Answering the 5 Biggest Questions About the Tampa Bay Lightning's Draft Plans

Eric Steitz@esteitz16Analyst IIIMay 29, 2013

Answering the 5 Biggest Questions About the Tampa Bay Lightning's Draft Plans

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    The Tampa Bay Lightning have the third overall selection in the 2013 NHL draft, but that’s about the only thing they know. As for the draft itself, there are a few questions the Lightning will need to address before draft day. 

    There was a bit of a shake up in the 2013 NHL entry draft rankings last week. Consensus No. 1 pick Seth Jones dropped to No. 2 in favor of Nathan MacKinnon. 

    With questions now surrounding the No. 1 pick, the Tampa Bay Lightning have their own questions that need answers.

Could Seth Jones Fall to No. 3?

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    The Bolts defense has been a weakness for the past few seasons. Now, the Lightning look to improve the blue line for their young goaltending tandem.

    Seth Jones is the top defensive prospect in the draft rankings, but Darnell Nurse is ranked No. 6 by the ISS.

    The Colorado Avalanche (first pick) and Florida Panthers (second pick) need defense. But the new head coach of the Avalanche, Patrick Roy, wants to shop the No. 1 pick around

    The most clear-cut answer to the Jones question is probably not, especially if the Avalanche trade the No. 1 pick.

If Not Seth Jones, Is Darnell Nurse Next?

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    It’s no secret the Lightning need defense, but do you pass up on talents like Jonathan Drouin or Valeri Nichushkin to bolster the defense? No.

    Tampa Bay understands the need for defense. But if it’s not Jones, the Lightning can and should pick up either Drouin, MacKinnon or Nichushkin to make an immediate impact on the team in 2013-14.

Is Valeri Nichushkin Worth the Risk?

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    Yes, yes and yes. There is always some risk associated with drafting a Russian player who is currently under contract in the KHL. Still,  Nichushkin’s skill set makes him worth the risk. 

    He is a winger who has a ton of talent. According to Damien Cristodero of the Tampa Bay Times, Nichushkin is worth it all—if he is willing to come to the NHL, and he says he will. Via Cristodero:

    That is all that matters because Nichushkin is so talented with so much upside, Tampa Bay might be willing to wait for him to play out his KHL deal.

    "Huge, with all kinds of talent," said Lightning head scout Al Murray, who critiqued his top draftable players in alphabetical order so as not to reveal the team's intentions. "He's big. He's a tremendous skater. He's got individual one-on-one skills with the puck."


How Do You Handle the Later Rounds?

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    Jason Haas of Lightning Shout put together an interesting piece on the Lightning’s draft success—or lack thereof—in the franchise’s history. He mentions that Blair Jones (114 NHL games) is the most tenured player for the Bolts who was drafted in the third round or later. 

    Tampa Bay has a first- and second-round pick this year but doesn’t pick again until the fifth round. The Lightning finish up with four picks in the final three rounds. 

    If the Lightning want to be successful in the future, they need to draft effectively in the late rounds. Addressing depth at center and adding more defense should be the plan for the later rounds.

If the Bolts Struggle in 2013-14, Will This Be the Last Draft for Steve Yzerman?

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    Yes. Steve Yzerman inherited a team that went on a magical run to end the 2010-11 season. After reaching the Eastern Conference Final, the Lightning have missed the playoffs in the last two seasons despite having some of the league’s best scorers.

    From the past two draft years, only Ondrej Palat (2011) has made any amount of impact on the big club—one out of 14 total picks. 

    Yzerman earned his job with a stellar effort on the gold-medal-winning Canadian team in the 2010 Olympics, but he could lose that title if the Lightning don’t make the playoffs in 2013-14.