The 2022 NHL Draft is fast approaching. The Tampa Bay Lightning are playing in the Finals… again. They elected to keep their first-round draft selection for the first time in what seems like forever. But that hasn’t held them back before, with late-round picks like Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point. With the draft fast approaching, who is a Tampa Bay Lightning draft fit?
Tampa Bay Lightning Draft Fits: OHL Defensemen
The Lightning, since 2010 when Al Murray became their director of amateur scouting and Julien BriseBois became assistant general manager, have drafted 29 defensemen. Out of those 29, eight of them came from the OHL. That’s the most defensemen taken in one league by the Lightning, with the next closest at six. The average height and weight of those OHL draftees are 6’1.5” and 199 pounds.
Other averages include roughly 112 games played pre-draft, 12 goals, 43 assists and 55 points. The most games played out of the bunch is 181, set by Anthony DeAngelo, while the least is 62 from Geoff Schemitsch. Next, the most goals belong to DeAngelo as well, with 30, and the least is three from Jake Dotchin. As for assists, DeAngelo has the most by far with 122, while Dotchin had the least with 16. Finally, for points, DeAngelo had the most at 152, while Dotchin had the least at 19. With those parameters set in place, which 2022 NHL draft-eligible defensemen are Lightning fits? (Also looked at to find fits is league per game stats and world juniors performance.
Tampa Bay Lightning Draft: Fit #1: Pavel Mintyukov, Saginaw Spirit
The only positive fit amongst OHL eligibles is Mintyukov. He may not be the most realistic option, as he has been ranked as high as seventh (Elite Prospects), but he has also been ranked as low as 26th (Smaht Scouting). While that puts him out of the Lightning reach, there’s always a chance a player falls, and the Lightning will only be about six picks away from the lower end of his range.
If drafted by the Lightning, Mintyukov would set new highs in OHL goals per game and points per game. He would also finish above average in OHL goals, assists, points and assists per game. The things holding him back from being a positive fit is the fact he is below average in height (6’1”), weight (192), OHL games played, and World Juniors games played assists and points. He finished with a draft fit score of exactly zero.
Wishing the best of luck to Pavel Mintyukov and Matyas Sapovaliv as they attend the #NHLCombine this week! pic.twitter.com/t7bkU5Xb4w
— Saginaw Spirit (@SpiritHockey) May 31, 2022
What Does Mintyukov Bring To The Table
Mintyukov is an outstanding skater. In particular, his ability to change directions without losing speed, along with his shiftiness in general, is a testament to just how solid his edgework. That edgework is what sets him apart from all the other strong skaters in this class. Though he may not be the fastest in this class, he is certainly up there, but one could argue he has the best edges in the class. He’s also an offensively-minded defender, with decent puck-moving abilities. Once in the offensive zone, he can be a game-changer, as he is a dual-threat that can beat defenders with his strong vision and powerful point shot.
However, he does have some issues in his game. For one, he struggles to defend against the rush. In particular, when fast and shifty players, like himself, attack his half of the ice, he can get burned pretty badly. When the opposition establishes possession offensively, Mintyukov struggles to stick with his man and can puck chase or puck watch too often. Despite all of that, he is a very high upside selection and has one of the higher ceilings amongst blueliners in the class.
Tampa Bay Lightning Draft: Fit #2: Spencer Sova, Erie Otters
As mentioned above, Mintyukov was the only positive fit (at zero). However, Sova was not too far off, with a fit score of -1. Being ranked between 75th (Bob McKenzie) and 126th (McKeen’s Hockey), he could be a mid-round draft choice for Tampa. He had modest production this season but was a point per game in the U18 World Juniors while donning the “A” for the national team.
If drafted by the Lightning, Sova would set a new high amongst Lightning draftees with his World Juniors assists and points. He would also finish above average in World Juniors games played and OHL goals per game. Meanwhile, he is a negative fit due to being below average in height (6’1”), weight (185), OHL games played, goals, assists, points, assists per game, and points per game. Then again, he missed an entire OHL season due to COVID, as did Mintyukov. That said, being a negative fit by as small a margin as Sova should not be that concerning.
What Does Sova Bring To The Table
Sova brings similar qualities to the table as Mintyukov. He is a very good skater with excellent edgework. As a matter of fact, Dominic Tiano stated Sova may have the best edges in the class, according to The Hockey Writers. Offensively, Sova isn’t fantastic necessarily, but he has some really strong traits as well. Overall, his offensive game is something that NHL teams should be willing to take a chance on. With NHL coaching, it can be taken to the next level.
However, Sova isn’t as dominant with his passing abilities moving up ice. His skating, edges, and decent stickhandling gives him enticing traits to work with. Then, as with a good majority of defensemen in this class, Sova needs to work on the defensive side of things. However, again, NHL-level coaching should unlock that. He has already spoken about that aspect of his game needing work. With his history as one of the captains for Team Canada this season, he should buy into whatever an NHL team suggests. That sort of character and willingness to work with coaches make him super intriguing, especially since his game progressing will be based on that progression through NHL coaching. Definitely a sleeper pick in this class.