More and more it’s becoming abundantly clear that the Lightning will be holding onto the 10th overall pick at this year’s NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh. Whether you agree with the move or not, it shouldn’t come as that much of a shock when you consider that Al Murray, the Lightning’s chief amateur scout, has been quoted as saying that Steve Yzerman will be taking the best player available on draft day. The question becomes, will Tampa get a good enough player with the 10th overall pick? Most scouts and experts agree that after Yakupov, the 2-10 spots are fairly solid players. However, after the 10th pick there is a significant drop-off. The Lightning are sitting right on that thinly cut line.
With the pick, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the Lightning will probably be selecting a goaltender. By the time the tenth pick rolls around, most, if not all, the top flight forwards will be off the board. That’s not much of a concern as this draft has been compared to 2008 with regards to its top-end defensive talent. Everybody remembers 2008 as the year the Lightning took Stamkos at number one, but also recall that players like Drew Doughty, Luke Schenn, Alex Pietrangelo, Tyler Myers, Erik Karlsson and Zach Bogosian were also taken within the first fifteen picks. So, if this draft is being compared to the riches that were there in 2008, Lightning fans should be pretty excited about holding onto that tenth pick. Recently, I posted a draft preview blog outlining a couple players the Lightning should, and probably do, have interest in. The one name that really stood out was that of Griffin Reinhart of the Edmonton Oil Kings. After Ryan Murray, there isn’t a more complete D-man on the draft board.
Steve Yzerman hasn’t hid the fact that he has interest in Reinhart. Over the course of the Oil Kings season, Yzerman made trips to Edmonton to watch the big kid play. You have to assume he liked what he saw. Griffin Reinhart stands 6’4” tall and weighs in at 202 pounds; he’s absolutely massive for an eighteen year old kid. Scouts praise Reinhart’s two way game, his hockey sense and his on-ice vision. Add those three intangibles to his size and you have a really complete player. If there’s one thing that Tampa Bay Lightning fans learned this season it’s that you can never have enough size on the back-end.
Drafting Reinhart would be huge for the Lightning organization. Imagine a core group of D including Keith Aulie, Brian Lee, Griffin Reinhart, Victor Hedman, Eric Brewer and a veteran like Mike Commodore as the sixth guy. Yes, by all accounts Reinhart could step in and be an NHL ready defenseman at the ripe age of eighteen; this kid is the real deal. The Lightning would have one of the biggest blue-lines in the league but also one of the most mobile ones. Guys like Reinhart, Hedman and Lee can all move the puck and skate quite well. Lee, in particular, really flourished under Guy Boucher to end the season. With a young defense, a good, young core and the right coaching staff, the Lightning could be poised to make a big run next year.
A couple questions remain, however. From all indications, teams ahead of the Lightning have interest in Reinhart also. Would Steve Yzerman be willing to move up in order to get the player whom many believe is the perfect fit for this organization? Then there’s the question of goaltending. If Yzerman keeps his first round pick, he has taken away arguably his most valuable bargaining chip. With Schneider off the market, that’s probably not as big of an issue as it could have been as there isn’t an available goalie worth a top-10 pick at this point in time. Still, these are issues for Yzerman to consider and work out prior to draft day.
If Yzerman stands up on the podium in Pittsburgh and gets to call out Griffin Reinhart’s name, this fan will be incredibly happy. With so much promise surrounding this organization right now, adding a piece like Reinhart would send me to the moon. It’s going to be an exciting off-season to follow as GM Steve Yzerman has a lot of key decisions to make.
Thanks for reading!