Lightning Draft Review 2003

By Pete Choquette

The Tampa Bay Lightning quietly went about their business of addressing their two greatest organizational weaknesses this weekend. In a draft that included four Lightning trades, including the trade of their first round selection, the Lightning focused on acquiring a bevy of big, mobile, physical defensemen and goaltenders. In the end, they brought away eleven new prospects with a distinctively North American flavor.

Mike Egener, D

2nd Round, 34th Overall
Height/Weight: 6’ 3.5” 195 lbs
Shoots: Left
Club: Calgary (WHL)
CSS Final Rank: #40 N.A. Skater

Regular Season Statistics: 40GP, 2G 8A 10P, 210PIMs

The Lightning started their draft by trading down from their 25th overall selection in the first round to acquire two high second round picks and a sixth round pick from the Florida Panthers. Not only did this allow them to move one of their three second round picks for St. Louis forward Cory Stillman, but it also allowed the Lightning to take defenseman Mike Egener with their top pick. The son of a Canadian military officer, Egener is an exciting blend between raw physical talent and exceptional toughness and character. Scouts compare his work ethic, leadership, and character to that of New Jersey’s Ken Daneyko.

Physically, Egener has an imposing frame that will surely be close to 6’4” and 225 pounds as he continues to physically mature in the next couple of years. Egener is not shy in using it to punish opponents along the wall and in front of his own net. He is also incredibly mobile for a young man his size, as evidenced by his performance at the CHL Top Prospects Game skills testing. The Hitmen defenseman turned in the second best performance amongst defensemen at the event in skating drills, turning in an impressive 60’ dash time of under three seconds and a 150’ dash time of under six seconds. In addition, he has a booming 95 mph slap shot and budding puck handling and passing skills which give reason to believe he may have more offensive upside than he has shown to this point in his career. He has shown some offense in his journey to the NHL. As a bantam in Calgary, Egener accumulated 30 goals and 75 points in just 40 games.

The Hitmen’s Humanitarian of the Year was a surprise selection to the Canadian Under-18 Team in Slovakia last year, and this year he will participate in the Canadian U-20 Junior Team development camp. Egener’s stock was hurt by a pair of concussions suffered during the year that cut his season to a mere 40 games, but after releasing his medical records and going to a specialist recommended by Tampa Bay, the Lightning believe he has a clean bill of health. Hockey’s Future sees Egener as a physical top-four stay-at-home defenseman with the leadership potential to some day wear a letter on his sweater for the Lightning. Egener was listed at #53 by The Hockey News in their Hot 100 list.

Projected Role: Physical Top-Four Defenseman

Matt Smaby, D

2nd Round, 41st Overall
Height/Weight: 6’ 4.5” 202 lbs
Shoots: Left
Club: Shattuck St. Mary’s (USHS)
CSS Final Rank: #51 N.A. Skater

Regular Season Statistics: 57GP, 3G 20A 23P, 114PIMs

The Lightning opted for another big, mobile defenseman with their second pick of the draft in selecting United States high school player Matt Smaby. Smaby is the first U.S. high school player selected in Lightning history. The team’s scouts have compared Smaby favorably to Egener in his size, mobility, grit, and character. There is some concern over his low statistical output at the high school level, but it is important to point out Smaby played a good portion of the season with his hand in a cast after suffering a broken hand. There was some thought he would not opt into this draft, which diminished the amount that some teams watched him during the season, possibly hurting his draft stock. Smaby has committed to the University of North Dakota of the WCHA and will attend Team USA’s U-20 development camp later this year. Hockey’s Future also projects Smaby as a physical top-four stay-at-home defenseman. Smaby was #79 in THN’s Hot-100 list.

Projected Role: Physical Top-Four Defenseman

Jonathan Boutin, G

3rd Round, 96th Overall
Height/Weight: 6’1” 200 lbs
Catches: Left
Club: Halifax(QMJHL)
CSS Final Rank: #4 N.A. Goaltender

Regular Season Statistics: 47GP, 22-11-2, 4SO, 2.90GAA, .889sv%

Finally, after eleven consecutive drafts without dipping into the deepest well of goaltending talent in the world, the Lightning has selected a French-Canadian netminder in Jonathan Boutin of Halifax. Boutin has a decent sized frame and plays a prototypical butterfly style in the mold of Anaheim’s Jean-Sebastien Giguere and has many of the raw physical characteristics necessary to succeed as a goaltender in professional hockey. He played well as the starter for Halifax the first half of the season before wavering and losing his job to overage player Guillaume Lavallee. However, with Lavallee leaving next season, Boutin will once again assume the starter’s role in Halifax, and will gain crucial minutes and experience which will undoubtedly aid his development. Jonathan earned some plaudits from the Lightning scouting staff for the maturity and responsibility he displayed in his pre-draft interview with the club. Boutin was ranked the #4 N.A. goaltender by Central Scouting.

Projected Role: Starting Goaltender

Doug O’Brien, D

6th Round, 192nd Overall
Height/Weight: 6’1” 193 lbs
Shoots: Left
Club: Hull (QMJHL)
CSS Final Rank: Not Ranked

Regular Season Statistics: 71GP 10G 34A 44P 102 PIMs

In the two seasons prior to this year, O’Brien only managed to compile a modest 13 points, but he exploded onto the scene for Hull in the QMJHL amassing an impressive 44 points for the Memorial Cup runner-up. O’Brien is a good skater with an impressive range of offensive talents in the mold of fellow Lightning prospect Gerard Dicaire of Kootenay. Like another Lightning prospect, Paul Ranger, who also enjoyed great offensive numbers after only modest production if his first two years with Oshawa, O’Brien has been invited to the Canadian U-20 Junior Team development camp later this year, meaning the Lightning could potentially have as many as four backliners in the WJC’s next year (O’Brien, Egener, Ranger – Canada; Smaby – USA).

Projected Role: Offensive Fifth Defenseman

Gerald Coleman, G

7th Round, 224th Overall
Height/Weight: 6’4” 189 lbs
Catches: Left
Club: London (OHL)
CSS Final Rank: #20 N.A. Goaltender

Regular Season Statistics: 27GP 6-9-3 1SO 3.30GAA .892sv%

It’s never a bad idea to take a big goaltender in the later rounds of the draft. Coleman, the first ever member of the NHL Diversity Task Force program to be drafted, is a big athletic backstop with some very raw mechanics and positioning which will have to be worked on if he is to succeed at the next level of hockey. This past season he served as the London Knights backup behind overage player Chris Houle, but he has the inside track to take over the starting job for London full time next year, much like Boutin in Halifax, giving him valuable experience and playing time. Coleman also has modest international experience playing for Team USA in the U-17 tournament a year ago with the US National Talent Development Program. A second round OHL pick, Coleman is described by Lightning head scout Jake Goertzen as topping out as a NHL backup goaltender at this point. Considering Coleman’s raw skills and size, his ceiling could be higher down the line.

Projected Role: Backup Goaltender

Jay Rosehill, D

7th Round, 227th Overall
Height/Weight: 6’3” 195 lbs
Shoots: Left
Club: Olds (AJHL)
CSS Final Rank: #139 N.A. Skater

Regular Season Statistics: 49GP, 4G 1A 5P, 204PIMs

After a short interlude of the previous three picks, the Lightning returned to the task of draft big, mobile, and physical defensemen with the selection of Jay Rosehill of the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Olds Grizzlies. A mean spirited hitter who isn’t afraid to drop the mits, Rosehill amassed 204 penalty minutes this season in 49 games. At this stage, his meager offensive output at a lower level of hockey is a concern, but he will have four years with Matt Smaby at the University of North Dakota to develop that side of his game.

Projected Role: Physical Sixth Defenseman

Raimonds Danilicis, F

8th Round, 255th Overall
Height/Weight: 6’3” 180 lbs
Shoots: Right
Club: Daugavpils Jr. (LAT)
CSS Final Rank: Not Ranked

WJC Pool B Statistics: 5GP, 0G 2A 2P, 12PIMs

The tradition of Yuri Yanchenkov unearthing a 6’3” forward from the former Soviet Union in the latter rounds of the draft continued with the selection of forward Raimonds Danilicis of the Daugavpils Stalkers of the Latvian junior league. Danilicis played in the Pool B World Junior Championships for Team Latvia this year and will play junior hockey in either Canada or Finland next season. The Lightning raves about Danilicis’ skating and sees him as a long-term project who could one day play on a scoring line.

Projected Role: Scoring Line Project

Brady Greco, D

8th Round, 256th Overall
Height/Weight: 6’ 2.5” 198 lbs
Shoots: Right
Club: Chicago (USHL)
CSS Final Rank: Not Ranked

Regular Season Statistics: 57GP, 9G 20A 29P, 225PIMs

Greco played two seasons ago with Michigan Tech of the WCHA where he managed 10 points in 24 games before spending this past season, his transfer year, with the Chicago Steel of the USHL. Greco put up decent offensive numbers both for Michigan Tech as a freshman and for the Steel, and plays with a high degree of edge as demonstrated by his 225 penalty minutes. Yet another big defenseman with good skating ability, Greco is slated to attend hockey powerhouse Colorado College next season.

Projected Role: Physical Sixth Defenseman

Albert Vishnyakov, W

9th Round, 273rd Overall
Height/Weight: 6’0” 185 lbs
Shoots: Right
Club: Ak Bars Kazan (RUS)
CSS Final Rank: Not Ranked

Regular Season Statistics: 47GP, 7G 6A 13P, 47PIMs

Vishnyakov, who plays for Superleague power Ak Bars, has already played parts of two seasons in the best men’s league Russia has to offer. A solid all around player, Vishnyakov scored 7 goals and 13 points last season.

Projected Role: Utility Forward

Zbynek Hrdel, C

9th Round, 286th Overall
Height/Weight: 6’2” 194 lbs
Shoots: Right
Club: Rimouski (QMJHL)
CSS Final Rank: #105 N.A. Skater

Regular Season Statistics: 65GP, 10G 14A 24P, 131PIMs

Hrdel started his first Quebec League season strongly before fizzling on what was a terrible Oceanic club. An intriguing combination of skill and physical competitiveness, the Lightning will hope Hrdel’s numbers will improve greatly on a team which will include first round pick Marc-Antoine Pouliot and young phenom Sidney Crosby. Hrdel also gained some international experience playing in a limited role for the Czech Republic in the U-18 World Junior Championships (1-0-1, 29 PIMs).

Projected Role: Power Forward Project

Nick Tarnasky, C

9th Round, 287th Overall
Height/Weight: 6’ 1.5” 218 lbs
Shoots: Left
Club: Lethbridge(WHL)
CSS Final Rank: #166 N.A. Skater

Regular Season Statistics: 69GP, 9G 20A 29P, 84PIMs

Blessed with only average skating ability and skill, the Lightning look to improve the overall character of their organization just as they did last season with Medicine Hat’s Darren Reid by selecting the hard working Nick Tarnasky. Tarnasky is a prototypical Western Canadian player who is an unabashed rink rat who gets by through shear effort and heart.

Projected Role: Minor League Role Player