That number quickly grew to nine soon after the second round started.
The Lightning traded 2014 first round draft pick, defenseman Anthony DeAngelo, to the Arizona Coyotes for the 37th overall selection in 2016. Tampa Bay used the newly-acquired choice to nab Libor Hajek, a 6-foot-2, 196-pound defenseman from Smrcek, Czeck Republic, who last season had three goals, 23 assists and 76 penalty minutes in 69 games for the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League. Hajek led all Saskatoon rookies for points (26) and assists.
Lightning director of amateur scouting Al Murray said the Bolts were able to nab a first-round caliber player in the early stages of the second round by moving up, and Hajek was a “safer bet” than DeAngelo to be able to adapt both offensively and defensively at the NHL level.
“You have to give sometimes to get,” Murray said. “Libor Hajek, he’s a bigger body, and he’s a very solid two-way player.”
Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman indicated the trade to get Hajek wasn’t an indictment on the development of DeAngelo but more of a reflection of the potential the Bolts see in Hajek.
“We think Anthony’s an outstanding young prospect,” Yzerman said. “We’ve watched Libor Hajek for two years now. He’s a player we considered taking in the first round. When we saw him there in the second, we were trying to figure out a way to get him, and it was very expensive using picks and what not. Ultimately, we thought (trading up) was the best route to acquire him.”
With two more picks in the second round, the Lightning selected a pair of forwards, Boris Katchouk, a relentless forechecker from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL, with the 44th pick (acquired in last year’s trade deadline deal that sent Brett Connolly to the Boston Bruins) and Taylor Raddysh, a strong, skilled right wing from Erie of the OHL who compares his game to the Bolts’ Alex Killorn.
“(Erie) had two kind of balanced lines, and then when things got tough and went to the one heavy line, it was (Alex) DeBrincat with (Dylan) Strome and Raddysh,” Murray said. “So, (Raddysh) is a big body, skates well, he’s got puck skills and he thinks the game at a level that Strome and DeBrincat think the game at. Not a power forward but more of a big, skill guy who skates well. We’re optimistic.”
The Lightning weren’t in the market to draft a goalie according to Murray, but when Connor Ingram was available when the Bolts were on the clock with the 88th overall pick in the third round, they jumped on the 6-foot, 212 pounder from Kamloops of the WHL. Ingram went 34-15-9 with a 2.61 goals-against average, a .922 save percentage and four shutouts in 61 games for the Blazers in 2015-16.
“We’ll have four goalies that we like at our development camp that can play, but Connor Ingram, he was our top-ranked goalie, so we liked Connor,” Murray said. “There were a couple other guys right beside him that went earlier, so it was a very easy choice at that time that he was the top guy on our board and he was a goalie that we really liked. He went to the Hockey Canada goalie camp about two weeks ago, and Dave Alexander, our goalie coach for Syracuse was there, worked with all those goalies and came back with rave reviews on Connor. He really liked him during the season, and he confirmed a lot of the things that we felt.”
In the fourth round, Tampa Bay took high-scoring forward Ross Colton of the USHL’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. Colton finished second in the USHL for goals (35) and tied for second for points (66) in 2015-16. He also ranked eighth in the league with nine power-play goals.
The Lightning went with a familiar name in the fifth round, taking Niagara IceDogs forward Christopher Paquette, a cousin of current Bolt Cedric Paquette, who signed a two-year extension with Tampa Bay on Friday.
The younger Paquette said he plays the “exact same game” as his NHL cousin and is a two-way, right-handed forward who focuses on the defensive zone first.
“I follow him,” Christopher said of his cousin Cedric. “I watch every game. Every Tampa game I would watch, try to see what he does, his game.”
Murray said Christopher Paquette was stuck in a fourth-line position on a stacked Niagara team this past season but will move up into a greater role with a lot of players ahead of him leaving for the NHL.
“Very much like Anthony Cirelli a year ago, Anthony started on the fourth line, worked his way to a second, third line role with Oshawa, and this year he’s their No. 1 center,” Murray said. “We expect the same thing for Paquette. He’s on the fourth line this year. Our expectation is those guys all graduate, the NHL drafted guys, and he’s going to move up into a top six role with their team. He can play center or wing, so that helps him get a spot in their lineup.”
The Lightning opted for a sizable Russian defenseman prospect in the sixth round, taking 6-foot-8, 230 pound Oleg Sosunov from Ryazan. The 18-year-old skated in 39 games for Loko-Yunior of the Russia Jr. 2 league and had four goals and 12 points along with 66 penalty minutes.
“He can really skate,” Murray said. “He’s a decent puck handler, passer, and we’ll see what we have here.”
Tampa Bay chose a pair of centers with their two seventh round picks, taking Otto Somppi from Halifax of the QMJHL with the 206th overall pick and Chester, Pennsylvania, native Ryan Lohin at 208. Lohin scored 23 goals and 57 points in 62 USHL games splitting time between Madison and Waterloo in 2015-16.
Overall, including the selection of Brett Howden with the 27th overall pick in Friday’s first round, the Lightning drafted 10 players overall: seven forwards, two defensemen and one goaltender.
Five of the Bolts picks were Canadians, two from the United States and one each from Russia, Finland and the Czech Republic.
“This was a fun day,” Murray said. “Sometimes it’s just frustrating. This year it was fun. We had guys designated that we hoped to get in certain rounds, and it pretty much fell the way we thought it was going to. We didn’t have to overreach for people. We had a couple of guys at every pick that we liked, and at least one of them fell to us.
“So, it was good.”