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Lightning hope to select best available player at 2012 NHL Entry Draft

by Peter Pupello / Tampa Bay Lightning

It’s no secret that Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman’s top priority this summer will be to acquire a bona fide starting goaltender, as well as another top defenseman to help bolster the Bolts’ blueline.

But according to Lightning Director of Amateur Scouting Al Murray, those circumstances will not necessarily dictate how the team will draft as it looks ahead to next month’s NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh.

That said, the Lightning seem more inclined to choose the best available player with the 10th overall pick rather than making a selection based on the current holes the team needs to fill in terms of position.

Murray, who is present at the Tampa Bay Times Forum this week to meet with a group of Lightning scouts as well as Yzerman, could not offer any insight as to who some of those players on the team’s wish list might be, but did offer this:

“Drafting based on need is very difficult in the NHL,” Murray said. “It’s true this upcoming draft is heavy with top defensive prospects, but every team only gets one choice at a certain time.

So, if all of the best defense prospects are gone before you get that selection, then you take who you feel will be the best player.”

Murray could be spot on.

It might just behoove the Lightning to do just that, for the player deemed to be the best available on the board might fetch a more lucrative return if packaged in a deal to acquire another player that would address the team’s needs in goal or on defense.

Furthermore, Murray added that the players considered to be the best available could make a significant impact much sooner, as they usually are more NHL ready than a defenseman or a goaltender who is drafted based on need and who still requires time to develop.

“When you draft on need, those needs might not be ready for two or three years down the road,” Murray said. “Then when those players are finally ready to play, a team’s needs might be different at that point in time.”

One thing, however, is for certain.

The Lightning’s six potential picks in the first two rounds give Yzerman a plethora of options.

Tampa Bay will go into the Draft with two first-round picks and a maximum of four second-round selections, any of which can be used to leverage a higher draft position, acquire a player via trade if the picks are combined, not to mention trade for other selections in future drafts.

For the Lightning, it’s a good problem to have considering the team’s need for improvement in more areas besides just behind the blue line, including the addition of another top-six forward to round out a group that already included five 20-goal scorers.

“The more chances you have, the better the opportunity is to get more players in the NHL,” Murray said. “That’s just one of the things the extra picks do for you. They also give you a lot of flexibility, so we’re pretty happy about that.”

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