Many years ago Vincent Lecavalier joined the Tampa Bay Lightning through the draft and made a significant impact. Who's next?
With the 2013 NHL Draft less than a month away, the Tampa Bay Lightning will be focused on building an effective draft strategy anchored by the No. 3 overall pick. There is always uncertainty in any draft, including every team’s best and worst-case scenarios.
The No. 3 pick will obviously be the main focus for the Lightning, but it won’t be the only important decision of the event. With some of the biggest superstars in franchise history nearing retirement, this draft could ease the pain of those losses.
There are four weeks left before the draft as we take a look at the best and worst-case scenarios for the Lightning.
Valeri Nichushkin has been compared to the Pittsburgh Penguins' Evgeni Malkin—not a bad place to start.
Valeri Nichushkin has the skills to be a game-changer for the Lightning. He is 18 years old and is one of the top-rated international skaters in this year’s draft.
The winger recently inked a two-year deal with Dynamo Moscow of the KHL, but that contract isn’t binding. Nichushkin has said he wants to join the NHL.
The best case is that Nichushkin joins the Lightning and makes an immediate impact in 2013-14 as a top-six forward.
General manager Steve Yzerman will be answering a lot of questions if he loses the risk battle for Nichushkin.
As mentioned previously, there is a lot of risk involved with Nichushkin. He is a talented player with good size at 6’3” and a solid skating ability.
The issue comes with that tricky KHL contract. The worst case for the Bolts is to take the risk on Nichushkin and lose him to the KHL.
Tampa Bay doesn’t have a third- or fourth-round pick this year, which makes the first two picks even more crucial.
Replacing a legend like Martin St. Louis isn't easy, but Jonathan Drouin has been dubbed the next St. Louis.
Martin St. Louis has endeared himself to Lightning fans forever and should be a Hall of Famer after his career is over. The 37-year-old winger just won the Art Ross Trophy, but he won’t be able to play the game forever. Fortunately, the player that could be the next St. Louis is available this year—Jonathan Drouin.
According to NHL.com’s Steven Hoffner, Drouin is St. Louis’ "hockey clone." Drouin is 5’11” and 176 pounds of solid skill. In his first year in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, he picked up 105 points in 49 regular-season games.
Hoffner has him going to the Bolts in the mock draft. That would be a great scenario for the Lightning.
Richard Panik is one of a few prospects the Lightning can't be trading for late-round picks.
Tampa Bay’s American Hockey League affiliate is creating a dynasty. The Norfolk Admirals won the Calder Cup in 2011-12 in their last year as part of the Lightning organization. One year and a move later, the Syracuse Crunch head into the Calder Cup Finals ready to bring another trophy to the organization.
Oh, and the Lightning’s head coach is the coach that won the Calder Cup with Norfolk and set a foundation for the team in Syracuse. The Lightning need to take advantage of the group that has tasted success. That maturity is invaluable in a locker room.
If the Bolts trade away a player like Andrey Vasilevskiy or Ondrej Palat for that third- or fourth-round pick and cash, they will be doing a disservice to both the NHL and AHL teams.
Seth Jones is the top-rated defenseman in this year's draft, but he isn't the only talented defenseman out there.
This year’s draft class is loaded with first-round talent. Tampa Bay needs players that can step in immediately, while they still have the leadership of Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis.
If the Lightning can come up with a way to pick up another first-round pick, that would do wonders for the 2013-14 season. Even if the trade is for another defensive prospect to float between the AHL and NHL, the Lightning would be in good shape for the future—especially with Mattias Ohlund’s contract off the books.
The question is if general manager Steve Yzerman can put together a solid trade to improve the team now without giving up too much for the future.