Lightning 2010 draft preview

By Ben Bebernitz

Top 10 prospects

1. Carter Ashton, RW
2. Dustin Tokarski, G
3. Richard Panik, RW
4. Dana Tyrell, C
5. Ty Wishart, D
6. Matt Lashoff, D
7. Vladimir Mihalik, D
8. James Wright, C
9. Blair Jones, C
10. Johan Harju, LW

The Lightning hold the sixth overall pick in the 2010 Draft.

Team Needs

With the Lightning missing the playoffs for a third straight season following a lull after the Olympic break, the team could use a multitude of assets. The winds of change are swirling through Tampa, so needs are in flux as new management and coaching moves in. Right now, the Lightning have three distinct needs — a top-six forward, a top-four defenseman, and a goalie. It does not appear that they have any prospects who are ready to step in these roles next season.

Over this past season, it was clear that they definitely need more secondary scoring. The second line was a disappointment all season. Alex Tanguay simply did not produce and Vinny Lecavalier did not net the point totals for a player who made $10 million last season. It was so depleted as times that Stephane Veilleux spent significant time on the line. The Lightning would probably be greatly served by finding a playmaker for Lecavalier to try to get him near his past heights. It was clear last season that Marty St. Louis should be the compliment to Stamkos.

Of course, the Lightning could also use a top defenseman. While they possess Victor Hedman and some serviceable rearguards, no one is really ready to step into a top pairing. It is quite evident that Andrej Meszaros and Mattias Ohlund cannot be in a true top pair. This glaring hole is probably best served to be filled through free agency or via trade than through the draft this season in the sixth slot.

The Lightning will need, at least, a backup goalie this season. Mike Smith is certainly not the answer as a starter, so there is a chance that a starter is brought in and he is jettisoned. The Lightning do have two nice assets in Dustin Tokarski and Jaroslav Janus. While they are probably not ready for the prime time, the Lightning could use a good veteran for a few seasons to see if they develop.

Organizational Strengths

While they may have some gaping holes on the big club, their organization does have some strengths with their prospects. The Lightning certainly have a skillful group of forwards that include Carter Ashton, Richard Panik, and Dana Tyrell. Blair Jones and James Wright have shown enough talent and tenacity to make it to the NHL already. Alex Hutchings and Mitch Fadden have shown in juniors that they can produce some big numbers.

The organization also has three defensemen who could perhaps be NHL players next season if they develop over the summer and have a good training camp. Ty Wishart is the player showing the most promise, Matt Lashoff has shown glimpses of being a good pro in the NHL and AHL, and the size of Vladimir Mihalik is hard to be ignored. Even with Riku Helenius being shipped off to Sweden, they are pretty well stocked in the goalie department. They do not need another young goalie at this time.

Organization Weaknesses

The Lightning do have nice pieces in their prospect pool, but they do not own any impact NHL-ready players as of now. It would be hard to believe that their top prospect, Carter Ashton, would even have a chance to make the NHL this season. Wishart would probably have the best chance of anyone to make the NHL in 2010-11, but that is by no means a sure thing.

When it comes to forwards, the Lightning have an abundance of wingers compared to their center selection. They could use a center or two as backup in case their current ones do not develop to the degree required. Of the three forward positions, it is best to be strongest and most stocked up the middle.

Draft Tendencies

With this being GM Steve Yzerman’s first draft and a overhaul on the team needed, no one is sure what to expect. A trade out of their first-round selection cannot be discounted. Yzerman has the 6th, 63rd, 66th, 72nd, 96th, 118th, 156th, and 186th overall picks at his disposal.

The recent draft history of the Lightning has been quite good with the selections of Stamkos and Hedman. Between 1999-2007, the same cannot be said for the team. When it comes to the selection of very good pros during that time, it has been a barren wasteland. There were some serviceable selections, but it has hurt the team long-term since the lockout. The argument can be made that the player with the most impact they have drafted during that time was Alexander Svitov because he was traded for Darryl Sydor, who helped them win the Cup in 2004.

One thing the Lightning have proven over that time though is that they are not discriminatory based on league or geographical location. They will pick players from high school, the NCAA, juniors, and from every major hockey country in Europe.

Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result
at pick No. 6: Brett Connolly, RW.