Breaking Down Best Fits for Tampa Bay Lightning in 2013 NHL Draft

Eric SteitzAnalyst IIIApril 14, 2013

Breaking Down Best Fits for Tampa Bay Lightning in 2013 NHL Draft

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    There are two ways to improve an NHL franchise—through the draft or through trades. The Tampa Bay Lightning did a solid job last offseason in acquiring talented young players that will grow within the organization. Now, it is time to focus on the 2013 NHL draft and the players that will be the best fit for the Lightning. 

    With the Bolts all but eliminated from the 2013 postseason, the focus now shifts towards developing young players and improving the franchise for the future. With the draft just two months away, general manager Steve Yzerman and his scouting directors will focus on improving weaknesses through the draft. 

    Here are the best fits for the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2013 NHL draft.

Aleksander Barkov (Finland)

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    The Lightning will be looking for a center to replace Vincent Lecavalier. Lecavalier’s future with the club is uncertain, and the Lightning don’t have much depth at center.

    Aleksander Barkov is a big center from Finland that could have an almost immediate impact with the club. He is currently 17 years old, but notes that he has an excellent offensive game and is a very mature player. 

    Barkov would be a strong second-line center behind Steven Stamkos and a great fit for the organization. 

Nikita Zadorov (Russia)

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    The Bolts need to improve the blue line with size and physical presence. Look no further than Nikita Zadorov. Zadorov is 6’5” and 230 pounds. He is playing with the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League and ranked as the No. 30 skater in North America

    The owner of the Knights, Mark Hunter, said that Zadorov has “unlimited potential.” That’s pretty high praise for someone who has seen Patrick Kane, John Tavares, Rick Nash and Corey Perry first hand.

Patrik Bartosak (Czech Republic)

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    The Lightning traded goaltender Dustin Tokarski for Cedrick Desjardins this season. That opened the door for another goaltender in the system. Desjardins doesn’t look to be a significant part of the organization’s future in goal, so adding even more depth to the crease will be a focus. 

    Patrik Bartosak is an athletic goaltender that has had success in Juniors. The Czech goaltender was 14-11 with a shutout in his first year with Red Deer of the Western Hockey League. At 6’1”, he has a nice build for an NHL goaltender and could be a solid fit for the Lightning in the middle rounds.

John Hayden (USA)

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    John Hayden is a later-round forward that could add some much-needed grit to the front for the Lightning. Hayden is 6’3”, 210 pounds and a future member of the Yale University Bulldogs. 

    Hayden is a part of the USA U-17 National Team and has done a nice job against United States Hockey League opponents. Through 48 games this year, Hayden has 31 points, 78 penalty minutes and a solid plus-11 rating. 

    He isn’t afraid to drop the gloves in any situation and may be a nice piece of grit and skill to play on the Lightning second line in a few years.

Mitchell Wheaton (CAN)

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    Size and grit are two things a team can never have enough of. The Lightning need to restock their size and grit, and Mitchell Wheaton helps that. Wheaton is 6’5” and has great potential on the defensive end. 

    He is young (18) and is still learning the game, but he does a nice job with positioning and is an above-average skater both forward and backward. He is a great stay-at-home defenseman and would be a great complement to established offensive defensemen like Matt Carle and Eric Brewer.