Christmas has come and gone for us prospect followers and the excitement is starting to wear off â€“ along with my headache from staring at a computer screen too long. At one point Twitter told me it couldnâ€™t post my Bolt Prospects tweet because I was tweeting too much. Fair enough. On Sunday the picks and information were coming in faster than Cory Conacherâ€™s rise from a no-name to possible Calder Trophy candidate next year. It was tough to keep up.
Before the draft the Lightning had several organizational needs for the farm, not the NHL club. We get asked repeatedly on draft days if so-and-so can step right in and play. Unlike football, the answer is no â€“ outside of a couple picks in the top-5 overall. Yes, sometimes a Patrice Bergeron will sneak into the NHL right away, but itâ€™s best to just know that you wonâ€™t be seeing these players for a few years at the least, especially with the uber-patient Steve Yzerman in charge (and thatâ€™s a good thing).
LW Nikita Gusev, 5'9" 163 lbs, CSKA Jr. (RUS Jr.), Shoots: Right
CSS #20 European Skater, RLR #218 Overall
2011-2012 Statistics: 34 GP, 30-46-76, +23, 26 PIM
Tampa Bay finishes its draft by selecting the prolific linemate of Nikita Kucherov, Nikita Gusev. Also, the Lightning take their third overage eligible of the draft.
Pros: Flat out lights it up statistically. He has all the puck skills and offensive hockey sense you would expect out of a Russian forward, and winds up all over the stat sheet because of it. Great in space, and a magician with the puck who dangles and buys time for his linemates as a playmaker. Also has a good sense for finding holes without the puck and jumping into them to set up a good one-timer.
Cons: Tiny. You won't see many highlights of Gusev working his way in and out of traffic, because not much footage exists. More of a perimeter player to this point of his career. Skating lacks the high end gear you'd want from a player his size. Turns 20 in July and has yet to taste much success on the KHL level. A flight risk back to the KHL if he ever comes over to North America. The "Russian factor" strikes again.
This is a classic late round flyer on a very talented young man who may never make it to North America, but may be lured by the chance to come with Kucherov. He's got the puck skills to be a second line scorer, but lack of a top gear in skating may keep him out of the NHL.
D Jake Dotchin, 6'2" 207 lbs, Owen Sound (OHL), Shoots: Right
CSS #139 North American Skater, RLR #109 Overall
2011-2012 Statistics: 64 GP, 3-16-19, -2, 77 PIM
The Lightning opt for another late bloomer in big Owen Sound defenseman Jake Dotchin.
Pros: Big, strong young man who is a hitter. Good awareness and good positionally. Reads the play well. Big hard shot. Shot up developmentally, as he had zero major junior experience before this season.
Cons: Skating has improved, but he's still on the slow side with poor footwork. Outlet passing needs work, as well.
Red Line report projected Dotchin as a depth defenseman in the stay-at-home mold and compared him to Mark Fraser.
C Cedric Paquette, 6'0" 198 lbs, Blainville-Boisbriand (QMJHL), Shoots: Left
CSS Not Ranked, RLR #94 Overall
2011-2012 Statistics: 63 GP, 31-17-48, +1, 88 PIM
The Lightning go for their second overage draftee of the night in late blooming power center Cedric Paquette. Paquette was Blainville's best player in the playoffs.
Pros: Tenacious forechecker who dominates below the circles. Surprising puckhandling ability and soft hands.
Cons: Second year eligible only played 4 games of major junior before this year. Skating is a question mark.
Red Line Report projects Paquette as a gritty bottom six forward with some ability to contribute offensively, and compares him stylistically to Matthew Lombardi.
C Tanner Richard, 6'0" 182 lbs, Guelph (OHL), Shoots: Left
CSS #41 North American Skater, Red Line Report #43 Overall
2011-2012 Statistics: 43 GP, 13-35-48, +4, 46 PIM
The Lightning get fantastic value in the third round with Swiss second year eligible Tanner Richard.
Pros: Good skater with great acceleration. Soft hands and a great puckhandler and playmaker. Competes hard at both ends of the rink and surprisingly willing to play the physical game, despite his slight frame.
Cons: Nagging injuries limited him to 45 games, and those injuries may be attributed to his lack of strength and size. Second year eligible so a little less time to develop than others in this class.
Red Line Report projected Richard as a versatile top 9 forward who chips in offensively and compared him to Valtteri Filppula.