Tampa Bay Lightning Draft Recap And Grades

The Tampa Bay Lightning draft class is officially here for 2022. Though the season ended in heartbreak, the Lightning had a first-round pick to look forward to. Outside of that first, the Lightning traded up into the third round and made several selections to fill positions of need. 

Tampa Bay Lightning Draft Recap And Grades

Tampa Bay Lightning Draft Isaac Howard At 31st Overall

Isaac Howard, a left-winger who played with the US NTDP this past season, was the first Lightning selection in 2022. Before the draft, he was listed as the top fit among USHL forwards based on this writer’s Lightning Draft Fits series, and as the second-best overall fit in the class. His draft fit score was +8 and sat behind only Shane Wright, who went fourth overall and recorded a +10. 

In total with the NTDP this season, Howard scored 33 goals and 49 assists for 82 points in 60 games. That includes 11 goals and 26 assists for 37 points in 27 USHL games. Next season, Howard is committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Over the last two drafts, the Lightning have dipped their toes into the NTDP, selecting defenseman Roman Schmidt and forward Dylan Duke.  

Draft Pick Grade: B+

Howard is a high upside player, and for the Lightning’s barren prospects cupboard, that is much-needed. He provides a high-tempo, fast-paced style of play with a ton of high hockey IQ on display. His play away from the puck is extremely efficient, as he has a knack for finding open space in the offensive zone for scoring opportunities. His vision is also high-end, and he ranked second among all forwards tracked in passes aimed at high-danger (among players with 50+ pass attempts). Howard consistently attacked high danger, whether with his passing or his shooting, which bodes well for his future outlook. 

However, with that high-octane and dynamic offence comes some concerns. It’s unlikely he will be efficient, moving forward through higher levels of competition, playing at that high of a pace consistently. In fact, this writer mentioned in an earlier scouting report that Howard needs to press on the breaks a little bit and slow his game down on occasion, as his game features a lot of risk of turnovers. Additionally, Howard doesn’t always get involved in the forecheck or backcheck, and he struggles defensively with his engagement. 

He looks like a future top-six winger, but his game needs some refinement first, and he is not a sure thing to make it to the NHL level. 

86th Overall: Tampa Bay Lightning Draft Lucas Edmonds, Kingston Frontenacs

On day two, the Lightning opened up their day with a trade-up into the third round. Moving picks #103 and #169 to the Los Angeles Kings, the Lightning set their eyes on an over-age winger. Edmonds, who is 21 years old, was passed over in multiple drafts. The reason for that is his lacklustre performances in Sweden at the Allsvenskan and HockeyEttan levels (nine points in 35 combined games last year). As a rookie in the OHL, coming to Kingston, Edmonds absolutely exploded onto the scene. He recorded 34 goals and 79 assists for 113 points in 68 total games. Edmonds is a player that this writer really liked as the year wore on, despite his age. 

As for his draft fit score, he recorded a +3 score, which ranked fourth among OHL forwards. The 5’11” and 185-pound forward will likely play for the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL next season, as he is likely AHL-ready. Next season will be a big tell if this was the right pick to make. 

Draft Pick Grade: B-

This grade may seem high for a third-round pick used on an over-age prospect who was undrafted for three consecutive seasons. However, there is a reason for that. In a lot of ways, Edmonds reminds this writer a lot of Brayden Point in his draft year. Yes, Point was in his first year of eligibility and had more runway in terms of development with an NHL organization. In no way is this a way of saying Edmonds will be as good as Point.

However, Edmonds is a guy who has an incredible hockey sense and IQ and is so good at controlling the pace of play. It shows in his point totals and dominance over his (albeit younger) peers. His poise with the puck, vision, and creativity with the puck on his stick is impressive. Add the fact that he is eligible for the AHL and will be in direct contact with one of the best developmental organizations, and there is a chance he develops quite well. 

Overall, his skating needs a lot of work. In general, Edmonds has average edge work and decent short-area burst. But he lacks straight-line speed, falling between average and below-average in that area. But guess what? The same thing was said about Point, and he worked with Barb Underhill and became an elite skater. Edmonds skating should be alright in the long run. The biggest issue, however, is his age. He’s already 21 and has maybe two years to prove himself before time likely runs out for a true opportunity. 

Edmonds projects as a middle-six scorer who, if developed well, can play all situations. His skating will be a focal point, but that is likely the main thing that will stop him from making it to the NHL level. 

160th Overall: Lightning Select Nick Malik, Goalie, Kookoo (Finland)

With Amir Miftakhov leaving the organization and Magnus Chrona having also been dealt away, the Lightning do need some organizational depth in goal. In comes Malik. Since 2015-16, Malik has posted a save percentage lower than 0.910 just four times. That’s across two Czechia U16 seasons, two Czechia U18 seasons, one Czechia U20 and U19 season, three Czechia2 seasons, one Czechia men’s season, one OHL season, and one Liiga (Finnish men’s) season. That’s 12 different leagues/seasons, and only four times did he drop below a 0.910 save percentage. 

As for his fit score, he is the first negative fit, at -6. However, the reason for the negative fit was the fact he was below average compared to other Lightning goalie draft picks in seven categories and set a new low in two. He’s also the first goalie drafted out of Liiga by the Lightning (since 2010). However, the categories that he was above average in were the more important categories (save percentage and goals-against average). At 20 years old, Malik is slated to play another season in Liiga, and will likely make the move back to North America after that, to play either in the ECHL or AHL. 

Draft Pick Grade: C+

192nd Overall: Tampa Bay Lightning Draft Connor Kurth, Dubuque

Kurth is yet another over-age player drafted in this class. The Lightning clearly had a pattern coming into day two. They are looking to be Cup contenders for the foreseeable future, and over-age players are generally more mature and further along in their development, meaning he is closer to NHL ready. Kurth recorded 35 goals and 46 assists for 81 points in 62 games. The 18-year-old went undrafted last year and stands at 5’11” and 214 pounds.

As for his fit score, he recorded a +4, ranking ninth among USHL forwards. He is committed to playing for the University of Minnesota next season. Kurth plays a physical game and can be a bit of a pest to play against. His offensive game is solid all-around, but he isn’t really a game-breaking talent in that department either. His skating is in pretty rough shape mechanically, and it holds his overall speed and agility back quite a bit. That said, if his skating can be improved in the NCAA, he projects as a bottom-six winger, who will play similar to a Patrick Maroon type. There’s also a concern painted by an article by The Athletic, that his off-ice conditioning and fitness is a problem, similar to the situation faced with Jake Dotchin a few years back. 

Draft Pick Grade: D+

Tampa Bay Lightning Draft: Late Round Fliers

223rd Overall: Lightning Select Dyllan Gill, Defenseman, Rouyn-Noranda

Gill is a defenseman from the QMJHL who recorded 21 points in 66 games and was a -6 draft fit. Gill has good size at 6’2” and 181 pounds. However, the left-handed defender doesn’t have much in the way of scouting reports on him, and this writer hasn’t watched him this season. That said, from what has been written about him, he is a decent defender in his own end but needs to improve his offence and transitional abilities to be an NHL player. His ceiling is low, and will likely end up as a bottom-pair or depth defender, at best. 

224th Overall: Lightning Select Klavs Veinbergs, HK Riga (MHL)

The 6’3” and 198-pound Latvian, Veinbergs had a -4.5 fit score among MHL draft eligibles. That came after recording 16 goals and 24 points in 47 games as an MHL rookie. The 19-year-old is yet another over-age prospect. There really is not much out there about the big Latvian, and this writer did not watch him this year. 

Draft Pick Grade (223 and 224): D

Tampa Bay Lightning Overall Draft Grade: C

The first two picks were solid, especially the Howard selection. But, Howard is raw and will need some refinement to truly project his impact at the NHL level. As for Edmonds, he has a shorter leash than most prospects, due to his age and limitations. He will need to prove himself quickly to establish himself as an everyday NHLer rather than an emergency call-up option. Malik, and all goalies really, are hard to project, but his consistency across all leagues is a positive. If he has another good season in Liiga, his value grows further. 

Kurth is in the same boat as Edmonds to a degree with his limitations but has an easier and longer road ahead with the NCAA route ahead. His off-ice issues, if true, will be something that needs to be rid of for a true NHL shot. Finally, the last two prospects were somewhat off the board and don’t have strong projections. Then again, they are seventh-round fliers, so no love lost there. Overall, if they hit on Howard and Edmonds, this class was a hit. However, outside of those two, the other three selections are relative long shots for various reasons.