Grading Tampa Bay Lightning's Performance at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft

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Grading Tampa Bay Lightning's Performance at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft
Matt Slocum/Associated Press
Anthony DeAngelo brings his south Philly attitude to Tampa Bay, a pick that could push the Bolts over the top in future years.

The Tampa Bay Lightning were one of the more active teams on the floor during the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. The Bolts drafted seven players and made six trades from the draft floor as they looked to address organizational weak points in order to take the next step for the franchise.

Heading into the draft, NHL.com's Michelle Gingras noted that the Lightning would be drafting the best available player throughout. The Lightning community seemed set on improving the blue line through the draft, but Tampa Bay's director of amateur scouting, Al Murray, thought otherwise. He noted, via NHL.com's Missy Zielinski:

People keep telling me we need defensemen. I’m looking at all the young defensemen we have and I’m not necessarily agreeing with that. We need veteran defensemen. We think we have a lot of good young prospects on defense and  it's not what we perceive as a major organizational need.

This draft didn't have the headliners like 2015's class will. Murray continued to say that this year's class was full of second- and third-line players. With that insight, fans should have expected the Lightning to look at more forwards in the early rounds.

General manager Steve Yzerman and company made sure no one knew what they were doing from pick to pick. The Lightning had two first-round selections initially before trading the No. 28 pick to the New York Islanders for two second-round selections. A full breakdown of the draft-day activity from the Lightning camp could make your head spin.

ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun (h/t ProHockeyTalk.com's Joe Yerdon) reports that the Bolts were even considering trading with in-state rival Florida for their first overall selection.

 

First Round

Grade: A

Selection: Anthony DeAngelo

At the end of the draft, Tampa Bay selected four defenseman with its first five picks. The Lightning selected Anthony DeAngelo with their first selection (19th overall), who is arguably the best offensive defenseman in this year's class.

He was the player I expected the Bolts to select in the opening round. DeAngelo is Victor Hedman-like in his style of play. He likes to jump into the rush and can carry the puck out of the zone well.

He was a polarizing figure due to his suspension-laden junior career, but the upside on this kid is tremendous. The Bolts are a classy organization with a solid leadership on ice and in the front office. If DeAngelo doesn't fit the Lightning mold off the ice, he won't make an appearance on the ice.

 

Early Rounds

Grade: B+

Selections: Dominik Masin (35th Overall), Jonathan MacLeod (57th Overall), Brayden Point (79th Overall)

Lightning fans should be happy with their front office through the first few rounds. The Bolts developed one of the deepest prospect pools in the league over the last few seasons. They developed players like Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Radko Gudas and Alex Killorn.

The strategy was fairly simple in the first few rounds: If it's not broken, don't fix it. The Bolts selected Masin, a physical defenseman from the Czech Republic, which should resonate with fans.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Brayden Point was a target for the Lightning in the early rounds. He could follow in the footsteps of players like Tyler Johnson.

Jonathan MacLeod is an undersized defenseman that is up-and-coming in the U.S. National Development Team. He could be that depth addition for the Syracuse Crunch in the next few years.

Brayden Point is an undersized forward from the Western Hockey League. He netted 91 points in 72 games last season for Moose Jaw, 36 points more than anyone else on the team.

 

Late Rounds

Grade: B

Selections: Ben Thomas (119th Overall), Cristiano DiGiacinto (170th Overall), Cameron Darcy (185th Overall)

Ben Thomas is a defenseman that might end up being one of the better value picks for the Lightning. Thomas has a solid frame and has impressed people in Calgary over the last season. He might not be a big name in this draft, but he might become one if he continues to improve.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Cristiano DiGiacinto is somewhat of a Ryan Callahan-type player. He infuriates opponents, back checks well, hits players and can add a scoring touch when necessary. His biggest downfall is his skating ability. If he can improve that, DiGiacinto may be a depth player for the Bolts in a handful of years.

Cameron Darcy was picked up with the Lightning's final pick. He is a good all-around talent, but he doesn't do much exceptionally well. Skating and strength are his big drawbacks, but he could be solid AHL player for the Bolts.

 

Final Grade: B+

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Overall, the Bolts had a solid draft. They improved during the draft and outside. Tampa Bay took a risk with their first pick, but they have that ability with players like Andrej Sustr and Mark Barberio willing to patrol the blue line for a while. If the pick works out, they look like geniuses. If not, it certainly won't set the franchise back.

The rest of the early-round picks were solid. Adding defensive depth and a solid player in Point will give the Lightning flexibility. They have been able to find diamonds in the rough in recent years. This year looks like it's shaping up to follow suit.

With free agency starting on July 1, it will be interesting to see what the Bolts do with their roster. They had a strong draft and improved through some timely trades. I don't expect the Lightning to be very active in free agency outside of the organization. Another solid draft year minimized that need.

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