Welcome to Last Word’s Draft Boom and Bust series. As the 2020 NHL Entry Draft approaches, we decided to examine each team’s best and worst pick since the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. The biggest boom is a player that had the best value relative to where they were selected. Meaning, no one in the first round will be considered a team’s best value pick. However, the biggest busts will almost always be in the first round. We will examine each player, why they were picked where they were, and what their NHL career was like. Today, we look at the Tampa Bay Lightning draft, and their biggest boom and bust.
Tampa Bay Lightning Draft Boom and Bust
As a second-round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Nikita Kucherov was viewed by many as a risky pick. Although he had talent, no one ever knows if Russian players will come over or not. Being taken in the second round, the Lightning saw his talent and took a chance on drafting him. In his draft season, Kucherov spent the majority of the season playing for Krasnaya Armiya Moskva of the MHL. He managed to score 27 goals and add 31 assists for 58 points in 41 games played. He even managed to get into a few KHL games with CSKA Moskva where he put up two assists in nine games played.
Following the draft, he would return back to Russia for one season before coming overseas to play in the QMJHL. Splitting time between the Quebec Remparts and the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, Kucherov scored 29 goals and added 35 assists for 64 points in 33 games played. In 2013-14, he made the jump to the NHL and made the team out of training camp.
Kucherov’s first season in the NHL certainly did not point to him becoming a superstar. In 52 games played with the Lightning, Kucherov scored nine goals and added nine assists for 18 points. He was even sent down to the minors where he put up 24 points in 17 games playing for the Syracuse Crunch. After that season though he started showing signs of things to come. Playing all 82 games with the Lightning, he scored 29 goals and added 36 assists for 65 points.
Kucherov continued to get better and better as the years went on but he shot to superstar status in 2017-18. Playing in 80 games, he scored 39 goals and added 61 assists for 100 points. He followed that up with a 128 point effort to lead the league in points last season. Although many fans might not have heard of him a few years ago, there is no doubt everyone knows Kucherov now. He is a premier player and it is a treat to watch him on a nightly basis.
Other Notable Booms
A third-round selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Point has developed into a great top-six player. Although he has only been in the league for a few seasons now, there is no denying that Point is going to be a star. Having erupted for 94 points last season, Point showed that he is going to be a go-to player for the Lightning for a long time to come.
A seventh-round selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Lightning brass must be extremely pleased with how Palat’s career has gone so far. Capable of killing penalties and driving the play for his line, Palat has turned into a very serviceable player for the Lightning. With 328 career points, Palat has certainly turned into one of the better value picks in the 2011 NHL draft.
Ranked as a top prospect for the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, many people predicted that Svitov was going to be the next big thing in Tampa Bay. In 2000-01, while playing for Avangard Omsk, he put up 14 points in 39 games played to go along with 117 minutes in penalties. Although those point totals aren’t amazing, he was a teenager playing against men. Having been pegged by many to go in the top 10, the Lightning solidified that by taking him with the third overall pick.
After being drafted, Svitov went back to Russia for one year before making the jump to the NHL. With all the hype around him, he managed to put up a lacklustre eight points in 63 games during his rookie season. He was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets the following season and was back in Russia by 2005-06. To add salt to the wound, many great players were selected after Svitov and went on to have great careers. Some players included Mikko Koivu, Mike Cammalleri and Jason Pominville.
Other Notable Busts
Alexeyev was drafted in the first round, eighth overall by the Lightning in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. In 159 games played, he put up 37 points. He returned to Russia in 2007-08 and stayed there until he retired in 2012-13. He never made a big impact in North America.
Drafted by the Lightning in the first round, 30th overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Rogers never made it higher than the AHL. He moved around from team to team until he retired from pro hockey in 2009-10.