Lightning 2004 draft evaluation

By Vic Alvira

Tampa Bay’s 2004 draft produced two serviceable NHL players in Karri Ramo and Mike Lundin. Players such as Andy Rogers and Justin Keller still have an outside shot of being productive NHL players.

The Lightning made eight selections, who averaged 19.25 NHL games per pick, the 10th-worst average among the 30 teams.

Andy Rogers, D 
1st round, 30th overall – Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: NHL prospect

Rogers was one of many big, mobile defensemen selected in numerous drafts by previous Tampa Bay management. Injuries have plagued the defenseman from getting an opportunity to bring his game to the next level. Ankle injuries slowed him down in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons, allowing him to play in only 48 and 21 games respectively. A leg injury held him to only 48 games in his rookie AHL campaign for the Springfield Falcons in the 2006-07 season. Rogers’ second and third professional seasons were no different with the injury bug as he only suited up for 69 games, including four in the ECHL with the Mississippi Sea Wolves.

When healthy, Rogers is a solid defensive defenseman. He skates well and plays his position soundly. He was dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs along with Jamie Heward, Olaf Kolzig and a 2009 fourth-round pick at the 2008-09 trade deadline. While his tenure with the Tampa Bay organization is over, if Rogers is able to solve his injury woes he has a chance to be a serviceable third-pairing defenseman at the NHL level.

Mark Tobin, LW
2nd round, 65th overall – Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: Bust

Tobin was another prototypical draft selection of previous Tampa Bay management. He was a great character forward who was willing to get his nose dirty and displayed terrific work ethic. Tobin hasn’t been able to find that exceptional offensive ability. He put up average numbers in the QMJHL with Rimouski, posting 26 goals and 51 points while playing 67 games in his final season with the Oceanic in 2005-06. Tobin was heavily relied upon to fill in offensively with the departure of Sidney Crosby from Rimouski, but was never able to fit the bill.

Tobin and the Lightning were never able to agree on a contract. He was signed by the Boston Bruins as a free agent in the 2006-07 season. In the 2008-09 season, Tobin suited up for the Corpus Christi Icerays of the Central Hockey league. He put together four goals and 19 points in 53 games for the Icerays.

Mike Lundin, D
4th round, 102nd overall – University of Maine
NHL Games Played: 106
Status: NHL Player

Lundin has become a serviceable NHL defenseman. Not much was expected from the former Black Bear in the 2007-08 season as a rookie, but Lundin managed to leapfrog many of the other Lightning defensive prospects in training camp. He brought smart and safe plays to the blue line. He played in 81 games in his rookie season that year for the Lightning. Lundin mostly served as Tampa Bay’s fifth or sixth defenseman, but occasionally would step into a top-four role.

In the 2008-09 season, Lundin was sent down to AHL affiliate Norfolk after 25 games. Playing more minutes with the Admirals was an attempt to spark his offensive abilities, especially on the power play. He remained in Norfolk the remainder of the 2008-09 season and compiled four goals and 29 points in 51 games.

Brandon Elliott, D
5th round, 158th overall — Mississauga Ice Dogs (OHL)
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: Bust

Elliott was drafted as a defenseman, but he filled the forward role while in the Tampa Bay organization. He was a tough, bruiser type of player while with the Ice Dogs. A big man at 6’4 and 225 pounds at the time of the draft, Elliott was in the enforcer, agitator mold of a player.

Elliott was signed to a three-year entry-level contract on August 5th, 2005. He was only able to manage 12 games in two seasons with Springfield of the AHL. He spent most of his tenure with the Lightning organization on the Johnstown Chiefs of the ECHL in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons. He played the enforcer role respectably, by putting together 344 penalty minutes in 116 games over two seasons with the Chiefs. Elliott also posted 21 goals and 34 points in those same two seasons with the Chiefs.

Dustin Collins, LW
5th round, 163rd overall – Northern Michigan University
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: NHL Prospect

Collins was another prototypical selection by the previous Tampa Bay management. He encompassed excellent work ethic, big size, was physical and could skate well. Collins never put together eye-popping numbers while at Northern Michigan University, but his hard work did earn him an amateur tryout contract with Springfield of the AHL in the 2006-07 season. He was able to accumulate 11 penalty minutes but no points in his 11 games with Springfield that season.

Collins spent the 2008-09 season with the Ontario Reign of the ECHL, the Manitoba Moose and Manchester Monarchs of the AHL. The hardworking forward notched 11 goals and 14 points between the two AHL clubs in 50 games. He is also having a strong playoff with the Manitoba Moose.

Jan Zapletal, D
6th round, 188th overall – Vsetin Jr. (Czech Jr.)
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: Bust

The Lightning selected another big mobile defenseman with their first sixth round pick of the 2004 draft. Zapletal was considered a long-term project for Tampa Bay. He played for the Regina Pats of the WHL in the 2004-05 season. While with the Pats he was only able to accumulate five points and a dismal -19 rating in 55 games.

Zapletal returned back to the Czech Republic to play with HC Vsetin U20 club for the 2005-06 season. He also saw game action with HC Vsetin of the Extraliga league for 16 games, as well as 20 games for HC Vajgar Hradec in the 2005-06 season. Zapletal posted 3 assists and a -7 rating in 45 games with all three teams. For the 2008-09 season, Zapletal was a part of HC Olomouc, but appeared in no games.

Karri Ramo, G
6th round, 191st overall – Pelicans Jr. (Finland Jr.)
NHL Games Played: 48
Status: NHL Player

Tampa Bay chose the big, athletic goaltender in Ramo with their second pick in the sixth round of the 2004 draft. Ramo had a knack for performing admirably on weak teams. He played respectably with the Pelicans of the Finnish Elite League in the 2004-05 season. Ramo’s numbers were not that great as he posted a 4-12-4 record, with a.898 save percentage and 3.98 GAA in the 2004-05 season. However, he did keep his team in games they had no business winning.

Ramo came over to North America in the 2006-07 season and suited up for the AHL Springfield Falcons. He was one of the lone bright spots for the Falcons that season. He put together a 15-24-1 record, with a .906 save percentage and a 3.13 GAA. Once again, Ramo kept his team in games most nights, on a poor Springfield team that 2006-07 season. Ramo also saw his first taste of NHL action in the 2006-07 season with two games played.

Ramo has been a fixture of the Lightning goaltending situation since the 2007-08 season. In the 2007-08 season, the young goaltender played 22 games for Tampa Bay. He accumulated a .899 save percentage, with a 3.03 GAA and a 7-11-3 record. He showed flashes of brilliance, but struggled with his rebound control and eventually lost playing time to newly-acquired goaltender Mike Smith near the end of the 2007-08 season.

He began the 2008-09 season with Norfolk because of the acquisition of veteran Olaf Kolzig. With injuries to both Kolzig and Smith, Ramo emerged as Tampa’s starter down the stretch of the 2008-09 season. He had early struggles, but progressed well near the end of the season. Ramo finished the 2008-09 season with a 4-10-7 record, an .894 save percentage and 3.66 GAA. Rebound control still remains his biggest issue, but there has been minor improvement. His raw talent and athleticism are there and he has a very bright future with the Lightning.

Justin Keller, LW
8th round, 245th overall – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: NHL Prospect

Keller’s knock has always been his small size. He stands at only 5’11, but brings a lot of heart, skating ability and grit to the table. He proved to be a nice selection in the eighth round by what he accomplished in his final two seasons in the WHL. In the 2005-06 season for the Kelowna Rockets, which was Keller’s final season in the WHL, he put up an astounding 51 goals and 88 points in 72 games. His success earned him a three-year entry-level contract with the Lightning in 2006.

He has been fairly average since starting with the Falcons in the 2006-07 season. He posted only 13 goals and 24 points in 60 games in his rookie year with the Falcons. Keller has seen his share of struggles while with the Admirals. He hasn’t been able to hit that huge offensive surge that he showed in his years in junior hockey. In the 2008-09 season, he had a short stint in the ECHL with the Augusta Lynx posting four goals and five points in five games. Upon his return to Norfolk from Augusta, Keller hit a bit of a hot streak to end his 2008-09 season. He put together a career high in goals with 18 in only 58 games with Norfolk. Keller has a lot of determination and is a hard worker. That drive may eventually lead him to an energy line role in the NHL down the line.