After making the trades on draft day, the Lightning’s first pick in the 1999 draft was in the second round, the 47th overall pick. With that pick they selected Sheldon Keefe, RW from the Barrie Colts. Although he came with tremendous statistical numbers, 51 goals, 65 asst., 116 pts. in 66 games, he also came with some baggage. Namely Mr. Frost. The agent/representative was rumored to have been advising Sheldon. Whether or not he actually was, is not clear. It is now, and was at the time of the draft, clear that if there was any connection between the two it had been terminated.
Tampa Bay had confidence that the information they got, about there being no ties between the two, was good. They also had heard that some of the other criticism about his attitude and size were mainly sour grapes brought on by the rumors about Mr. Frost. At pick #47, if their information was correct, they had a steal.
GM Rick Dudley and then Head Scout Don Murdoch still had some concerns about picking up Keefe, but decided to go with him at 47. After the first round had ended, he hadn’t been picked, and there would be no walk to the podium, and they figured he would leave the arena. That didn’t happen. Then as it was beginning to appear they may get him and he remained in his seat, they assumed he would wait to see where he was going and then depart. The selection was made and announced. The Lightning brass gazed into the stands to find their player and as they had guessed he was no longer in his seat. Understanding that he was probably upset about being taken so far down, they didn’t worry too much.
Things took an unexpected turn at this point. The reason Sheldon wasn’t in his seat is because he was on his way down to the Lightning table. He arrived in good spirits and seemed very personable. He went through the cursory introductions with a smile and enthusiasm. He not only put on a jersey and hat for pictures but kept them on and stayed at the table to watch the events. Somewhat dismayed by his attitude, Don Murdoch took him away to get something to eat and have a talk. During his conversation with Keefe, Murdoch was more than impressed with not only his attitude but his intellect also. He said all the right things.
They knew they had a talented player in Keefe. What they didn’t know was what type of person they had. After the draft day interviews and some others since, the Lightning are convinced that they pulled off a major coup with this pick. Size is still a concern, but he does posess a knack for avoiding hits. When he does have to make contact, he shows the ability to position himself for it properly. There have been and are smaller players in the NHL who have had good careers. He has great scoring ability and good hockey sense. There is no reason to believe that Sheldon cannot become a very good player at the NHL level.
Current plans are to send him back to Barrie for one more year. He will get a good look at training camp however. Not being able to send him to the minors due to his age will more than likely prevent him from staying up.