2006 Entry Draft Preview: The Defensemen
In our ongoing series previewing the Lightning and the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, today we will move from the goaltenders out to the defensemen. USNTDP defenseman Erik Johnson is considered to be a virtual lock for the #1 overall selection in this draft, but beyond the big Minnesota born blueliner there is a huge drop off. In fact, it isn't out of the realm of possibility that Johnson will be the only defenseman who is a lottery pick this year. From pick 15 on, however, there are several defensemen who will be selected in the second half of the first round. With Matt Smaby, Vladimir Mihalik, Andy Rogers and Mike Egener already in the fold the Lightning are very well stocked with big, mobile, physical stay-at-home defensemen. Where they are perilously thin, however, is in defensemen who can fill more of an offensive role. Bolt Prospects only rates only one offensive defenseman prospect in its top 25, and that is Maine blueliner Mike Lundin who checks in at 22 and who some here on the Bolt Prospects staff (me) believe will struggle to get a contract next summer. At the NHL level, Dan Boyle has two years remaining on his contract before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. If Boyle leaves, the Lightning will need a tempo pushing offensive defenseman to take his place if they are to continue their successes. For that reason, Bolt Propspects ranks offensive defenseman as a primary need heading into the draft on June 24th in Vancouver.
Name: Bobby Sanguinetti
Weight: 174 lbs
Rankings: #12 North American Skater (CSS), #15 Overall (THN), #46 Overall (Red Line), #12 Skater (TSN.ca/ISS)
Owen Sound (OHL) 68 GP, 14-51-65, 44 PIM, -6
The second defenseman off the board on draft day may be American born Bobby Sanguinetti of Owen Sound. The Lumberton, NJ native is recognized as one of the best skaters in this draft, and who has a high octane and high skilled offensive game. Sanguinetti was one of the lynchpins for the Attack's first round upset of Kitchener in the first round of the OHL playoffs and is a solid power play quarterback. He does, however, have some detractors when it comes to the physical side of the game. All the major scouting services agree Sanguinetti's physical game is non existent with Red Line being his most vocal critic comparing Sanguinetti to Martin Skoula. They go on to call Sanguinetti "physically and mentally soft" and claim he "actively seeks to avoid contact". Part of the reason is that Sanguinetti is very undersized at a CSS weighed 174 lbs. It should be noted Sanguinetti plays for Mike Stothers in Owen Sound, a protege of Bill Barber who was on the short list for the Springfield Falcons job. Could a Stothers recommendation land Sanguinetti in a Lightning sweater on draft day?
Positives: Excellent skater. Highly skilled at passing the puck and has a hard slap and wrist shot. Runs a power play efficiently.
Negatives: Very undersized and shies away from the physical game. Struggles to physically handle opposing forwards in front of his own cage. Release on his shot considered slow and has a tendency to get his shots blocked.
CHL Top Prospects Skills Testing Results: 60 ft Dash: 3.013 seconds, 150 ft Dash: 5.881 seconds, Slap Shot: 89.9 mph, Full Lap: 14.763 seconds, Puck Control: 18.216 seconds
Name: Nigel Williams
Weight: 226 lbs
Rankings: #13 North American Skaters (CSS), #11 Overall (THN), #13 Overall (Red Line), #24 Skater (TSN.ca/ISS)
USNTDP (US) 48 GP, 6-9-15, 41 PIM
If the Lightning continue their trend of selecting big, mobile project defensemen with their top pick, Nigel Williams will be their man. There are few better physical specemins in this draft than the Montgomery, IL native who spent the year with the US National Talent Development Program. Williams blends a good sized frame with jaw dropping skating ability. As Red Line puts it, "Since when do 6'5" defensemen skate like Cournoyer?" That said, it cannot be emphasized enough that Williams is a project who will take time to develop. At the U18 World Junior Championships the US coaches rarely let Williams onto the ice. His sense for the game is still very unrefined and he still needs to gain upper body strength to take advantage of his frame. He has committed to the University of Wisconsin where he will begin playing in the Fall, so whatever team selects him could have as much as 4-5 years to watch him grow and learn. Will the Lightning use their first top-20 pick since 2000 on a player who may not even have a contract for close to half a decade? Time will tell. Red Line compares Williams to Niclas Wallin while THN categorizes Nigel as a two-way defenseman at the NHL level.
Strengths: Big frame that could carry as much as 230-235 lbs of muscle once fully grown. Incredible skating ability for a big man. Moving into a good NCAA program with Wisconsin where he will have plenty of time to develop.
Weaknesses: Still very inexperienced and learning the game. Still needs to develop upper body strength. Sometimes guilty of overhandling the puck and getting caught up ice. Will not soft, he lacks mean streak.
Name: Ivan Vishnevsky
Weight: 176 lbs
Rankings: #32 North American Skater (CSS), #26 Overall (THN), #25 Overall (Red Line), NR Skater (TSN.ca/ISS)
Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL) 54 GP, 13-35-48, 57 PIM, +1
It's hard to believe that any prospect who draws comparisons to Sergei Gonchar (THN) and a young Phil Housley (Red Line) is only rated a late 1st round pick, but that is the plight of Rouyn-Noranda's Ivan Vishnevsky. Vishnevsky is only rivaled by Sanguinetti in terms of pure offensive ability from the backline in this draft. Hailing out of Barnaul, Russia, Vishnevsky is a product of the Lada Togliatti system where two years ago he put up an obscene 39 goals and 71 points in 50 games at the First(Farm) League. Vishnevsky struggled to gain his release from Togliatti, but it made little difference as he quickly established himself as one of the best power play quarterbacks in the QMJHL as a rookie. His skills testing numbers don't bear it out, but most scouting services agree Vishnevsky might be the best skater in this draft and his speed quickly backs opposing defensemen off their blueline. Vishnevsky is a great passer but Red Line criticizes his decision making with the puck chastizing Vishnevsky for forcing too many passes up the middle of the ice. The biggest knock on Ivan, however, is that he has very little understanding of the defensive side of the ice. Vishnevsky uses a long stick which helps him to poke check opponents and pick off passes and although he is very small he competes physically, but he is semi-clueless positionally. On the whole, sound like any defenseman who wears #22 you might know?
CHL Top Prospects Skills Results: 60 ft Dash: 3.067 seconds, 150 ft Dash: 6.070 seconds, Slap Shot: 87.5 mph, Full Lap: 14.999 seconds, Puck Control: 18.008 seconds