By signing Lawrence, Tampa avoided losing his rights as he would have been eligible to re-enter the 2007 NHL Entry Draft on June 1 had he not come to terms with the Lightning.
Lawrence, 6-foot-4 and 212-pounds, is coming off his best season as a junior in 2006-07 when he tied for fourth in the Ontario Hockey League in goals with 47 and was tied for 20th in the league in points with 88 while playing for the Mississauga IceDogs. He was first on the team in goals and second in points. The Toronto, Ontario native also led the IceDogs in power-play goals with 15 and was second with six game-winning goals. Lawrence also played in five post-season games and scored three goals while adding one assist.
A projected early round pick in the 2005 draft, Lawrence fell to the third round where Tampa Bay drafted him at No.89. Lawrence always had the size and skill needed to make it as a pro, but battled inconsistency and questions against his effort. Last year Sault Ste. Marie, who drafted Lawrence in the top-10 of the OHL Draft and compared him to current Flyer Jeff Carter, grew tired of waiting for a full return on their draft investment and dealt Lawrence to Mississauga. Depended upon to be a leader in Mississauga this year, Lawrence came through both in consistent effort and in production, shattering his career high in goals scored (47-23) and points (88-53). While drafted as a center, Lawrence has played on the wing over the past two seasons. But with the Lightning's lack of depth at center within the system, Lawrence could be moved back to center.
â€œIf Chris Lawrence ever figures it out and consistently, shift-to-shift, plays the way he is capable of playing, he will be a dominant power forward in the NHL one day,â€ Lightning GM Jay Feaster said. â€œThe only thing holding Chris back from achieving greatness in professional hockey will be Chris Lawrence and the issue of how badly he wants to be a special player. Talent, size, skill, skating ... Chris has it all. However, he needs to commit himself to bringing the complete package shift after shift, night after night, game after game, in order to really succeed in the NHL. We look forward to him taking the first step on that journey this year as he begins his professional career.â€
*Chad contributed to this report.