Defensive Depth Could be Addressed by Tampa Bay Lightning in NHL Draft


Mar 30, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings center Gustav Nyquist (14) skates with the puck chased by Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Matt Carle (25) in the first period at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Lightning have promoted a number of their recent draft picks to the NHL level, which is obviously a good thing, but at the same time it depletes their minor league system.

However, the majority of prospects that have come to the NHL have been forwards rather than defensemen.

Yet, despite this, Mike Morreale of opines that the Lightning’s biggest need in the draft this week is depth on defense.

"“Victor Hedman has emerged as a cornerstone defenseman, and the Lightning likely would like to find another quality young player to put alongside him. They’ll need to find someone who could step in sooner than later if you look at the ages of the rest of the their defense corps: Sami Salo will be 40 before next season, Eric Brewer is 35, Matthew Carle is 29, and Mattias Ohlund is 37 and hasn’t played since 2010-11.”"

It must be noted that Salo is an unrestricted free agent and likely won’t be returning to Tampa. Additionally, as has been the case for some time, Ohlund will never play hockey again.

Morreale adds that last season six rookies played significant minutes, including defenseman Radko Gudas and Mark Barberio, both of whom will be mainstays in the NHL next season (Barberio still needs to be re-signed). Only four defenseman are under contract for next season as of writing.

Slater Koekkoek and Nikita Nesterov aren’t NHL ready yet and will likely need time to develop in the AHL. Syracuse will likely see a number of new players next season after a disappointing 2013-14 season and there will be somewhat of an overhaul on the blue line.

Thus, the Lightning need to add some depth to their minor league system. Morreale suggests that Anthony DeAngelo (Sarnia, OHL) or Haydn Fleury (Red Deer, WHL) could be options for Steve Yzerman with the 19th overall pick Friday night.

Yzerman could also decide to go with another young forward to add to Tampa’s impressive collection, but help on defense may just be the way to for the Lightning.