PHILADELPHIA — Lightning director of amateur scouting Al Murray said the team didn't enter this year's draft with the plan to address any defensive deficiencies in its prospect pool.
It just worked out that way.
The Lightning selected three more defensemen in Rounds 2-7 on Saturday, adding to first-round pick Anthony DeAngelo.
"Just like last year, where it was forward after forward, this year defensemen after defensemen that we liked fell to us," Murray said.
The Lightning grabbed two in the second round, Dominik Masin from Slavia Praha (Czech Republic) at No. 35 and Johnathan MacLeod from the U.S. National Team Development Program at No. 57. They are defensive-minded, positionally strong players who are smart and hard to play against, Murray said. Masin and MacLeod, a Boston University commitment, were captains of under-17 teams.
Tampa Bay traded its two fifth-round picks (Nos. 140 and 142) to the Rangers to move into the fourth round at No. 119 to get Ben Thomas, who had 31 points in 72 games for Calgary of the Western junior league last season.
"This year we mentioned there was a lot more support players and role players (in the draft), third- and fourth-line players, (fifth and sixth) defensemen, and those were the kind of guys that we added here," Murray said.
BEST COMPARISON: The team hit the jackpot in the seventh round in 2011 when it selected LW Ondrej Palat, who was the team's leading scorer and a Calder Trophy (rookie of the year) finalist last season. Tampa Bay's seventh-rounder Saturday was C Cameron Darcy, 20, who has evoked comparisons to Palat.
"Before everyone gets excited, he's not yet Ondrej Palat," Murray said. "But two years ago, Ondrej Palat wasn't Ondrej Palat."
Darcy went from the U.S. National Team Development Program to play briefly at Northeastern before a terrific season at Cape Breton in the Quebec junior league, tallying 82 points (35 goals) in 65 games. Murray said teams were lining up to invite Darcy to their camps as a free agent, so the Lightning made sure to trade up to snag him at No. 185, giving the Islanders their seventh-round pick (No. 200) and their seventh in 2015 to make the move.
"Very similar reason we took Ondrej Palat," Murray said.
AT THE POINT: The Lightning was intrigued by C Brayden Point, trading with the Wild to move up one spot in the third round (79 overall) to grab the 5-foot-10, 180-pound forward.
What Point lacks in size, he makes up for in skill and hockey sense, leading Moose Jaw of the Western junior league with 91 points (36 goals) in 72 games last season.
"He's not the biggest player in the game, not the fastest player in the game," Murray said. "But game after game, every time you watch Moose Jaw, he's the best player in the game."
THE SCRAPPER: Sixth-round pick Cristiano DiGiacinto says he plays a lot bigger than his 5-foot-10, 180 pound frame.
The forward, who admires the Bruins' Brad Marchand, brings a gritty, physical style, scores greasy goals and gets under opponents' skin. He got in 11 fights last season for Windsor of the Ontario junior league, drawing one suspension for chasing an opponent down.
"I'm a fearless player," DiGiacinto said. "So if anyone wants to step up, I'm not afraid."
WHERE TO? DeAngelo, Point, DiGiacinto and Thomas will go back to their junior teams, Murray said. MacLeod will go to Boston University or Moncton of the Quebec junior league, and Masin wants to play in one of the Canadian junior leagues, Murray said. Darcy is the only one who could end up at AHL Syracuse. All will be at the Lightning's development camp Wednesday-July 6 in Brandon.
TOP TALK: The Lightning made a serious push to acquire the No. 1 overall pick from the Panthers on Friday. Florida was close to trading it, with Tampa Bay making it think the most, ESPN reported. GM Steve Yzerman asked the scouts if they wanted the top pick, Murray said.
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @TBTimes_JSmith.