Tampa Bay Lightning 2021 NHL Draft Recap

Tampa Bay Lightning 2021 NHL Draft Recap

by August 20, 2021 0 comments

The Tampa Bay Lightning held seven picks during the 2021 NHL Draft. Without their first-round selection for the second season in a row, the team traded the 32nd pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets for defenseman David Savard. The franchise also sent their fourth-round selection to the Detroit Red Wings while also giving the Blue Jackets a 2022 third-round selection to complete the trade. Paying dividends to help them repeat as Stanley Cup champions, the 30-year-old blueliner racked up five points in 20 playoff games. Furthermore, he also assisted on Ross Colton‘s series-clinching goal in game five. Jumping into round four, general manager Julian BriseBois flipped a 2022 fourth-round pick to the Montreal Canadiens to select center Dylan Duke.

Make sure to check out all of our other NHL Draft Recaps.

Rundown

Roman Schmidt, D, U.S. National U18 Team-USNDP (Round 3, Pick 96)

Dylan Duke, C, U.S. National U18 Team-USNDP (Round 4, Pick 126)

Cameron MacDonald, C/LW, Saint John-QMJHL (Round 5, Pick 160)

Alex Gagne, D, Muskegon-USHL (Round 6, Pick 192)

Daniil Pylenkov, D, Vityaz Podolsk-KHL (Round 7, Pick 196)

Robert Flinton, LW, St. Paul’s School-USHS-Prep (Round 7, Pick 211)

Niko Huuhtanen, RW, Tappara U20-U20 SM-Sarja (Round 7, Pick 244)

Tampa Bay choose to build for the future with one of the best roster cores in the league remaining largely intact. This was highlighted by the selection of Duke at the end of the fourth round. Scouts pegged the Strongsville, Ohio native as a top 64 talent before falling off due to concerns about his size. Shining for the United States at the Under 18 World Championships, he recorded four points in five games while also earning top-three player honors. Adding to their young and deep defensive core with the selection of Schmidt, the 18-year-old fits the mold of past and current defensemen that have been successful for the franchise. Standing at 6’6″, he can fill in on the right side of the blue line with his substantial offensive upside.

Best Pick: Dylan Duke

A member of the under 18 team in the United States National Development Program last season, Duke was one of the group’s top scorers. Averaging just under a point per game, he racked up 29 goals and 20 assists in 50 games. Committed to play college hockey at the University of Michigan next season, he has a natural goal-scoring ability. With the majority of his tallies coming in the slot, he can get to the front of the net both with the puck and without the puck.

Along with this, the 5’10” center has a quick and accurate wrist shot that can fool opposing netminders. Needing to work and refine his skating, Duke also brings a vigorous work ethic in the defensive zone. Ranked as high as 29th on NHL Central Scouting; look for him to be a productive third-line player at the pro level.

Worst Pick: Alex Gagne

A two-year player in the United States Hockey League, Gagne spent last season with the Muskegon Lumberjacks. Appearing in 53 games, the 6’3″ blueliner amassed three goals and 23 assists. Primarily a shutdown defenseman, he uses his size and physicality to shut down opposing players in his own zone. Moreover, the Bedford, New Hampshire native also uses his high-end hockey IQ and vision to make stable outlet passes to move the puck up ice.

Failing to have the high-end speed like other defensemen in this draft class, he also lacks refinement as an offensive threat, forcing him to slip down many team’s draft boards. Committed to play college hockey at the University of New Hampshire for the 2021 season, he is a value pick that remains a few years away from playing in the NHL.

Sleeper Pick: Niko Huuhtanen

A 6’1″ right-winger, Huuhtanen spent his 2020 campaign with the Tappara U20 team in the SM-Sara junior league in Finland. Scoring 20 goals during that stretch of games, he recorded 34 points. Possessing high offensive upside as a seventh-round draft choice, he has the hands to beat opposing defensemen and goaltenders in tight. He has both the creativity and scoring touch to make plays for himself and his teammates.

A strong forechecker, Huuhtanen can use his size in the offensive zone to cause havoc and force his opponent into mistakes. Furthermore, he is also active along the boards, allowing him to dig out and win battles for loose pucks. Destined to be a member of the Everett Silvertips in the Western Hockey League in 2021, selecting him with their final selection of the draft was smart business for BriseBois and company.

Summary

Tampa Bay is expected to be one of the premier contenders across the NHL once again next season. They will look to become the first team to win three straight cups since the New York Islanders in the early 1980s. Losing multiple important pieces in both the expansion draft and due to salary cap constraints, the franchise was forced to part with longtime center Tyler Johnson, Yanni Gourde, Barclay Goodrow, and Blake Coleman. Also, both Savard and Luke Schenn parted ways with the Lightning in free agency as they landed in Montreal and Vancouver. However, the group still returns the core of former Norris trophy winner Victor Hedman, Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Alex Killorn to join the reigning Conn Smythe winner in goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.

With the young talent on the roster destined to take on more significant roles next season, look for players like Mathieu Joseph and Ross Colton to take on a bigger role with the team. Set for the immediate future, Tampa’s Bay’s front office looked to build for the future in the draft, with guys that are unlikely to play in the league for a few seasons. Nonetheless, with high upside attached to each player and one of the best developmental systems across the NHL in place, they were able to make substantial use of the limited capital they had available to them.


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