Jonathan Drouin headlines the next wave of Lightning prospects. Who else could join him in 2014?
The Tampa Bay Lightning know that drafting well is crucial to maintaining consistency and building a future. Over the last few months, the Bolts’ organizational depth has been tested to the fullest, but they have managed to stay in the playoff picture. With so many young players being used this year, the Bolts need to reload on their prospect pool and should look to these five players in the 2014 NHL draft.
This year’s upcoming draft class can be described in one word—parity. There isn’t anyone who has run away with the No. 1 selection, and no region—international or North American—has staked a claim to a dominating list of prospects.
NHL.com graded 32 players as an "A," meaning they project as first-round candidates. That’s good news for teams looking to rebuild and reload their prospect pools with quality depth guys.
Assuming the Lightning maintain a similar position in the standings throughout the year, they could be picking in the middle of the first round. Given organizational needs, projections and talent, here are five prospects the Lightning should keep an eye on for the 2014 draft class.
Roland McKeown of the Kingston Frontenacs
Roland McKeown is exactly the type of defenseman the Lightning need moving forward. He is a great two-way player and can quarterback the play in just about any situation. At 6’1”, 190 pounds, McKeown has a good frame to build on for the NHL.
He was drafted No. 2 in the 2012 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection. NHL.com called him a first-round candidate, and he may be available for the Bolts just outside the top 10.
He would make a great complement to players like Victor Hedman, Matt Carle and Andrej Sustr.
Sweden's Oskar Lindblom
Oskar Lindblom is one of the more intriguing prospects of the 2014 draft class. A second- or third-round candidate, Lindblom hails from Sweden and already has six international junior tournaments under his belt.
He is 6’2” and 185 pounds, which projects well over the next few years. He is a great skater and two-way player. He would be a more fluid Ryan Malone, if compared to a current Lightning player. He has good size, plays physically and can score, but he won’t wow anyone with flashy play.
Haydn Fleury of the Red Deer Rebels
Bringing it back to the blue line, Haydn Fleury could be a defenseman that teams build around. He is projected as a first-round selection, but very well could fall to the Bolts depending on draft position. Out of Red Deer in the Western Hockey League, Fleury should draw the attention of a few NHL clubs.
Fleury is big, physical, solid offensively and hockey-smart. What else could a team want? The Lightning are lacking keystone defensemen, and Fleury would be a great addition to the blue line.
Alexis Pepin of the Charlottetown Islanders
Alexis Pepin plays a huge game. No really, he’s 6’2” and 240 pounds already and is a great left-handed shot. He is a natural winger but can play center as well. He is a sturdy forward who would make a great addition to an already-skilled NHL squad.
Pepin isn’t afraid to scrap and can score goals when given the opportunity. Listed as a “B” skater, he won’t be a first-round selection, but he might be worth taking a shot on in the middle rounds.
Michael Dal Colle of the Oshawa Generals
Micahel Dal Colle is another solid North American player. If he added some additional speed to his game, Dal Colle could be a top-five selection. He can play every forward position and is dominating the 2013-14 season with Oshawa. He has 56 points in 35 games.
Dal Colle is 6’2” and 170 pounds, with great strength and balance. He plays a two-way game and has good hands for someone of his size. The Lightning front office should be keeping a close eye on this kid if he continues to dominate the OHL. In the next few years, he could fit into the role that Richard Panik or Alex Killorn plays for the Lightning currently.