Let me start by saying, the 2010 NHL Entry Draft afterglow really puts into focus just how amazing a job Jim Hammett and Darryl Plandowski did in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. To put it bluntly, they spoiled us. When you walk out of a draft with four guys who were probably among the top forty or fifty picks in the draft, it's exhilerating. But, not every year can be like 2009 or even like the 2006 draft when the Lightning used their first four picks on four pretty solidly touted prospects.
By the time the Lightning got to their second pick at sixty-third overall, the large majority of the quality known talent was off the board. That's the difference between a draft where you have three top sixty picks and another where you have just one, I suppose. So, the Lightning were going off the beaten path for much of day two to try to find potential NHLers and fill organizational needs. As a consequence, the quality of this draft class isn't going to be as immediately apparent, and right now it feels like the draft will live and die on the shoulders, or hips, of Brett Connolly.
That said, the Lightning did accomplish two important things for the health of their system as well as filling a bonus need as well. With Guy Boucher's 1-3-1 system coming in, the Lightning's already thin prospect system looked even worse because they system doesn't really fit bigger, slower defensemen like Ty Wishart or Vladimir Mihalik. If you look at the roster Boucher had success with at Hamilton in the AHL last season, that roster was filled with average to small sized defensemen with a high degree of mobility and some skill. The Lightning got four of those types of defensemen with their first four picks of Day Two. The club also needed to find some righty shots, as Luke Witkowski is the only righty shot the team had coming through the pipeline. Three of those four defensemen were righthanded shots.
Brock Beukeboom is a really solid pick. He's got good bloodlines and he's got some character. He's also got good mobility and one of the harder shots in this draft that has been clocked in the triple digits. He hasn't proven it yet, but his offensive upside is projectable. Buekeboom's also got a physical edge to his game, which the Lightning need to complement the more finesse young blueliners they already have like Victor Hedman, and they reinforced that by taking Radko Gudas. Gudas is a very interesting prospect. Buried in the Extraliga over in the Czech Republic, he came over this year and really made a name for himself in the WHL. He's not a big guy, but he hits everything in sight and you could make an argument he's got a little Darius Kasparaitis in him. So, the Lightning got d-men in the mold they wanted, with righty shots, and with some edge to them, to boot. That doesn't hurt.
They got two more mobile and skilled defenseman prospects in the form of Adam Janosik and Geoffrey Schemitsch. What Janosik and Schemitsch have in common is that they don't have a ton of experience, which could very well point to each of these prospects having a higher ceiling than theyve been given credit for. Janosik, in particular, doesn't even turn 18 until September. That means there's a chance he could hit a growth spurt still and, in any event, he's going to have half a season more of junior experience by the time he gets to be the same age as a lot of his more highly touted contemporaries. Schemitsch, the third righty shot of the group of four, was a pure rookie this season for Owen Sound. He went from being undrafted in the OHL Priority draft and playing at a lower level of junior hockey to being a 40 point scorer in the OHL and making Canada's U18 team in the span of a single year. That's a hell of a growth curve, and the Lightning are surely betting that once his experience level gets on par with some of his contemporaries, he's going to be one heck of a defenseman.
Then the Lightning took a couple of penny stocks later in the draft by taking two forwards who will be going into some very good NCAA programs in the near future. James Mullin is heading to Miami of Ohio and Brendan O'Donnell is going to the very highly regarded North Dakota program. The Lightning are gambling that quality coaching and quality training will make quality players in four or five year's time.
Finally, the Lightning added Teigan Zahn, a redrafted former Chicago Blackhawks pick who, along with Gudas, should provide a bonus to the Lightning. Prior to the draft, it was hard to imagine how the Norfolk Admirals could possibly play Boucher's 1-3-1 system. Only Matt Lashoff and Kevin Quick really seemed well suited to pull it off, and Lashoff might make the Lightning out of camp. At 20 years old each, Gudas and Zahn can be signed and placed with the Admirals to give them more mobility and more edge. Combined with a free agent or two off of the Hamilton roster from next season, the Lightning might just be able to use Gudas and Zahn to make the system transition a lot less painful than previously anticipated.