PHILADELPHIA – The Tampa Bay Lightning started the weekend by adding a much-needed veteran to its defensive corps in Jason Garrison and finished by selecting four additional blueliners, out of its seven picks, at the 2014 NHL Draft.
Garrison had previously been a part of the Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers top defensive pairings throughout his NHL tenure and vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman said he expected that to continue with the Bolts.
The draft-day acquisition of the 29-year-old made the Lightning’s lineup immediately bigger and stronger, while the four defensemen they drafted Friday and Saturday added depth at the position.
The Lightning also re-signed Mark Barberio to a one-year contract, further supporting its blue line.
Tampa Bay did not initially enter the draft ready to address deficiencies on defense, but more often than not it was the best player available when it came its turn to pick.
“Defenseman after defenseman fell to us,” director of amateur scouting Al Murray said. “It certainly helped balance out our reserve list and gave us quality prospects at all positions.”
Anthony DeAngelo (selected 19th overall) was considered by Murray the most offensive-defenseman in the draft, but the pair of blueliners selected in the second round, Dominik Masin and Johnathan MacLeod, added a physical presence and were held high on the Bolts' draft list.
“They play pretty hard,” Yzerman said. “Good, solid defenders with bigger bodies, who really compete.”
Masin and MacLeod also represent a number of criteria the Lightning look for in their draftees, despite being considered secondary players that are expected to fill roles on the second or third pairings, rather than looked at as top-line talent.
“They’re hard to play against and that’s the type of players we want,” Murray said. “We want guys who are smart players, that are hard to play against, with high compete levels.”
After drafting three straight defensemen the Lightning wanted something different with its 80th overall pick and they had a feeling the Minnesota Wild, who picked just one ahead of them (79th overall), wanted the same player as they did. Therefore the Bolts traded up to draft forward Brayden Point at No. 79. Point ended up as one of two players on the Wild's list.
“He was worth the gamble,” Murray said. “At the NHL Combine, teams ask players ‘if they could take anyone from the Canadian U-18 team, the best players in Canada, to be their teammate, who would it be?’ Almost all kids said Brayden Point.”
Next in line were defenseman Ben Thomas and forward Cristiano DiGiacinto, that again go with the Bolts theme of the blue line and grit, while their last selection overall, Cameron Darcy, was a 19-year-old free agent.
Darcy was expected to be invited to many NHL clubs’ camps. Now that the Lightning have drafted him, he will be in Tampa Bay for training camp.
The Lightning didn’t just make the Bolts of today better by improving the blue line with Garrison, but spent the weekend adding depth at each position for the Bolts of tomorrow. All draft picks are expected to be a part of Tampa Bay’s development camp from July 2 to 6 and any of these players not attending college can attend Bolts training camp and play in the prospect tournament in the fall.