Hardly any mock drafts had Seth Jones (NAS) slipping past the second overall pick. But when the Florida Panthers chose Aleksander Barkov, it left Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman with an interesting choice to make – improve upon the organization's defensive prospects, or add another highly skilled forward to the mix.
The team ultimately drafted the dynamic Jonathan Drouin with the third overall selection. The Lightning made six total selections on draft day, however none were defensemen. In total, the Bolts selected five forwards and one goaltender.
Jonathan Drouin, LW, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
1st Round, 3rd Overall
Height: 5'10 Weight: 190
In Drouin, the Lightning have acquired a truly gifted forward capable of making an immediate impact in the NHL. His playmaking skills and hockey sense are exceptional, while his explosive skating ability and quickness should create a challenge for many opposing defenders. He is also extremely agile and possesses excellent on-ice vision.
Drouin's playmaking abilities have already drawn lofty comparisons to Patrick Kane and future Lightning teammate Martin St. Louis. It is his complete skillset, however, that had many NHL executives and amateur scouts touting him as maybe the most talented forward in the draft.
Drouin, who was named CHL's Player of the Year, should be given a very long look when training camp opens for the 2013-14 season. The Lightning appear to have a hole in their top six forward group, and adding a player with Drouin's ability would certainly help fill that gap. There is a strong possibility that he will start the year flanking either sniper Steven Stamkos or the recently acquired Valtteri Filppula.
Hockey's Future shot video of Drouin at the 2013 NHL Draft. You can view his extended remarks in this HF video.
Adam Erne, RW, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
2nd Round, 33rd Overall
Height: 6' Weight: 210
Perhaps surprising a few experts, Tampa Bay passed on taking one of talented defensemen still remaining in the second round in favor of skilled power-forward Adam Erne. Considered a possible late first-rounder, Erne slipped to the second and the Lightning did not hesitate to add a player of his caliber.
Erne plays a bullish game with a combination of great speed, soft hands, and tenacity. He uses his 210 pound frame very effectively, which helps him get to the dirty areas to score goals. Erne also displays an agitator quality.
The Connecticut native will need to work on his physical conditioning and cardiovascular strength before he is able to make a significant impact in the NHL. Once he does, Erne projects to be a gritty, top six forward.
Hockey's Future shot video of Erne's media scrum at the 2013 NHL Combine, which can be viewed in this HF video.
Kristers Gudlevskis, G, HK Riga (MHL)
5th Round, 124th Overall
Height: 6'3 Weight: 189
With their third pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, the Lightning selected Latvian goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis. An overage prospect, Gudlevskis possesses good size and his hard to beat in close. He plays more of an aggressive style but is positionally smart, especially when cutting down the shooter's angles. He does however have a knack for letting in the occasional bad goal, but seems to be improving in that aspect. Gudlevskis posted a solid 2.22 goals against average in four games for Latvia during the 2013 World Championships, and was named one of the team's three best players of the tournament.
Ideally, the Lightning would like to see what their newest addition between the pipes can do on North American ice. He is expected to return to Riga for the 2013-14, but perhaps Tampa Bay can work out a way to bring him over to one of their affiliates sooner rather than later.
With their second overage selection of the draft, Tampa Bay takes Finnish winger Henri Ikonen at 154th overall. Ikonen, who spent 2012-13 with Kingston of the OHL, is the prototypical Lightning late-rounder. He is a hard working forward with good hockey sense and a strong compete level, something Tampa Bay has grown accustomed to focusing on in the later stages of a draft.
Ikonen possesses average to above average skills, yet he fails to excel in any one category. His work in the defensive zone speaks to his two-way play and he projects to be a bottom-six role player. However, he could also top out as a career minor leaguer. He is most likely going back to Finland's SM-Liiga for 2013-14, but he would be eligible for Syracuse of the AHL the year after.
Saku Salminen, C, Jokerit Helsinki (SM-liiga)
7th Round, 184th Overall
Height: 6'3 Weight: 187
The Lightning added some size up the middle after selecting Salminen with the first of two seventh round picks. The big forward has played in numerous international appearances and spent some time matching up against grown men for Jokerit. Skating appears to be the biggest area he needs to improve, but he still tops out as a checking line/shutdown type center. His greatest attributes are his defensive awareness and penalty killing ability.
Joel Vermin, RW, Bern (NLA)
7th Round, 186th Overall
Height: 5'11 Weight: 192
Tampa Bay finished up their 2013 draft with the selection of Swiss native Joel Vermin. Vermin, 21, was the third overage prospect the Lightning selected on draft day and could prove to be a late-round steal. He is an exceptionally talented player who is loaded with offensive abilities. He has a nice combination of speed, quick hands, and puck control that he uses to create some highlight reel moves.
Like many of his fellow Lightning prospects, he lacks ideal NHL size at the moment. He will need to continue to get stronger if he has any hopes of success in the NHL. His wealth of experience in the Swiss leagues is impressive, but it is just too early to tell how his game will transform if and when he gets to North America.