2019 NHL Draft Snap Reaction

Most organizations fresh off the disappointment of a first round playoff sweep in a year of unprecedented expectations might've limped quietly into the NHL Draft. Not the Tampa Bay Lightning. Armed with a sizable to-do list and a handful of draft picks, the Lightning systematically checked off each task en route to a successful weekend in Vancouver.

First, the Lightning needed to create cap space with the goal of re-signing RFA centerman Brayden Point. The cause was helped somewhat by the unfortunate diagnosis of Ryan Callahan's chronic injury that forced him into retirement and on LTIR, but there was still much to do before the close of business on Saturday. BriseBois held a master class from his back row draft table, executing a trade that swapped forward J.T. Miller for, in essence, a 2019 third round draft pick and a 2020 lottery protected, to use the NBA parlance, first round pick. Consider the fact that, at a minimum, BriseBois managed to convert a player that managed 13 goals and 47 points last season, often stuck on the fourth line and toting a large contract, and converted him into a pair of top-90 picks. Think of the possibility that Vancouver crashes out of the playoff picture in 2020 and then crashes again in 2021, possibly handing the Lightning an extremely high draft selection. Hell, for all we know, the Lightning may have acquired the top overall pick in the 2021 draft today and sealed the Canucks' GM as the punch line in a zillion sports trivia questions. Then, consider what a division rival in a similar position, Toronto, had to do by giving away a first rounder just to wipe the contract of Patrick Marleau off their books. The contrast is striking.

Then there was the actual reason for the season: the selection of new blood for the Lightning organization. While there were no dire needs for a team fresh off a President's Trophy and absent any gaping holes in their pipeline, it would be false to say the Lightning didn't have needs. Foremost, there was the need to find another goaltender to place in the queue after top prospect netminder Connor Ingram was jettisoned from the organization for what the organization characterized as "maturity" issues. Next up, the Lightning had a need to replenish their blueline stockpile. Depleted by the trade of prospect Libor Hajek and the ascension of Erik Cernak, and soon to be accelerated by the anticipated ascension in the near future of Cal Foote and Dominik Masin, the Lightning are about to be very thin on defense very quickly.

Last, there's the 6'3"+ elephant in the room following the Lightning's infamous defeat at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Lightning need to get bigger up front to fight through the clutching and grabbing that inevitably occurs and is suddenly overlooked by the officials the second the season calendar hits playoff time. It's an unfortunate truth that the Lightning's preoccupation on the value of smaller forwards with high speed and skill quotients, while a virtue in the regular season, has contributed to two straight disappointing postseason misadventures. The Lightning had an opportunity to begin to address that issue starting this weekend.

1st Round, 27th Overall
LW Nolan Foote, Kelowna (WHL)
It's easy to get caught up in the fact the Lightning keep raiding the Foote household regularly with first round picks. Yes, the story is compelling. But, don't overlook that the Lightning signaled a not insignificant shift in draft strategy where forwards are concerned with this selection. Whereas last year's draft focused more or smaller forwards that were more "system fits," the selection of a power forward the likes of Foote signals the club has started to grasp the harsh reality of the NHL's lawlessness come playoff time. In that light, a seemingly high floor but low ceiling pick like Foote makes more sense, and there's always the possibility that Foote exceeds the ceiling many independent scouting services think he has and becomes a James van Riemsdyk-type scorer. Time will tell, but at a minimum the Lightning are getting more playoff-ready with this pick.

3rd Round, 71st Overall
G Hugo Alnefelt, HV 71 Jr. (SWE Jr.)
The Lightning stayed true to "system fit" when it came to their goaltender selection to plug the hole vacated by Ingram's departure when they took Hugo Alnefelt. Mind you, it's not as if Frantz Jean is incapable of working with smaller goaltenders (Ingram being an obvious example). But there's little doubt he likes his netminders 6'3"+ and athletic. Enter Alnefelt, who is a nice block of clay for Jean to mold.

3rd Round, 89th Overall
RW Maxim Cajkovic, Saint John (QMJHL)
The Lightning took a swing for the fences with their second third round pick by taking highly skilled hit-or-miss prospect Maxim Cajkovic. Entering the year the Slovakian sniper was considered a favorite to be a first round selection, but he struggled mightily on a horrible St. John team. He saw his first North American junior campaign go even further sideways when his poor reaction to adversity led to a clash with his coaches and a seat in chateau bow wow early in the year. Cajkovic rebounded in the second half, and if he can overcome maturity and coachability questions he brings lottery pick-level ability to the organization at a bargain late third round pick price tag.

4th Round, 120th Overall
D Max Crozier, Sioux Falls (USHL)
The Lightning moved to begin restocking their blueline by taking overage rearguard Max Crozier from Sioux Falls. Standing at just a shade under 6'2" and mobile, Crozier is a late bloomer who fits the Lightning's rangey two-way defenseman mold. Plus, he has a chippy, ascerbic side to his game that comes as a bonus to the Lightning as he moves on to his next step in the NCAA ranks with Providence.

6th Round, 182nd Overall
D Quinn Schmiemann, Kamloops (WHL)
Yet another "system fit" defenseman, Schmiemann was strangely overlooked this year despite having a good sized frame, excellent mobility, and an understated and responsible defensive game. Unlike Crozier, he has been knocked for being a little on the softer side, but his high IQ style slots in nicely with what the Lightning look for from their rearguards.

7th Round, 198th Overall
LW Mikhail Shalagin, Spartak Jr. (RUS Jr.)
The Lightning again broke protocol by selecting overaged Russian battle tank Mikhail Shalagin out of Spartak's MHL team. Standing at 6'4" and 185 lbs., the 19 year old man child tore up the MHL, setting a league record with 48 goals. Shalagin's skating may not be ideal and he may not have put up his numbers against top flight opposition, but there's legitimate reason to be excited about a seventh round pick who some independent scouting services feel merited consideration as a fourth or even a third round selection.

7th Round, 213th Overall
RW/C McKade Webster, Green Bay (USHL)
The Lightning closed out the draft with the annual ritual of taking a draft-and-stash future NCAA prospect with upside. The stealth prospect du jour in 2019 was playmaking winger McKade Webster, who lost most of his season to wrist surgery. He has a scholarship to Denver University waiting for him in two years, and the Lightning feel they got yet another third or fourth round caliber player in the seventh round.