While much of the chatter surrounding the Tampa Bay Lightning heading into this weekend’s NHL Entry Draft focused on the ongoing saga of Steven Stamkos’s impending trip to the free agent market and Ben Bishop’s rumored departure via trade, there was still plenty of work for general manager Steve Yzerman. With all of the talk around the Lightning concerning Stamkos and Bishop leading into the draft, Yzerman still had to go about actually drafting players and stockpiling prospects to build the organization’s depth.
This was the second consecutive draft that Tampa Bay found themselves picking late in the first round due to a long playoff run, meaning that there were no major pressing needs that had to be filled by a hotshot prospect ready to make the immediate jump to the NHL. The Lightning could go for safer picks in the early rounds and then take chances with late-round picks that already have a very minuscule shot of making the NHL anyway. There was a major trade made by the Lightning on the second day, as they dealt highly-touted defenseman and 2014 first-round pick Anthony DeAngelo to the Arizona Coyotes for the 37th overall pick in the draft, giving the Lightning three second-round selections. When it was all said and done, the Bolts made 10 selections, picking five centers, two wingers, two defensemen, and one goaltender.
1st Round, 27th Overall, Brett Howden, C, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
At 6’2″ and just over 190 lbs, Howden is known for his complete two-way game in all zones of the ice, a versatile player that has plenty of offensive ability, but is also responsible in his own zone. Howden played in all situations for the Warriors and uses his size well down low in the offensive zone. He has a very good wrist shot, but some scouts have said that he could sometimes be a little more selfish with the puck. However, nobody has complained about his work ethic, as he is a player that is considered to be highly-competitive both with and without the puck. Will need to add muscle and work on his ability to generate offense off the rush, but overall, he is considered a very solid center prospect possesses the versatility to play any forward position and in any game situation. Had 24 goals and 40 assists in 68 games last season, including 15 points in 10 playoff games. Also represented Canada at the World Junior Championships, scoring 5 goals and 8 points in 6 games.
2nd Round, 37th Overall, Libor Hajek, D, Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
Using the pick acquired from the Coyotes in the DeAngelo trade, the Bolts chose Hajek, a 6’1, 196-lb native of Smrcek, Czech Republic. After spending time in the top Czech league, Hajek was chosen in the 2015 CHL Import Draft by Saskatoon, where he made his major junior debut last season. Playing on a Blades team that struggled throughout the year, Hajek was one of the few bright spots as a versatile, two-way defenseman that can play a shutdown game with some physical elements while also flashing some offensive capabilities. His offensive game tends to come off the rush, as he has the speed to get back and break up opposition rushes and turn them into an offensive attack the other way. However, he’s not going to be confused with Victor Hedman, as his defensive game is polished, but he still needs some more work on the offensive side of the ice despite having the skill set. Scouts see him as potentially being a dependable two-way, top-4 defenseman at the NHL level. Finished with 3 goals and 23 assists in 69 games.
2nd Round, 44th Overall, Boris Katchouk, LW, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
A 6’1″, 190-lb winger, Katchouk completed his rookie season in the OHL with 24 goals and 27 assists in 63 games, earning him OHL Second All-Rookie Team honors, as his 51 total points was fifth most among league rookies. Katchouk is what you’d describe as a power forward, the type of player that is willing to go into the corners and in front of the net, but also has the skill to produce offense and be a complement to other skilled players. Katchouk played big minutes for the Greyhounds in all situations, and is a player that can block shots and play a sound defensive game while being tenacious on the forecheck and able to chip in offensively. He may not end up being a top-6 forward at the NHL level, but he projects as a second or third-line forward that can chip in offensively and make life miserable for the opposition by being an agitator in addition to his physical play.
2nd Round, 58th Overall, Taylor Raddysh, RW, Erie Otters (OHL)
An inch taller and about 10-12 pounds heavier than Katchouk, Raddysh has a little more offensive flair to his game and a little less physicality despite being bigger than his fellow draftee. He’s considered a very good passer that can also score, but has had trouble finishing off plays at times. He’s also very responsible on the defensive end of the ice despite not being considered to have great skating ability. Some scouts believe he also needs to use his size more to his advantage, as he’s not as tenacious on the forecheck and in puck battles as one would like. Despite this, he has tremendous hockey sense, an innate ability to find teammates with passes, and an ability to get open in the offensive zone. Finished with 24 goals and 49 assists in 67 games while also picking up 10 points in 12 playoff games. Could be a second or third line complementary-type winger with some upside in the offensive zone, and has good two-way skills.
3rd Round, 88th Overall, Connor Ingram, G, Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
The only goalie selected by the Lightning in this year’s draft, Ingram is considered small by today’s goaltending standards, standing six-feet tall and weighing 212 pounds. What he lacks in height, he more than makes up for in tenacity and work ethic, as he’s considered the main reason why Kamloops was able to squeeze into the WHL playoffs before bowing out in the first round. Night in and night out, he was a stalwart in the pipes for the Blazers, and even though he’s not considered the most athletic goaltender, he seemed to get better when facing a heavy workload. Although he is very adept at stopping low shots, he’s had trouble at times stopping shots that go top-shelf. However, scouts rave about his mental toughness, which is a crucial attribute for any goalie to have. He’s been projected to be a solid backup goalie at the professional level. Finished this past season with a 2.61 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage.
4th Round, 118th Overall, Ross Colton, C, Cedar Rapids RoughRiders (USHL)
As captain of Cedar Rapids, he finished up his second season with the RoughRiders by tallying 35 goals and 31 assists in 55 games, and has committed to playing college hockey at the University of Vermont. At 6-feet tall and 190 pounds, Colton’s offensive ability is considered off the charts for his age, as he was second in the USHL in goals scored. He’s a very skilled player with the puck on his stick, and doesn’t need a lot of room to create chances and put the puck in his net. On the other hand, he has a lot of work to do to improve his play in the defensive zone. Fortunately for him, he’ll have plenty of time to work on that facet of his game at the collegiate level. Considering his offensive prowess in the USHL, it shouldn’t take long for him to find a big role as a major contributor in Vermont.
5th Round, 148th Overall, Christopher Paquette, C, Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
Unrelated to Lightning forward Cedric Paquette, Christopher Paquette is considered a high-energy guy at 6’1″, 207 pounds that has an intriguing combination of size and speed, while also being a very good skater. However, for a guy his size, he hasn’t always played up to that stature, and also hasn’t developed into an offensive force despite his skating ability. He’s definitely a guy that will need time to develop in Niagara and the AHL, as he projects as a bottom-six forward that has plenty of energy and skating ability to go along with that size, but time will tell if he’ll be able to put it all together and make his way to the NHL.
6th Round, 178th Overall, Oleg Sosunov, D, Loko-Yunior Yaroslav (Russia Jr. 2)
The thing that jumps out about Sosunov is his size. He’s a blueliner that towers over the competition, standing 6’8″ and weighing 243 pounds. What’s even more impressive is that he’s reportedly a tremendous skater for a guy his size. Despite his good skating ability, he’s considered a big project that will take some time to develop before he can even think about challenging for a roster spot at the NHL level. He’s expected to stay in Russia to continue his development, so don’t expect him in North America in the near future.
7th Round, 206th Overall, Otto Somppi, C, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
At six-feet and 180 pounds, Somppi is a talented two-way center that has plenty of offensive upside. Plays a high-energy game and is a very competitive player that is always looking to make a play with the puck. Considered a very good passer with good vision, and also has a nice shot that scouts have criticized him for not using enough. In his first season in the QMJHL after coming over from Finland, he suffered a shoulder injury that he played through, and still managed to post 13 goals and 33 assists in 59 games. He’s ferocious on the forecheck and is also good away from the puck, but will need to add on some muscle in order to withstand the rigors of professional hockey. He could also stand to be a little more selfish with the puck, but he has some potential as a solid two-way player.
7th Round, 208th Overall, Ryan Lohin, C, Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)
Another solid two-way center with good offensive skills, Lohin split time between Madison and Waterloo of the USHL, finishing with 34 assists and 57 total points, tied for eighth in the league in both categories. Like Colton, he’s got plenty of ability in the offensive zone, but is not quite as adept at putting the puck in the net, having been more of a setup man. At 6-feet, 190 pounds, he’s a project that will be playing college hockey at UMass-Lowell, where he’ll have plenty of time to work on developing all facets of his game. A positive to taking players that are just now entering the college ranks is that you own their rights for a few years, giving a team time to sign them to a contract before they become unrestricted free agents.
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