When you talk the NHL entry draft, unless you're at the top of the first round, you don't really expect to see the player you acquire on draft day to skate for the big club for several years.
When Steve Yzerman took over as general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, one of his many challenges was to deal with the lack of talent in the Lightning's farm system.
Tampa Bay's system was ranked near the bottom of the league before Yzerman arrived. Since then, the estimation of the Lightning's farm system has risen slightly (ranked 17th by Hockey's Future).
With the additions of Brent Connolly, Brendan O'Donnell and James Mullin in last year's draft, Tampa Bay improved the front-line depth.
Defense and goaltending, like with the big club, is severely lacking for the Lightning in their farm system. Trades of young defensemen Ty Wishart and Brock Buekeboom have left a wasteland at the blue line.
Radko Gudas, Mark Barberio and 2010 draftee Geoff Schemitsch appear to be the only NHL-caliber prospects at this point.
In goal, the Lightning still have hopes for former first-round pick Riku Helenius while Jaroslav Janus, Dustin Tokarski and Cedric Desjardins appear to be the only NHL-caliber goaltenders currently in the system.
With that in mind, let's take a look at some potential candidates for the Lightning's No. 27 overall pick—if the Lightning stay there (rumors are persistent the Lightning are trying to move up).
Oscar Klefbom, Färjestads BK in Elitserien (Swedish Elite)
The Lightning did well with one big Swedish defenseman in Victor Hedman, Oscar Klefbom comes with a lot of the same qualities. Good size with a physical edge, his game could translate quickly to the NHL.
Jonas Brodin, Färjestads BK in Elitserien (Swedish Elite)
Klefbom's teammate, Jonas Brodin brings his own skill set. Brodin is a skilled puck-mover but doesn't offer much punch on offense. He's not as big as Klefbom but he does have excellent vision on the ice.
Scott Mayfield, Youngstown (USHL)
Another hulking defenseman at 6'4", Mayfield brings a nasty streak to the ice with 159 penalty minutes in 52 games. He's not just a goon, though. Mayfield is a fluid skater with a blistering slapper.
Joseph Morrow, Portland (WHL)
The Lightning would need to move up a bit to secure the services of this offensive dynamo. Morrow scored 49 points (nine goals) in 60 games for WHL Portland. A terrific skater with a tremendous shot, Morrow can provide the Bolts with the puck-moving defenseman they've been desiring since Dan Boyle was sent packing to San Jose.
Connor Murphy, USA U-18 (USHL)
We know from the 2010 NHL entry draft that Stevie Y doesn't let injury concerns scare him away from talented prospects. Connor Murphy has been nursing a serious back injury for the past two years—but when healthy, he has the capability of becoming a top-two defenseman. With good size, skating and puck-moving skills, he can contribute in the offensive game but he's solid in his own end as well.
Without the injury, he could be a top-15 pick. With it, he may be a reach at 27th overall.
Pickings are a bit slim this year for first-round caliber goaltenders.
John Gibson, USA U-18 (USHL)
With good size and quickness, Gibson is considered the best goaltending prospect in this year's draft.
"He won gold for Team USA at the 2011 Under-18 World Championships in Germany. He backstopped the U.S. to back-to-back overtime wins in the semifinal against Canada and the final against Sweden. Gibson was named the Best Goaltender of the tournament for his 2.34 goals-against average and .926 save percentage." -NHL.com
Christopher Gibson, CHICOUTIMI (QMJHL)
Gibson dominated Quebec Major Junior with a sparkling .920 save percentage and a 2.42 goals against.
“He's a very confident goalie, has an air of confidence about him. He's got very good net coverage, has good size and is very strong in his crease. He plays determined and aggressive, his movements are controlled, he tracks the puck very well and he challenges properly and holds his ground. He battled hard in all areas. He has a good, solid butterfly, was quick at gathering in any loose pucks and has good overall quickness.” - NHL.com
That about does it for potential picks for the Lightning's top choice.
No matter which player Steve Yzerman chooses, don't expect that player to make an immediate impact.
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