The 2020 NHL Draft is history. Nine players were selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning Draft this week. Let’s take a deeper dive to get to know these players just a little bit better. Before we look at these draftees, allow me to make a couple of points about NHL drafts in general. This article will look at the first four rounds, tomorrow we’ll look at rounds five through seven.
To a certain extent, it’s akin to throwing darts with a blindfold. Especially in a year where most organized leagues halted play six months ago. In the last three drafts, only one player picked by the Lightning has seen NHL ice time. That player is Alexander Volkov who has played a grand total of nine NHL games. So, let’s understand that the NHL draft is a crap shoot for 31 Scouting Departments.
Without a doubt, the Lightning are fortunate to have Al Murray, their Assistant GM and Director of Amateur Scouting. He’s one of the best. His finds have become legend throughout the league. Nikita Kucherov in the second round (2011). Ondrej Palat in the seventh round (2011). Brayden Point in the third (2014), Anthony Cirelli in the third (2015). We haven’t even begun to discuss the undrafted players Murray and his team found and signed like Tyler Johnson and Yanni Gourde.
As good as Murray and his entire staff are, no scouting teams hit on every draft pick. Since the 2010 draft when Jeffrey Vinik bought the team, they have drafted 83 players. Of those players, 21 have seen more than a cup of coffee in the NHL. Now, of those 21 successes, only 9 players remain with the Lightning organization. Did I say crap shoot, the odds have to be even higher than can be imagined.
I say all this to temper expectations. Do not expect a single player drafted on Wednesday by the team to play in the NHL in the upcoming season. That isn’t because these young men don’t have the stuff, they just don’t have it yet. Obviously, the team believes some will make the climb. Whether they do depends more on what the players are willing to do.
Lightning Draft Part I
They traded away their fourth round pick and next year’s second round pick for Montreal’s 2nd round pick #57. With this pick, they selected 18 year-old Center Jack Finley. He’s definitely got size at 6’ 5”. Scouting reports note his grit and high compete level. Reading reports on him, I thought it best for you to hear it in Finley’s own words. “Before a game, I know who I’m playing against and make sure to battle them hard…I want to show that I can play against the best”.
A theme that we’ll see in the players the Lightning draft is what Murray calls hockey sense. Some call it hockey IQ. The Lightning look for players like this every year. Finley has that. Even with his size, his speed and quickness are evident. Is it enough for Finley to make the show? Not this year as we should see Finley return to the Spokane Chiefs in the WHL next season. Keep this in mind, the team made a trade to move up to get this pick, I believe Finley will prove that move worthy.
Another player with a high hockey IQ is their next pick in the second round, 19 year-old Center Gage Gonclaves. He wasn’t drafted in his first eligible year last year. For some players that could spell the end of a career before it begins. Going back to his team, the Everett Silvertips in the WHL, Gonclaves played to prove a point to 31 GM’s. He went from one goal and 14 assists two seasons ago to 33 goals and 38 assists last season. It definitely shows Gonclaves can play with a chip on his shoulder. Despite being a year older than most draftees, Gonclaves looks to be headed back to Everett.
Draft Part II
The Bolts had two 3rd round selections and landed a Russian Forward and a Canadian Defenseman. At # 85, they drafted Maxim Groshev, an 18 year-old winger. Playing in the KHL, Groshev is a kid playing with men. At 6’ 2”, he has the size to hold his own and from all reports, the kid is tough. Make no mistake, Groshev is a project. But with his size, his grit and the work ethic in all scouting reports, he might have a chance to play in the NHL. For at least the next season or two, he’ll play in the KHL. Watch for his development because if he figures out the KHL, he could be ready to make the leap onto the best league in the world.
The other third rounder at # 93 was the first defenseman selected by the team, 18 year-old Jack Thompson. A right handed shot with offensive skills, think Kevin Shattenkirk. Playing for the Sudbury Wolves in the OHL, his offensive production doubled from the previous season. As a result, he saw more ice time and then time on the power play. With good size (6’ 0”), good hockey sense, Thompson should continue to develop, though Sudbury appears to be where he’ll play next season. Keep an eye on this kid.
In the fourth round, the Lightning took another right handed defenseman. American born, 18 year-old Eamon Powell. A bit undersized at 5’ 10” but most reports rate his skating abilities very high. He is an offensive minded defenseman. He has already committed to Boston College where he should improve in that NCAA Hockey powerhouse. Powell may be small for an NHL defenseman but his skating and offensive skills can help propel him up to the highest level.
There is my look into the first four rounds of the 2020 Lightning draft. Keep an eye out on our site for my second part reviewing the team’s selections in rounds five through seven.
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