The 2022 NHL Draft is fast approaching. The Tampa Bay Lightning, preparing to play game three of the Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Rangers, elected to keep their first-round 2022 NHL draft selection for the first time in what seems like forever. So, while they likely aren’t focusing too much on the draft, Last Word will look at some Lightning draft prototypes in a new series. Today, we will examine some Tampa Bay Lightning Draft fits from the WHL.
Tampa Bay Lightning Draft Prototypes: WHL Forwards
The Lightning, since 2010 when Julien BriseBois became an assistant general manager and Al Murray joined the organization, have drafted seven forwards from the WHL. That’s the third-most of all the leagues they have drafted from. The average of those players is roughly 6’1.5” and 186 pounds. The shortest player they’ve drafted from the WHL is Brayden Point, at 5’10”. Meanwhile, the tallest player they’ve drafted is Jack Finley at 6’5”. The heaviest player drafted is also Finley, at 207, while the lightest player is also Point, at 165.
Other averages include roughly 133 WHL games played pre-draft, with an average of roughly 44 goals, 61 assists and 105 points. The most pre-draft games played belong to 168 games from Nolan Foote, while the least number of games belongs to Brett Connolly at 85. The most goals belong to Point with 61, and the least is 28 for Finley. As for assists, the most again belongs to Point with 88, whereas the least belongs to Connolly with 39. Most points, obviously, is Point at 149, with Finley as the lowest with 77. With those parameters, who fit the bill as Lightning prototypes? (Also used to find prototypes is per game WHL stats and U18 World Juniors performance).
2022 NHL Draft Fit #1: Ben King, Right Wing, Red Deer Rebels
The best fit at the WHL level is Ben King, and he’s the only positive fit, believe it or not. King is 20 years old, wears the assistant captaincy “A” on his jersey for Red Deer, and had a massive season. Scoring 52 goals and 53 assists for 105 assists in just 68 games was massive for the 6’3” and 201 pound King. Ranked only by Central Scouting (96th), King could be a late-round swing for Tampa Bay.
King would set new highs, if drafted by Tampa, in WHL games played (206), goals (89), assists (116), and points (205). He also finished above average in height, weight, WHL goals per game, assists per game, and points per game. The few things holding him back are his lack of World Juniors play and the fact that Tampa has never drafted a player from Red Deer before.
What Does King Bring To The Table?
King plays a complete game and plays in all situations for Red Deer. Playing a full 200-foot game, King is smart in all three zones. He has a good motor offensively and can stickhandle as good as anybody else. He’s also very poised with the puck, able to stay calm with possession regardless of whatever his opponents throw at him. King may not be the best at setting up teammates, but he absolutely can flash passing skills from time to time. But perhaps his best trait is his shot. He possesses excellent power and solid accuracy, and Red Deer plays him at the point on the power play. From that spot, he can really show off that ability, and with over 50 goals this past season, he absolutely displayed it.
The thing that is holding King back the most is his skating and, at this point, his age. His skating has improved a bit, but not a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. He didn’t let that hold him back this season, as shown with his production, but at the next level, he could get exposed. Overall, King looks like a future bottom-six center with penalty-killing upside. His size, shooting ability, smarts and two-way reliability will help get him there.
2022 NHL Draft Fit #2: Conor Geekie, Center, Winnipeg Ice
Although not a positive fit, he is the second-best fit for Tampa Bay. Connor Geekie started the season off as a fast riser, rocketing up draft boards and being a near consensus top-15 selection. He may still go that early, being ranked as high as eighth by McKeen’s Hockey. However, he has fallen as the season continued, with his lowest ranking down at 31 by Craig Button. Scoring 24 goals and 46 assists for 70 points in 63 games this season, he was solid. Production, paired with his big frame (6’4” and 205 pounds) and the position he plays, he could go top-10. Thank the old hockey boys club for that.
— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) March 24, 2022
If he falls and gets taken by Tampa Bay, he would set a new high in WHL assists per game. Geekie would also finish above average in height, weight, WHL goals per game and assists per game. Holding him back is the fact he was below average in WHL games played, goals, assists, and points, plus not playing in the U18 World Juniors.
What Does Geekie Bring To The Table?
Geekie is uber-creative in the offensive zone and possesses excellent stickhandling ability. Paired with his size, it is difficult for players within his age range to knock off the puck. Additionally, Geekie has excellent vision and a solid passing ability. This is evidenced by his assists per game, exceeding the very difficult-to-reach standards for the WHL. Geekie is also really effective through the neutral zone and setting up chances off the rush. He knows how to use his size effectively as well, playing the body and showing a strong motor in all three zones.
Skating, however, is not Geekie’s strong suit. Yes, his size certainly plays a part, but his stride is choppy and awkward. His speed and acceleration surprisingly aren’t hindered too much by this. He can still stay with the play quite well, but his edge work is poor. Defensively, he is engaged and has an active stick, but he does not have great positional awareness, on top of the fact that the puck changes directions a lot, and he does not keep up with his poor edges. One other concern is with his offensive play style. He relies on his size and strength to overpower opponents and extend plays. That simply won’t work at the NHL level, and it’s feared he may be a boom-or-bust type of prospect.