The Tampa Bay Lightning have risen as one of the top teams in the NHL in the past few years and are considered to be Stanley Cup contenders by many. A lot of their success comes from drafting so well. Most of the players, especially forwards, that you see on Tampa’s roster have all been drafted and developed to play important roles in building a Stanley Cup team.
However, despite the Lightning’s successful drafting in recent years, most of their success has come after the first round. Sure, they hit the jackpot drafting their core players Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman at the top of the 2008 and 2009 drafts, but haven’t really gotten much from first round picks otherwise. Since 2000, most of the Lightning’s first round picks have hardly played in the NHL, and that could be a big reason why it took them so long to find success again since their 2004 Stanley Cup Championship.
This list takes a look at the could have’s and would have’s of the Lightning’s last 15 first round selections and gives you an idea of how much better this team could actually be today. With the exception of just a few picks, there are many times where the Lightning failed to pounce on opportunities to make their team better. Here is a re-draft of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s last 15 first round picks.
15. 2000 – Henrik Lundqvist
Original Pick: Nikita Alexeev
Henrik Lundqvist has been the best player from his draft year no questions asked. A former Vezina Trophy winner in 2011-12, and 3-time NHL All-Star, “The King” would have been the right pick for any team in the 2000 NHL Draft.
The Lightning who struggled most notably with goal-tending after they won their first Stanley Cup in 2003-04, could have avoided their struggles with the All-Star goaltender in their system. Lundqvist finished with 30 wins in 53 appearances in his 2005-06 rookie season, with a .922 save percentage, and 2.24 goals-against average and was a consideration for the Vezina and Calder trophies. Overall, “The King” has a solid .920 save percentage and 2.29 goals-against average in his career and his still playing with the team that drafted him, the New York Rangers.
As for Alexeev, he failed to live up to his draft ranking and was constantly shifting between the Lightning’s NHL roster and AHL affiliate, the Springfield Falcons. He played three seasons with the Lightning and finished the 2006-07 season with the Chicago Blackhawks whom he was traded to at the trade deadline before leaving for the KHL. Alexeev finished his NHL career with 37 points in 159 games.
14. 2001 – Patrick Sharp
Original Pick: Alexander Svitov
Patrick Sharp went missed by many before finally being selected 95th overall in the 2001 draft. Although he took a little while to get his career going, it was a trade from Philadelphia to Chicago duringthe 2005-06 season that ignited Sharp’s career. The three-time Stanley Cup winner turned into a legitimate 30+ goal scorer in the prime of his career.
The Manitoba native would have definitely panned out better for the Bolts than Svitov, who couldn’t even last two seasons in Tampa before being traded to Columbus in 2003-04. Sharp’s goal scoring abilities could have made him a long-time offensive threat in Tampa and given the Lightning an extra offensive boost when needed. Instead, Sharp is now applying his craft down in Dallas as a member of the Stars.
13. 2004 – Alexander Edler
Original Pick: Andy Rogers
The Lightning went with another disappointing selection in the first round of the 2004 draft. They chose defense-man Andy Rogers who turned out to be a hit and miss as he played zero games in the NHL. Assuming the Lightning would like to re-select a different defense-man, Alex Edler would be the best guy available.
Edler is known for his big slap shot from the point and his offensive contributions. It didn’t take long for the Swedish defender to prove himself to be a legitimate top four defender on the Canucks. His career high in points came in the 2011-12 season, where he recorded 49 points. Edler would have easily slid in perfectly to the Lightning’s roster who were in need of defense after they won their Stanley Cup in 2004.
12. 2005 – Kris Letang
Original Pick: Vladimir Mihalik
With the Lightning selecting another defense-man 30th overall a year later, it’s tough to figure out how they missed out on Kris Letang. Vladimir Mihalik played in only 15 games in the NHL in two seasons with the Lightning. He found himself mostly playing in the AHL until leaving for the KHL after the 2010-11 season. The Bolts failed to draft an NHL caliber defense-man at 30th overall for the second straight year.
Another offensively-gifted defense-man, Letang put up 68 points in 60 games during his final year of junior hockey for the Val-D’Or Foreurs. He has transmitted his offensive game to the NHL where he is one of the most dominant scorers from the blue line in the game today.
Letang currently remains with the team that drafted him 62nd overall in 2005, the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he has won two Stanley Cups and is a three-time NHL All-Star. It’s fair to say that if the Lightning were able to add Letang to their blue line, he would have changed their team drastically.
11. 2006 – Claude Giroux
Original Pick: Riku Helenius
Tampa Bay chose to go with a goaltender in the 2006 first round, but since they have Lundqvist already in this re-draft, picking another goalie wouldn’t be necessary. Instead, the Lightning selects Claude Giroux, a center from the Gatineau Olympiques.
Giroux is a gifted center with great play-making abilities and is excellent in the face-off circle. He would be the right fit for the Lightning up front for various reasons. His play-making skills would help the Lightning score more goals and he would also likely get along with French Canadians Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier who were the Lightning’s top forwards at the time and could act as good mentors.
Giroux is currently the captain of the team that drafted him 22nd in 2006, the Philadelphia Flyers and has developed into the Flyers’ franchise center. The 28 year old has 550 points in 614 games in his career so far.