The doors to the 2011 NHL Entry Draft open promptly at 7 p.m. tonight (Friday) at the Excel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota with the Lightning currently holding five picks, including the 27th overall selection in the first round.
The Draft gets underway tonight live on VERSUS with picks 1-30 (first round) and rounds 2-7 being held on Saturday, June 25 from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The Lightning will have one pick on Friday and the remaining four will come on Saturday with a second (58), fifth (147), sixth (177) and seventh round selection (207). Their five picks are the lowest since they had four in 2006.
The Lightning originally had a third and fourth round selection, but gave up their third round pick when they acquired Eric Brewer from the St. Louis Blues and sent their fourth round pick to the Philadelphia Flyers as part of the deal for Simon Gagne.
This draft marks the second for Lightning GM Steve Yzerman but like last year, he’ll sit in on the interviews with potential prospects, he’ll listen to his scouts and be a sounding board, field calls from general managers about trade possibilities and he’ll meet with some agents of the Bolts pending free agents – the actual task of running the draft goes to the Al Murray, the Lightning’s director of amateur scouting who was hired in August 2010.
Prior to joining the Lightning, Murray had served as the head scout for Team Canada’s junior program… but before that he spent 12 years with the Los Angeles Kings, eventually serving as director of amateur scouting. In that role, he was responsible for the drafts that produced L.A. front-line prospects Dustin Brown, Jonathan Bernier, Anze Kopitar and Oscar Moller.
Having the 27th overall pick is a position that the Lightning has never been in and with the draft being very top heavy, there is no clear cut definitive player that the Bolts can say is theirs for the taking.
“There’s uncertainty with every pick,” Lightning Yzerman said. “But we believe that we’re going to get a good prospect at No. 27. How good that player turns out to be we will know in two, three, four years. So many things can happen.
According to Murray, there are eight to 10 players that are the consensus top guys… after that there are 40 or so players all over, and their selection is most likely dependent on the individual team needs and individual preferences.
The Lightning could trade up and Yzerman said he is open to doing so, but it’s not likely.
“By the time you move up, he may be gone if you don’t move up a bunch of spots,” Yzerman said. “So, it’s got to be almost a group of players. We like this group of players. We might have a chance to get one.”
“To trade up just to trade up doesn’t make sense. They’re just 18-year-old kids. It’s all speculative. But if it’s someone we really like and we think we have a chance, we’ll move up.”
While there is no specific player that the Bolts are targeting, Murray says that the scouting team has narrowed it down to a group of players that they believe will be available to them at 27.
“Over the last week-and-a-half we’ve turned over every stone we can to track, not just those players but those ahead of them in case someone falls to us that we don’t expect, so I’m pretty confident we have all the possible information we can have. You’re never sure because it’s not an exact science, but I like to think we’ve done a pretty good job of putting it in the right order, so we’ll just hope everyone cooperates a little bit with us on draft day and leaves somebody good that we really like.”
From the outside looking in, the organizational strength remains at the center position. The Lightning have drafted heavy in that area over the years, and as well acquired a few via trades. The organizational weaknesses though include the wing, blue-line and the goaltender positions where there is lack of depth.
The loss of blue-liners Ty Wishart (traded to the Islanders in the Dwayne Roloson deal) and Brock Beukeboom (to St. Louis in the Eric Brewer trade) have lessened the depth and there’s not much available should the Lightning need an emergency call-up.
As for wingers, there are only two clear cut available players that have top six potential and that belongs to Carter Ashton and Johan Harju… Harju had a couple cups of coffee with the Bolts this past season appearing in 10 games (1-2=3) but did have an outstanding season with the Norfolk Admirals where he recorded 52 points (23-29=52) in 63 games and Ashton with the Tri-City Americans of the WHL recorded 44 points (17-27=44) in 33 games.
Between the pipes remains a concern especially if Yzerman is unable to re-sign Dwayne Roloson and Mike Smith as both are unrestricted free agents. Dustin Tokarski did appear in two games for the Bolts this past season, but clearly is not ready to handle the task of being a No. 1 goalie and Cedrick Desjardins, who impressed in limited time with the Bolts this past season is also an unrestricted free agent and is currently rehabbing from shoulder surgery.
From the numerous hockey sites that have run mock drafts, few have the Lightning selecting the same player… Hockey Future says that the noticeable lack of depth on the blue line makes it likely the Lightning will target a two-way defenseman at the end of the first round. Either, Scott Mayfield, Oscar Klefbom, or Jonas Brodin would be all good fits here. HF settles on Brodin as the pick.
Travis Hughes of SB Nation writes that the Bolts bloggers at Raw Charge will select Oscar Klefbom, a defenseman from Farjestads BK in the Swedish Elite League.
Keith Quinn from the New York Islanders Light House Hockey (part of SB Nation) has the Bolts selecting center Boone Jenner… Quinn states that The Scouting Report has Jenner “a poor man’s Mike Richards with a larger frame”.
Kaelan Lupton from the Bleacher Report has the Lightning selecting Portland (WHL) defenseman Joe Marrow…
In just over five hours from now, we’ll hear Commissioner Gary Bettman call Steve Yzerman to the podium to make the Bolts selection… until then we’ll keep guessing just like everyone else.
For more info: Tampa Bay Lightning, 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Late-Round Possibles for the Bolts, Prospect Profiles, NHL Entry Draft History
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