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This Week's Question: Best Draft Pick for Bolts
With a top five pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, which will be held Sunday, June 30, Tampa Bay has an opportunity to select an impact player for years to come. We asked the Lightning Bloggers which Top-5 projected draft pick (Seth Jones, Nate Mackinnon, Jonathon Drouin, Aleksander Barkov, Valeri Nichushkin) they would most like to see the Lightning select with the third overall pick.
I have always approached the draft with the mindset that you take the best player available when you head to the podium regardless of whatever your franchise needs are at that particular moment. By the time a prospect is truly able to contribute to your team, a lot can change in terms of what your biggest need is. That being said, and I realize things need to fall a certain way for this to happen, defenseman Seth Jones should be the Lightning's pick when they head to the podium in Newark. He is the best player available in this draft, in my opinion.
Seth Jones. It's never a bad idea to add an extremely skilled forward but the organization is already very deep up front and this year's consensus top defenseman would be a significant addition to the bedrock the Lightning have been working to build on the defensive end. The right-shooting Jones is blessed with a highly intriguing blend of size, skating ability and two-way prowess teams find extremely difficult to obtain outside of the draft. Jones may very well be capable of challenging for and securing a roster spot in the fall, although the presence of lynchpin Victor Hedman and other veterans mean immediate dividends won't be necessary. Whatever he might contribute in the short-term, odds are Jones would eventually emerge as a young, versatile rearguard capable of complementing Victor Hedman (it's easy to imagine the two one day comprising a formidable tandem) or holding his own as the anchor to a different defensive pairing for years to come.
It's really going to be dependent on what the Avs and Florida Panthers do with their respective picks that'll set the stage for what the Lightning do with their pick. The ideal scenario (for me) is Seth Jones still being on the draft board when the Lightning pick; a high-profile defensive prospect that can contribute on both sides of the ice.
It should come as no surprise that I'm going to say Seth Jones, for all the obvious reasons. The Lightning need defense and Jones is the kind of right-handed, superstar-potential defenseman prospect that doesn't come along very often. It's a perfect fit for the Lightning and Jones, as he's going to be under a great deal of scrutiny and Tampa Bay, with a less intense media presence than other NHL markets, would be an ideal place for him to play and develop without a lot of unnecessary distractions. It certainly worked out that way for Vinny (Lecavalier). Of course, a few things still have to happen for the Lightning to have a shot at him, but with Joe Sakic's declaration that Colorado won't select him with the top pick, the chances of everything falling into place would seem to have gone from 33% to 50%.
There is little debate that the Lightning's top asset is Steven Stamkos. The world's top scorer over the last few years has earned that title because of the set-up abilities of Martin St. Louis, the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner. With St. Louis retiring in the near future, the Lightning have to protect and support Stamkos. Playmakers are normally centers which makes Martin St. Louis and Jonathan Drouin so special. Wingers have to have tenacity and compete level to aid the club on the forecheck and along the walls. Both St. Louis and Drouin possess this - and it just happens to be a prime ingredient for a Steve Yzerman-picked process. Drouin should already be clearing his trophy mantle for an Art Ross Trophy in the future, but aside Stamkos he could win multiple top-scorer awards. Yes, defense wins championships and the Lightning are lightest on impact defensemen, but defensemen don't fully mature for 300 games and the probability of a defenseman in the first round is significantly smaller than a forward - a position that lends itself to the easiest NHL transition.
As for Drouin's teammate, Nate MacKinnon, he is likely the most likely to reach his vast potential at the NHL level as he possesses every trait needed to survive and thrive in the NHL. However, the Lightning have a handful of pivot prospects who should fill the second line center role. Reigning AHL MVP Tyler Johnson, former first rounder Vladdy Namestnikov, and risers Tanner Richard, Brian Hart, and Matthew Peca, are all quality options in the next few years at "2C." While the Lightning also boast a hoard of scoring wingers ready to step into the Tampa Bay Times Forum, Drouin is too unique to pass up.
As the question implies, the Lightning are poised to land a mighty good player in the three spot at this year's draft regardless of whose name gets called. Given that the team has a bevy of young offensive talent either on the roster or coming up with the Syracuse Crunch, the obvious pick, in my opinion, is Seth Jones. The Lightning does not have a defensive prospect like Jones; most teams don't. Adding Jones's size, offensive instincts, and skating ability to a core that already boasts Victor Hedman would truly solidify the blue line for years to come. Landing him would make the team's already promising future that much brighter.