By Zackery Robert
Moving along we go back to Florida and visit the most successful team of the last five years, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Going to three Stanley Cup finals in the last five years and winning two of them makes Tampa the most successful team of the past five years. They have done a good job of drafting and developing and it has shown.
When taking a look back at some of their most successful draft picks the first and most successful draft pick would be former first overall pick Steven Stamkos. Stamkos was drafted first in 2008 and has been an absolute gem of a player for the Tampa Bay lightning. Stamkos has won two Rocket Richard trophies and before Auston Matthews did it last year, Stamkos was the last player to hit 60 goals in a season. He is currently clicking at over a point per game in his career with 1056 points in 1003 games. He is the all time leader in both points and goals in a Tampa Bay jersey and is currently second all-time in assists. Stamkos will end up being the all time greatest lightning player once his career has finished.
Next on the list of the best Tampa picks it will lead us to the 2011 draft where at pick number 58 in the second round the Lightning selected Nikita Kucherov. Kucherov played in all of the KHL, QMJHL, and AHL before making his NHL debut and it sure worked out in his favour. After a rocky first year playing 58 games and scoring 18 points he turned it up a notch and has since then scored 664 points in 592 games for a ppg of 1.12. He has three 100+ point seasons with 100, 128, and 113 point seasons respectively, he is a two time 40 goal scorer so far and has 729 points in 644 games in his career. In 2019 Kucherov won the Art Ross trophy, Ted Lindsay trophy and Hart trophy for league leader in points and league MVP. An insane value for a late second round pick, the way it is going we will see Kucherov in the hall of fame and his jersey retired by Tampa Bay when he calls it a career.
Moving into the last player to be talked about is the Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevsky. Vasilevsky was drafted back in 2012 in the first round pick number 19. He has been one of the top five goalies in the past decade. He has one Vezina trophy from the 2019 season to go along with one Conn Smythe trophy for playoff MVP in 2021. Vasilevsky has an unreal win loss record so far with a 265-124-31 record, more than doubling his losses are his wins. Vasilevsky has been a wall in net and it has propelled Tampa Bay to being one of the best teams since his NHL debut in 2014-2015 season. So far in his career he has never ended a season with a losing record, it has been pure dominance in net by Vasilevsky thus far.
In the early parts of Tampa Bay’s franchise they had themselves quite a lot of top picks in the draft, and for many they did not pan out. For instance the first one that we will talk about is that of 2000 eighth overall pick Nikita Alexeev. Making his pro debut in the 2001-2002 season Alexeev played 44 games for Tampa scoring eight points. In the 2002-2003 season Alexeev played 37 games scoring six. After this year he took his talents back to Russia before returning to the NHL and Tampa Bay For the 2006-2007 season, his last in the NHL, where he would play 63 games for Tampa and 15 for Chicago. In those 63 games for Tampa Alexeev managed 21 points. In total Alexeev played 144 games for Tampa scoring 35 points. A bit of a let down when it comes to a player drafted that high.
Moving to another high drafted player from the 90s for Tampa bay from the 1994 draft Jason Wiemer. Wiemer was the eighth overall pick in 1994 making his pro debut for Tampa in the 1994-1995 season Wiemer would play four seasons for Tampa playing a total of 232 games and scoring a total of 54 points. This can definitely be another case of junior success not translating over into NHL success, scoring 96 points and 41 goals in his draft eligible season in the WHL in 1994 would’ve made Wiemer a big draft target but his junior success was just not replicated when he played in the NHL. In March of 1998 wiener was part of a deal that would see him land in Calgary for a return of a couple players and a third round pick in that 1998 draft which ended up being Brad Richards, this would probably be the best thing Wiemer did for Tampa bay during his career and since that is the case this pick winds up on this list.
Finally the last player to talk about on this part of the list is that of 2001 third overall pick Alexander Svitov. Svitov would play in Russia one more year before going to North America for the 2002-2003 season for Tampa, Svitov would play 63 games recording eight points. He would play 11 more games for Tampa in the next season registering three assists. After the end of the 2003-2004 season Svitov would go back to Russia permanently in the 2007-2008 season where he remained until retirement in 2020.
Flash forward to present day Tampa and you will find them looking at the draft where they literally have hardly any picks. They currently stand at three picks and all in late rounds, 6th, 7th, 7th (ANA). Their prospect pool isn’t very deep and with the serious lack of picks in this deep of a draft this will most definitely hurt them in the long run once their core becomes too old to make a difference. With that, if their first pick does indeed end up being in the sixth round that pick will land around 179th, two players that could be selected there are, forward from the USHL Ty Henricks and defenseman Anton Maryshev from the MHL.
For more information on the 2023 NHL Draft class be sure to pick up your copy of the comprehensive DraftPro 2023 NHL Draft Guide.