possibility would have been a move to acquire both Sedins. Brendl was on top of their list by far. When they heard that Vancouver had already made moves to get the twins, and they already knew that Atlanta wanted Stefan, they saw the opportunity to move down and still get their man. They made the trade to move down to fourth and got two third round picks for that. Then, the Rangers called, and they knew the Rangers really wanted Brendl. They ended up getting two players, Sundstrom and Cloutier, along with two picks next year, a first round and a third round for their #4 overall. So if you break down the trades it works out to essentially this….
The Bolts traded Pavel Brendl to the Rangers for Niklas Sundstrom, Dan Clouthier, Brett Sheffelmaier, Jimmie Olvestad, and the Rangers’ first and third round picks next year. Basically six players for one. The two players they got from the Rangers fill immediate needs. Sundstrom is a skilled two way forward who should emerge as an offensive threat, now that he will be given greater freedom in the offensive end instead of being counted on to be so defensively responsible. Cloutier is, or will be very soon, a number one goalie. Which is something The Lightning definitely need. Sheffelmaier is big, strong and very sound defensively. Even though Tampa is stocked with very good young defensive prospects, he adds a dimension they do not have and allows them to possibly deal one of those younger players for additional immediate help. Olvestad was rated 10th among euro players before an unexplainable drop in the CSB rankings. Many scouts have said that he was a steal at #88 overall. Add to all of that the fact that both Tampa Bay and New York have a very good chance to miss the playoffs next year, and the Lightning could possibly have two top ten picks in next years draft, which is projected to be better overall than this years, and an extra 3rd round pick. Tampa Bay had planned to take maybe 3 goalies in this draft to beef up it’s system. With the acquisition of Cloutier, they only had to take two. They liked Konstantinov a lot but didn’t want to waste a 2nd round or high 3rd round pick on him. But they sure didn’t think that he would last until the 4th. Picking up the extra 3rd round picks also allowed them to take Konstantinov with the first pick in the 3rd round to assure they got him and still be able to get a guy they wanted there (Sheffelmaier). Other than these moves and picks, the draft was somewhat uneventful. They did pick up Kaspers Astashenko who is a nasty defencemen who loves to get physical, which they need. The other selections are not reaches but are hit or miss. Fedor Fedorov is a question mark because he was cut by the Detroit Vipers, but did catch on with Port Huron of the UHL. G.M. Rick Dudley said that even though he did not put up good numbers, he does have great bloodlines and is a tremendous skater who was competing against much older players while with Port Huron. They exercised an option to take Philly’s 5th round pick this year, which they turned into their 3rd goalie, Michal Lanicek. Many say Lanicek is really coming on, but is still a couple of years away. They also made a couple of late round trades for extra picks next year which will give them some ammunition for trades this offseason or at next years draft.
In review, the Lightning not only got some good young players, but addressed some immediate needs and still kept with their philosophy of building with youth. All in all, a very good draft. Several G.M.’s were very surprised at how well Tampa Bay did. In fact some, including Glen Sather, said that the Lightning are now a significantly better team than they were last week.