Name: Alex Hutchings
Weight: 173 lbs
Club: Barrie (OHL)
Rankings: CSS- 44(North American Skater), Red Line- 43, THN- 48, TSN- 58
Statistics: Barrie (OHL), 63 GP, 34-34-68, 60 PIM
Thievery. That's how we feel about getting Alex Hutchings in the fourth round. Pure thievery. We wouldn't have blinked if the Lightning took him in the second round, so the fact he's slipped this far is very exciting. Hutchings is one of the best skaters in the OHL and he is intelligent with a high motor. He plays in all phases of the game, and for a little guy he's surprisingly willing to get his nose dirty along the wall. Hutchings has scoring line upside, and unlike Panik, he plays an honest enough game that he can also play on your lower lines if you need him to. Bottom line: the Lightning got a hockey player. Red Line compares Hutchings to Chris Kunitz.
Money quote from Brian Lawton tweeting from the draft, "Our Dir. of Amateur Scouting Jim Hammett was so excited about getting Hutchings he started drinking my pop on accident." If we were there, we'd be drinking Lawton's pop too.
Bonus money quote from Red Line, which rates Hutchings as the 14th most underrated prospect in this draft: "Skates well, scores a bunch of goals, plays hard, and sound in his own end. Yet no one seems to take much notice." In addition, Red Line ranks Hutchings as having the 12th best hockey sense in this draft class. Victor Hedman, incidentally, was 2nd.
Name: Richard Panik
Weight: 203 lbs
Club: Trinec (CZE)
Rankings: CSS- 13 (European Skater), Red Line- 60, THN- 31, TSN- 38
Statistics: Trinec J-20 (CZE J-20), 16 GP, 10-9-19, 36 PIM
Havirov (CZE2), 3 GP, 2-1-3, 0 PIM
Trinec (CZE), 15 GP, 1-1-2, 4 PIM
The Lightning took a tremendous swing for the fences with high risk, high reward forward Richard Panik from Slovakia by way of the Czech Republic. In terms of raw skills and athleticism, he has first round talent. He has great outside speed and a sharp snap shot with great playmaking abilities too. He's also very strong on his stick and is a tank when he brings his battle level up. The problem with Panik is that there are big questions about his attitude and his work ethic, and he's been criticized for allowing himself to get out of shape too. Red Line Report projects him as either a second line scorer in the NHL or a total bust, with upside to be like Marian Hossa. There's no safety net with Panik, though.
The money quote on Panik from Red Line, "Excellent size/skills combination - on talent alone he'd be first round material." Let's hope he gets his head on straight. The Windsor Spitfires of the OHL hold his Import Draft rights and Brian Lawton just tweeted he will play in North America next season.
Hard to argue with what the Lightning accomplished tonight at the draft. I think the two players they got are definitely going to be NHLers and their athleticism is bullet-proof. For the second year in a row, they got the perfect fit getting Victor Hedman. He's exactly what the Lightning needed, and he has the ability to make the entire defensive corps better. In a perfect world, the Lightning would've been able to get one of those pure offensive defensemen to pair with him that they could just turn loose, but it wasn't in the cards.
Credit to Brian Lawton for being aggressive trying to move up. From about pick #10 or #11, the Lightning were trying to move back into the first round to acquire another prospect. This is the first time in team history they've been this aggressive, and they got a good payoff for it. I was worried that the ownership squabbles were such a distraction that Lawton would sit on his hands tonight, but that wasn't the case. They had the resources to make moves, and they tried to do so.
I have no problem moving a pick outside of the top-60 to move up a few picks to get a player you believe is going to be an NHLer, and Carter Ashton was very good value at pick 29. He should have gone around pick 20 and there are several forwards who were taken ahead of him that simply aren't better players than he is. The Lightning got a guy who's going to be that Modin type player who does the board work for you and drives the slot and bangs 25-30 goals home for you. They've desperately needed a player like that since Modin was dealt. Even Ryan Malone, as good as he is around the opposing crease, could be stronger along the wall. Ashton's great along the wall, with the added dimension of being a good fighter if you provoke him. He might end up being a good protector for Stamkos down the road. A simple meat and potatoes game like he has translates well on any line you put him on. I thought the Lightning might take a player like Ashton like Budish, for instance, with the pick at 32. I never though Ashton would slide down as low as 29 to be a possibility for the Lightning. Definitely a rock solid pick.
The only downside from the first night of the draft is that because the Lightning don't pick again until 52, I don't know if they'll be able to grab a righty shot offensive defenseman. There are some players still on the board they could use: Charles Olivier Roussel of Shawinigan and Stefan Elliott of Saskatoon are still out there. Eric Gelinas of Lewiston is a lefty shot defenseman with a lot of offensive upside who is still out there as well. I doubt they'll make it to 52, though, and I doubt the Lightning have the resources left to move up from 52 to get one.
Chad and Tim from our staff made a good point to me: now that you have Ashton to go along with a prospect like Johan Harju, you need a playmaker to set these big snipers up because they're not the type of players who make their own offense on the rush. But, other than Alex Hutchings of Barrie, there's not many playmakers left. There are some snipers like Jeremy Morin of the USNTDP, Toni Rajala from the Ilves program, Landon Ferraro of Red Deer, and Ben Hanowski of Little Falls High School. There's also a wild card like Zach Budish, who's a power forward who can do it all, but was hurt all year. So, there's a lot of talent still hanging around. I just wish the Lightning could be at about 42 rather than 52 to know they're going to get a player like that.
Another thought is that Rick Tocchet tweeted that there's a scary enforcer who the Lightning should take a look at. Defenseman Brayden McNabb, who is rated at 66 by Red Line and 54 by THN is one of the toughest players in this draft, apparently bit someone somewhere along the way this season. Cannibalism qualifies as scary.
The Lightning have traded their first second round pick (#32) and their third round pick (#75) for the 29th pick in the first round.
Name: Carter Ashton
Weight: 205 lbs
Club: Lethbridge (WHL)
Rankings: CSS- 12 (North American Skater), Red Line- 22, THN- 20, TSN- 20
Statistics: Lethbridge (WHL), 70 GP, 30-20-50, 93 PIM, -5
The Lightning moved up to get a hard hat and lunch pail type power forward in Carter Ashton of the WHL. Ashton plays simple, meat and potatoes hockey. He forechecks hard, he's strong on the puck, and he drives the net. He has good straight line speed and agility but does not possess an explosive first step. Red Line describes him as a, "Tantalizing combination of a huge frame, good skating stride, and goal scoring hands," and projects him as a second line NHL player in the mold of Dustin Penner. TSN takes it a step further comparing Ashton to Bill Guerin.
One more detail that bears mentioning: although Ashton doesn't always bring a consistent level of physical play night in and night out, he's described as a frightningly good fighter if you provoke him. He's a bad, bad man with the mitts off.
Name: Victor Hedman
Weight: 220 lbs
Club: MODO (SWE)
Rankings: CSS- 1 (European Skater), Red Line- 1, THN-2 ISS- 3, TSN-2
Statistics: MODO (SWE), 43 GP, 7-14-21, 52 PIM, +21
For the second season in a row, the Lightning luck into getting the best player available at their biggest need. In Hedman, the Lightning get a legitimate number one defenseman who can step into the NHL right away after playing 20 minutes a night last season for MODO in the Elitserien. Red Line report calls Hedman, "A less edgy Chris Pronger," but it should be noted that Hedman also skates better than Pronger ever could, ranking 11th in this draft class according to Red Line in terms of the best skaters in the class. Aside from his mobility, Hedman has incredible poise and maturity, and does everything well. He's good under pressure with the puck and makes good decisions on when to move it and when to eat it. His passing is superb and has a big shot and loves to use the one-timer on the power play. The only knock is that Hedman doesn't have a mean streak, but he's got excellent range, and a great reach, and minds his gaps well. He's a true shut down defenseman in his own end, and his +21 rating in the Elitserien was tied for third best in the league, which is amazing for an 18 year old. Expect him to be a solid 40-50 point a year defenseman when he develops to his full potential in three or four seasons, and he'll make the entire defensive corps around him better because he can play 25 minutes a night, which will put the rest of the corps in roles they're more naturally suited for. In addition, he's so good defensively, he gives the Lightning license to go get a risk-taking offensive defenseman to pair with him.
Money quote from Red Line: "Has as much pure talent as any player in the last four drafts." Potentially better than Stamkos? Sign us up.
We're starting up the chat now, for folks who's like to join the party at our own virtual Barnacles in Brandon. Try the fried calamari, or the mozerella sticks. The chat is open to anyone registered for the Bolt Prospects message board.
Right after word came down that goaltender Karri Ramo was bolting for Russia and that Gary Bettman had to have an emergency meeting with the ownership group, stoking speculation about a trade of Vincent Lecavalier, things seem to have settled down, at least on the hockey operations front. Speculation is that part owner Len Barrie would have to sign off on a Lecavalier trade, and he apparently won't, and GM Brian Lawton, who is allegedly an ally of part owner Oren Koules, sent out an e-mail reasserting he is the sole point of contact for any hockey operations decisions for the Lightning. My interpretation is that, as far as any big moves go, the two sides are at a stalemate, which might be the best Lightning fans can hope for in the short term from this three ring circus situation.
The Lightning seem on track to draft Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman, according to Damian Crisdotero of the Times, presuming everything goes to plan and the Islanders take John Tavares with the first overall pick. If that goes down, we'll have a lot more on Hedman up on the site tomorrow night after the selection is made. Suffice it to say the scouting community generally has a glowing opinion of Hedman, and he might be the best prospect to come out since Sid Crosby was drafted. Yes, he might be better than Stamkos. The Lightning have the resources to move up into the late first round if there's a player they have an eye on, but Crisdotero speculated in a recent live chat that he doesn't expect the Lightning to make many moves. Personally, if Ryan Ellis or David Rundblad were to slip to about pick 22, I would try to pull the trigger to move up from 32, but if Crisdotero is be believed, that's not in the cards. Chances are those two d-men won't slip, so the point may be moot, but there's something compelling to me about getting an offensive minded righty shot partner for Hedman capable of racking up 50-60 point seasons. It's not often you get the chance to build your top pairing for a generation.
My guess is nothing earth shaking will happen over the weekend. Lecavalier will probably stay in Tampa one more season, and I suspect his level of play will determine whether Oren Koules, who looks destined to eventually win the power struggle, decides to keep him or jettison him. That's good news for Steven Stamkos, because Lecavalier will keep a lot of attention off Stammer's line, which makes a potential 40 goal sophomore campaign possible, in my opinion. I expect the Islanders to take Tavares, because their fan base would revolt otherwise, leaving the Lightning to again luck into drafting the perfect fit for their needs in Hedman. I expect the Lightning to keep their two second round picks, at which point we'll get to see what this new scouting staff is made of. At 32, there should be some good offensive defensemen available, which is a big organizational need. However, there will also be a handful of very interesting forwards on the board too like, perhaps, Morin or Budish who might attract the scouts' attention. At 52, you're hoping a sleeper slips through, or someone more highly ranked drops. One thing we do know: Tyson Barrie's probably not getting his name called at 52. Beyond that, I think Ramo's defection might cause the Lightning to grab a goaltender somewhere along the line, but it's a goalie poor year. If they take one, it'll probably be a late round flyer on a project, in my opinion.
The sad thing is, the ownership squabbles really seem to have sapped the energy out of the Lightning's draft. I doubt Lawton is really prepared to be as aggressive as he could have been given everything that has happened. It's also pretty awful that the ownership squabbles will overshadow the young draft picks the Lightning make on Friday and Saturday. A guy like Hedman will still get his ink, but the other six or so prospects the Lightning select will have to compete with the soap opera for column space, and they'll probably lose. That's a shame, because they've worked all their lives to get to this point too. One day we'll look back on all this and laugh, I hope. Just not today.
Draft Day Resources
The Lightning are tweeting their draft weekend on Twitter. I'm not cool enough to know how to do Twitter myself, but I do get amusement from imagining Lawton, Tocchet, and Koules all passing the same Blackberry/iPhone around furiously thumb typing about the quality of their breakfast at the hotel in Montreal. I'm sure it doesn't work that way, but it's a funny image none the less.
Erik Erlendsson of the Trib also knows how to tweet.
As of right now the Lightning hold seven picks, according to NHL.com's official draft pick page. The page also links to the CSS rankings.
TSN's Bob MacKenzie always does a solid write up on the top-60 draft prospects. It's probably the best free draft content on the web if you're looking for a general overview of the top players.
Last but not least, you can join Bolt Prospects in our virtual "Barnacles in Brandon" for a Lightning draft party that will start Friday night and end on Saturday at question marks. The flash chat will work for anyone who has a Bolt Prospects message board registration, so if you don't have one feel free to sign up. It's free to register, and you get to see the Bolt Prospects staff do a collaborative, feverish information dump on the prospects the Lightning select in real time, which is a sight to behold that was just too incredibly haphazard and funny to be confined to private instant messages any longer.
Hereâ€™s a bold statement: the Tampa Bay Lightning are fully capable of becoming Stanley Cup champions within the next five seasons. With two legitimate franchise centers in longtime stalwart Vincent Lecavalier and star wunderkind Steven Stamkos and a bevy of young goaltenders headlined by the ultra-competitive Mike Smith, the Lightning actually have many of the key components necessary to become an elite NHL team. That may seem like an insane statement coming off of a year that the Lightning finished second-to-last in the league, but between their core pieces and a bevy of other young complimentary players like Paul Ranger, Andrej Meszaros, and Matt Lashoff, the future in Tampa Bay is brighter than anyone is giving the team credit for. However, for the Lightning to reach their full potential, they must keep Lecavalier and they must capitalize on their draft position in the deep 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
Make no mistake about it: this is the most important draft for the Lightning in 11 years. The 1998 draft was critical for the 2004 Stanley Cup team in supplying two core players (Lecavalier and Richards) and four players (including Dimitry Afanasenkov and Martin Cibak) overall to that championship roster. That draft seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime talent grab for the team, but with three picks in the top-60 in a talent rich year for youth, the new Lightning scouting staff might be set up to bring in an equally impressive fistfull of NHL talent. If they do, the Lightning may be just a few years away from reclimbing the ladder into the ranks of the NHL elite.
Today the KHL entry draft took place. The rules of the KHL draft could be found here http://en.khl.ru/news/2009/6/1/13673.html
The list of drafted players http://en.khl.ru/news/2009/6/1/13671.html
Viktor Hedman was drafted # 83 overall (of 91 picks) by the Spartak Moscow. So, if Hedman decide to play in KHL he could sign only with Spartak untill he turn 28 (if his right wouldn't be traded). Taking into account that Spartak is one of the poorest KHL clubs, I doubt that it could happen.
John Tavares went undrafted.
Damian Crisdotero speculates on his blog that the Lightning seem to be inclined to keep their second overall pick even if Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman goes off the board to the Islanders with the first overall pick. I somehow doubt the 300 percent increase in calls the Islanders are receiving for tickets is because of Hedman rather than John Tavares. Best of luck to Garth Snow trying to explain to the angry villagers with the tar and feathers why he didn't take a guy who scored 215 goals and 433 points in 247 career junior games for a team that finished second to last in the league in goals scored. Not that I'm trying to steer your decision, Garth. Crisdotero also cites the affordability of a capped entry level contract as one of the central reasons. I would cite Brian Burke's unwillingness to deal off Luke Schenn in a package for the pick.
He also includes the first full list of the Lightning's picks in this draft that I've seen with the overall pick numbers: Round 1 (No. 2 overall): Round 2 (32 and 52); Round 3 (75); Round 4 (93); Round 6 (161); Round 7 (182).