The defending back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning have a difficult off-season ahead. It started with the expansion draft, losing Yanni Gourde. That was followed by the 2021 NHL draft. Here’s a Lightning draft recap, looking at their selections and grading how well they did.
Tampa Bay Lightning Draft Recap
Heading into the draft, the Lightning had six draft picks: 96th overall, 160th overall, 192nd overall, 196th overall, 211th overall, and 224th overall. They ended up trading their 2022 fourth-round pick to the Montreal Canadiens for the 126th overall selection, making it seven total selections.
Lightning Draft Recap: 96th Overall: Roman Schmidt (Grade: D)
Roman Schmidt is a 6-foot-6, 209-pound right-shot defenseman. He played for the US NTDP squad this year, playing 22 USHL games for them with seven points. Additionally, he played 45 games with the U18 USNTDP team, scoring 14 points. The Midland, Michigan native has strong bloodlines when it comes to skating. Joe Smith of The Athletic wrote a back-story of the big defender, looking back at his time as a figure skater, training with his mom who always wanted him to be an Olympic figure skater like her. Schmidt was unranked in my list of the top-190 prospects, but landed 43rd (Puck Authority), 65th (Bob McKenzie), 97th (Draft Prospects Hockey), 109th (Smaht Scouting), 137th (McKeen’s), and 248th (FCHockey).
What Style Does Schmidt Play?
He has a massive frame, but with that comes limitations in his skating. His edgework and acceleration is strong, especially for his size, but his top-end speed simply is not good enough at this time. Add to that, he plays aggressive when defending the rush and loves stepping up and throwing the body. If he tries that at the NHL level, with his below-average speed, he’ll get walked time and time again. Once in the defensive zone, he uses his long reach well to cut down passing lanes. However, in the games I’ve watched, he does not get inside positioning in net-front battles, often giving up the net-front.
While his defensive awareness and stick work is high-end, he still needs a considerable amount of refinement. Additionally, his offensive game is lacking. Schmidt will look off teammates that are open in high-danger areas for a low-danger shot time and time again. His shot needs work to be dangerous, and he didn’t pose a threat consistently with his shot at the USHL level, which says a lot. Transitionally, a lack of speed hurts his game. However, he has a good first pass and decent vision, which allows him to find teammates up ice for an exit or an entry.
Lightning Draft Recap: 126th Overall: Dylan Duke (Grade: A)
Dylan Duke is a 5-foot-10, 181-pound center who played for the USNTDP this season with Schmidt. The Strongsville, Ohio native played 26 USHL games with 10 goals and seven assists for 17 points at the USHL level. Additionally, he played 50 games for the U18 squad, with 29 goals and 20 assists for 49 points. Duke came in as my 40th ranked prospect. He was also ranked 32nd (Smaht Scouting), 40th (Elite Prospects and Puck Authority), 41st (FCHockey), 42nd (Craig Button and Draft Prospects Hockey), 43rd (Dobber Prospects), 46th (Recruit Scouting), 78th (Bob McKenzie) and 86th (McKeen’s). By all accounts, Duke was a steal at 126th.
What Style Does Duke Play?
Duke is a net-front menace. If you were to watch a highlight reel on Duke, you’ll quickly find all the clips are moments of him on the doorstep putting home rebounds and deflecting one-timers or long-distance shots into the net. His nose to the net isn’t just a bashful or aggressive style, either. He’ll park himself there, and when there’s a possible scoring chance, he’ll find space as a passing option. Or, he will quickly position himself better to potentially deflect a shot or score on a rebound. His anticipation and positional awareness are high-end. Duke’s shooting is solid as well, displaying an ability to score from all over the offensive zone, not just at the net-front.
His defensive game is predicated on his motor and willingness to engage in the dirty areas, just like his offensive game, and he does well. Positioning and a high hockey sense aid him in those areas. Where he lacks is in his skating, as he is only average compared to his peers. His stride is almost technically sound, but he could work on his ankle bend and skating stance. Then again, Brayden Point was a third-round pick, who fell because he was small and was an average skater at best.
160th Overall: Cameron MacDonald (Grade: C-)
Cameron MacDonald is a 6-foot-1, 190-pound center and left-winger. The Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia native played for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL this past season. In his first QMJHL season, he scored 10 goals and seven assists for 17 points in 30 games. MacDonald was not ranked in my top-190 and was ranked 210th by FCHockey.
MacDonald plays a heavy game. He’s hard on the forecheck, aggressive along the boards, and battles for net-front positioning as a screen. With the puck on his stick offensively, he can be a threat with his shot. However, his net-front and aggressive style paired with his shot are the only threats he truly possesses. MacDonald looks off easy passes for less dangerous plays on his own. Additionally, he plays well in the defensive end. He projects as a bottom-six winger at the next level, which has some value.
192nd Overall: Alex Gagne (Grade: D)
Alex Gagne stands at 6-foot-3 and 207 pounds. The left-shot defenseman played 53 USHL games with the Muskegon Lumberjacks this past season, scoring three goals and 23 assists for 26 points. He’s committed to the University of New Hampshire for next year.
Gagne’s strong in his own end, capable of shutting down the opposition. He uses his size and long reach to his advantage, as well as his size and physical advantages. On the transition, Gagne is not going to push the pace by any means. However, he is poised with the puck with decent vision, finding an easy outlet and getting it there. Offensively, he does not provide much value, which has led to him not being a highly-touted prospect. He was ranked 297th by FCHockey and 205th by McKeen’s.
Lightning Draft Recap: 196th Overall: Daniil Pylenkov (Grade: C)
Daniil Pylenkov is another big-bodied defenseman, standing at 6-foot-1 and 194 pounds. A left-shot defender, Pylenkov was a third-year draft-eligible, meaning he’s 20-years-old. He played primarily in the KHL over the last two seasons, combining for 102 games played, with 24 points to show for it. He was ranked 143rd by McKeen’s.
Pylenkov is a solid two-way defender, playing well in his own end and flashing really strong offensive instincts. He plays with a high-end awareness, both positionally and situationally, and can use that to defend against opposing teams’ top players with consistency. With the puck, he makes simple and smart plays to push the pace, which limits his upside a bit. However, he has the skillset and abilities to wind up as a bottom pairing defender in the future, if all things go well.
211th Overall: Robert Flinton (Grade: C-)
Robert Flinton is a 6-foot-2, 203-pound left-winger. He’s still only 17-years-old and will turn 18 on August 16th. Last year, Flinton played across three teams. He played for the U18 AAA Northern Cyclones for five games, scoring 10 points. Then he played for the U18 AAA North Suburban Wings for three games, with five points. Finally, he played six games for St. Paul’s USHS prep team with nine points. He’s committed to Dartmouth College in the NCAA for the 2022-23 season.
Corey Pronman of The Athletic had a small blurb on the Flinton selection: “Flinton is a big forward with some skill and offensive hockey sense, but scouts have issues with his skating and don’t find him to be that physical.” Flinton is a long-term project, at best.
224th Overall: Niko Huuhtanen (Grade: B)
Niko Huuhtanen is a 6-foot-1, 203-pound right-winger. This past season, Huuhtanen played 37 games with the Tappara U20 team in the SM-Sarja, Finland’s junior league. He scored 20 goals and 34 points in that span. Next year, he’s playing for the Everett Silvertips in the WHL. He’s been ranked 156th by FCHockey and 117th by Smaht Scouting.
Huuhtanen is the epitome of a flier in the seventh round. He brings a lot of upside with his physicality, stickhandling, creativity, and a really good shot. However, his skating needs work, as does his ability to take advantage more often of his offensive skills. His playmaking and passing abilities hold him back as well. He’s a high upside player and is a very low-risk selection with the last pick in the seventh round.
Lightning Draft Recap Overall Grade
The Lightning really did not get that much value in this class. That’s less a fault of their own and more because they didn’t have a pick until 96th overall. With those selections, they could have done better. The Schmidt pick is one that could’ve been better, in my opinion. Jakub Brabenec, Ethan Del Mastro, Victor Stjernborg, William Trudeau, and Red Savage were picked after him and all would’ve been preferred options. As for the Gagne pick, Justin Janicke was picked a few slots later, and he would’ve provided some solid value, especially for a seventh. Martin Rysavy and Ty Gallagher were other seventh-round selections that were taken later than anticipated and would have been strong selections.
This draft was also the draft for families, it seems. Luke Hughes joined his brother Jack Hughes in New Jersey. Colton Dach and Kirby Dach are a part of the Blackhawks organization. Shane Doan’s son, Josh Doan, became a member of the Coyotes. That said, the Lightning missed an opportunity to select Martin St. Louis’s son, Ryan St. Louis, in the seventh round. He is an undrafted prospect, which is absurd. He’s a high-end offensive talent, playing with a high IQ. St. Louis is also strong in his own end. He was passed over for his lack of size and below-average skating. He would have been an excellent selection in the seventh round.
Team USA finishes the second period ahead of Sweden, 3-1
— USA Hockey (@usahockey) April 25, 2021