As new Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman glances over the entire organization, there's one truth that he must acknowledge—the Bolts have a lot of Joes, but not many Pros right now in their system.
On the farm, there's plenty of role players like Dana Tyrell, Carter Ashton and Richard Panik on the forward lines, but no superstars. On the back end, Tampa Bay has plenty of stay-at-home defensemen like Ty Wishart and Vladimir Mihalik, but few puck carriers or offensive forces.
Goaltending has much more depth with Dustin Tokarski and Jaroslov Janus, as well as former first round pick Riku Helenius—but there's an obvious need with the big club.
Probably the biggest indictment of the Lightning farm system, with needs of a scoring winger, an offensive (puck carrying) defenseman, and a number one goaltender, is that Tampa Bay does not have anyone that can step up into those roles currently in their system.
This makes Yzerman's first draft a critical one for the Lightning, and it's also a good reason why there's so many different directions the franchise can go in.
Mock Drafts throughout the league are split on which player Tampa Bay will select. Some go with a bevy of forwards, who will be available at the No. 6 overall selection, while others have said the Lightning will still focus on defense and goaltending.
I don't think a goaltender is a likely choice for the Bolts, as they have solid prospects in the lab down in Norfolk.
That eliminates Jack Campbell, the only first round caliber netminder, from being Stevie Y's first selection as a GM.
After Steven Stamkos, the Lightning have absolutely nothing in regards to young skilled forwards. With Martin St. Louis moving over 35 and Vinny Lecavalier hitting the big 3-0 in April, Tampa Bay is in dire need of finding tomorrow's snipers to team with the Rocket Richard award winner, Stamkos.
Luckily for Yzerman, it appears this draft is fairly deep with skilled forwards. Taylor Hall and Tyler Sequin are the best of the bunch, and they should go one and two (most have Hall as Edmonton's No. 1 overall selection).
Brett Connolly, from the Prince George Cougars of the CHL, was one of the highest rated prospects in ISS scouting before a hip injury derailed his 2010 campaign. A speedster with tremendous offensive skills, Connolly could be another dynamic center for the Bolts, joining the great tradition of Stamkos, Lecavalier, and Brad Richards.
Big Nino Niederreiter has been a popular choice of the Tampa Bay Lightning for Mocksters. The 6' 3" monster boasts great size and skill as well as great determination and a feisty personality.
In his North American debut with the Portland Winterhawks of the tough WHL, Nino scored 36 goals and 60 points, while racking up 68 penalty minutes in 60 games. Niederreiter was outstanding in the WHL playoffs, putting up 16 points in 13 games and was dominant in the 2010 World Juniors with 10 points in seven games.
Few doubt the talent of Vladimir Tarasenko, but they question his desire to play in the NHL. Already a KHL veteran, Tarasenko has been playing with men twice his age for a full season, playing 42 games and scoring 24 points (13 goals).
If the Lightning look to focus on defense, there's some intriguing prospects the team may want to take a hard look at.
Cam Fowler, from the OHL's Windsor Spitfires, is likely going to be long gone by the time Tampa Bay is called on to make their selection, but if he is there, the skilled defenseman is just what the doctor ordered for the new Bolts Head Coach Guy Boucher's defense. Fowler is outstanding with the puck, has a good shot, and is a gifted passer. He's not one dimensional, as he takes care of his own end of the ice.
Boucher's defensemen have to be gifted puck carriers, but fast in transition to get back on odd man rushes that ultimately will be generated with the aggressive style.
Safe is Death has returned to Tampa Bay, but the Lightning do not currently have the defensemen on the team to run that style successfully.
If he lives up to his billing, Fowler would go a long way to fixing that problem for Tampa Bay.
Brandon Gormley, Erik Gudbranson, Derek Forbort, don't offer the offensive skill of Fowler, but they do have skills that could upgrade the Lightning Blue Line.
While the focus may be on the future on Friday night, don't be surprised if the Lightning make a few moves to help the team this season. Tampa Bay is in the market for a No. 1 goalie, and there's been talk that the Lightning may be in play for Bruin goalie Tim Thomas or Canadiens netminder Cary Price, though acquiring Price seems unlikely after Halak was dealt to St. Louis.
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