Lightning 2000 Draft Preview
The 2000 NHL Entry Draft holds several options for the up start Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning hold 15 picks in this years draft, including two picks in the top ten. The Bolts pick at numbers five and eight in the first round. These picks have led to a lot of speculation as to what GM Rick Dudley has planned. Dudley has acknowledged that several teams have called in interest of the picks, and Dudley has made no secret that he is willing to trade the picks for immediate help on the team. If Dudley were to trade the picks look for a goaltender, veteran defenseman, and/or scoring winger to come back in return.
In the later rounds look for the Lightning to stock up on wingers and goaltenders, but don’t be surprised if a few more defensemen are added to the already talented corp.
As the draft draws near, the question most asked about the Lightning’s draft is not who they’ll take in the first round, but if they’ll be picking at all. With the 5th and 8th overall picks and the need for immediate help, General Manager Rick Dudley should probably stock up on extra cell phone batteries. All indications show that he has already fielded numerous calls about trading one or both of the picks. He has said publicly that he will trade them if it will improve the team. He looks at draft picks very much as he does players. They are assets. Although every team needs to have a strong system, one cannot dismiss the fact that from time to time immediate help for a team outweighs the need to bolster their youth.
With an already very young team and a pretty good stable of players in the system, it appears the Lightning could afford to trade its first selections for the second year in a row. With this years draft being very balanced in the first round and not having many standout players, the need to get one of the top picks doesn’t seem as great as it is most years. Even if they trade both picks they still would hold the 34th overall pick in the draft. A very good player should be available at this point. Remember that the Lightning’s best two prospects, Brad Richards and Sheldon Keefe, were selected in the 3rd and 2nd rounds respectively. These two players both led their leagues in scoring this past season and each is destined to be NHL players if not stars. Be sure though that no matter what they do this weekend, the Lightning will not veer from its plan to rebuild. They will not trade for an older player just to win a few more games next season. If they make a move it will get a player that fits the mold the management has in mind. The player(s) will be veterans, but also will have plenty of years left. Just a hint ….. Watch for the Capitals to be talking to Dudley a lot. They want to move Bondra and the Lightning would love to have him. Although some big money teams have been rumored to have the upper hand with him, the Caps would love those draft picks. Let’s assume Rick Dudley doesn’t make any deals. What will the bolts do then? Well, they have said that they will take the best player available regardless of position. But heck, doesn’t every team say that? With the Lightning though, it’s probably true. They really aren’t that weak at any position in their system. Also, what they think is the best available nay not be everyone’s idea of best. They like big and fast. Don’t we all? So don’t be surprised if they pass an obvious choice up for a lesser player that fits their mold of the ideal Bolt. If they have the choice between a forward and a defenseman that the forward might get the nod. They are loaded with great young D. Adding more would not make that much sense, although if he is to wheel and deal a little this off season, about the only asset he has other than the draft picks is the ton of D that he already has. With ten defensmen who have played or should play in the NHL next season, and all but 1 of them under the age of 26, moves are almost a given. If he makes moves with some of them then they may want to reload a bit at the blueline.
They have an idea of what type of player they want and will take them over a possibly more talented player. Chemistry is important in their plans. The Lighting should again this year make at least the first round or two of the draft unpredictable if not exciting.
Going into the draft they have a very dedicated and prepared team. With over 20 scouts in the organization now, and a heavy concentration in Euro scouting, the Lightning put together a draft board of over 400 players. They will be prepared to make a selection no matter what curves opposing GM’s throw at them. They have also stockpiled 15 picks, 5 in the 7th round alone. They will probably go strong into the European market in the later rounds. They have 4 full time scouts in Europe and Dudley and Head Scout Jake Goertzen have traveled there extensively. They have scouted the Euro leagues heavily and will more than likely pick up experienced players from the elite leagues there. Players in the 24 to 26 year old age range who could possibly step right in and play.