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NHL draft helps Tampa Bay Lightning bolster goalie depth

Goalie Andrei Vasilevski, with head amateur scout Darryl Plandowski, left, and Steve Yzerman, is top-ranked in Europe.

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Goalie Andrei Vasilevski, with head amateur scout Darryl Plandowski, left, and Steve Yzerman, is top-ranked in Europe.

PITTSBURGH — It did not take long for Lightning GM Steve Yzerman to turn the team's depth in net from liability to strength.

Drafting Russia's Andrei Vasilevski, the No. 1 European goalie as ranked by NHL Central Scouting, was a nice followup to the trade this month for hoped-for No. 1 Anders Lindback and the signing of prospect Riku Helenius.

Add backup Mathieu Garon, minor-leaguers Dustin Tokarski, Jaroslav Janus and Pat Nagle, and junior prospect Adam Wilcox, and the lineup is as deep a one as the organization has had.

It is a welcome development for a team that has used 18 goalies, most in the league, since winning the 2004 Stanley Cup.

"I think it's pretty drastic," coach Guy Boucher said of the transformation. "I've heard some people say (Vasilevski) is probably the best we've seen in years at that age."

"We've got bodies now, anyway," Yzerman said Saturday. "We just want to make sure we have good, young prospects and see how they develop."

Or explore what they can bring in trade. Yzerman isn't necessarily looking to shop any of them, but he did mention the Capitals, who had Braden Holtby, Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth before Varlamov was sent to the Avalanche for a first-round pick last offseason.

"So if you're fortunate to have good ones, it gives you options to do other things," Yzerman said. "They're valuable assets. Hopefully, they all turn out. That would be a great problem to have."

DEALING: Yzerman said he had "a lot of discussions" during the draft about trading for a top-line defenseman but "wasn't able to come to terms with any of it."

OFF THE BOARD: Perhaps the most interesting draft pick was Cedric Paquette, whom the Lightning took in the fourth round, 101st overall. The center, who plays for Blainville of the Quebec junior league, was not ranked by Central Scouting, which slotted the top 210 North American skaters.

"I don't know what to say, I'm so excited," Paquette said. "I don't know why this round, but I'm very happy."

"He's a competitor," said Al Murray, the Lightning's head of amateur scouting. "He's not the greatest skater, but he's hard-nosed. He scores goals because he goes to the tough areas."

Paquette had 31 goals, 48 points and 88 penalty minutes in 63 games. He had seven goals and 17 points in 11 playoff games.

Asked the importance of the NHL rankings, Murray said, "As far as putting it into where we select players, it has zero effect."

FAMILIARITY: RW Brian Hart, the Lightning's 53rd overall pick (the one transferred by the Panthers) and C Tanner Richard, the 71st pick, attended Lightning games at the Tampa Bay Times Forum during the Cup run.

Hart, whose grandparents live in Zephyrhills, said he saw a game against the Canadiens. "They were smashing the car out front," Hart said of a car covered in Montreal logos outside the arena. "I was pretty fired up for Tampa that night."

Richard, who attended during a family visit to the area, said he became a fan of Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier after a Cup final game against the Flames.

"He ran the goalie, and I thought that was awesome," Richard said. "I went down and bought a hat and went home and started a new season with Tampa Bay on PlayStation, and (Lecavalier) was my top scorer."

OFFERS COMING: Qualifying offers to pending restricted free agents are due Monday. Those not receiving offers become unrestricted and can sign with any team.

ODDS AND ENDS: Canada produced 99 of the 211 drafted players. The United States was next with 56. … Defensemen led with 77 selections. … RW Miles Koules, son of former Lightning owner Oren Koules and the 201st-ranked North American skater, was undrafted. Reports are he will play for Medicine Hat of the Western junior league.

Around the league: In a trade that was rumored since last season, the Flyers acquired defenseman Luke Schenn from the Maple Leafs for wing James van Riemsdyk. Schenn, 22, is the older brother of Flyers forward Brayden Schenn, 20. … Jordan Staal, traded by the Penguins to the Hurricanes on Friday, confirmed he turned down a 10-year contract extension and said he had wanted to play the final year of his current four-year deal in Pittsburgh before deciding his future. But Staal, 23, said he had no hard feelings and was excited to join his older brother Eric, 27, Carolina's captain. … Avalanche All-Star forward Matt Duchene signed a two-year contract worth a reported $7 million.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

NHL draft helps Tampa Bay Lightning bolster goalie depth 06/23/12 [Last modified: Saturday, June 23, 2012 10:14pm]
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