NEWARK, N.J. — Technically, the Lightning did not select a defenseman with any of its six draft picks Sunday, taking five forwards and a goaltender. But appearances can be deceiving, said Al Murray, Tampa Bay's director of amateur scouting.
With the signing in March of D Andrej Sustr out of the University of Nebraska-Omaha, "We feel like he was a late first-round draft pick."
In fact, Murray and GM Steve Yzerman said the acute lack of depth that for so long has plagued the Lightning blue line has lifted with additions the past two years of Dylan Blujus, Jake Dotchin, Slater Koekkoek, Dmitri Korobov, Nikita Nesterov, Artem Sergeev and Luke Witkowski.
"We think we're very deep with defensemen," Murray said. "We have a lot of good prospects."
Not that Tampa Bay entered Sunday expecting to come up empty. It's just the way things worked out, Murray said:
"Three times we were looking at defensemen, and somewhere between five and 10 picks in front of us, these defensemen went. When those things happen, you go to the next player on your list you feel is the next-best player. We don't pick defensemen to balance out any positioning."
"We're not going to pass on player X because he's not a defenseman to go to the 10th player on our list because he's a (defenseman)," Yzerman said. "We'll figure out another way."
TOUGH STUFF: Adam Erne, the Lightning's second-round pick (33rd overall), said he likes to compare himself to Philadelphia's Scott Hartnell.
"Get in the dirty areas. Be physical," Erne said.
The Lightning wants to get bigger and more physical throughout the organization, and Erne, 6 feet 1, 210 pounds, fits the bill.
"I'm a power forward, real physical, be in the dirty areas," said Erne, who had 67 penalty minutes in 68 games last season for Quebec of the junior Quebec league. "I always like to hit, to take hits, to be hit. It gets me going and makes me successful."
There's skill there, too. Erne, 18, from New Haven, Conn., had 28 goals and 72 points.
"He drives on defensemen and takes the puck to the net," Murray said. "He's a big, thick body."
LACK OF ACTION: There were 10 trades, but only the Canucks sending G Cory Schneider to the Devils created much buzz. That's not quite the frenzy that was expected. "For us, the price to move up didn't make sense, and likewise behind us," Yzerman said. "So, at the end of the day, everybody just said, 'I'm happy sitting where I am.' "
ODDS AND ENDS: The Lightning will hire an assistant with NHL experience to work behind the bench with coach Jon Cooper and assistant Rick Bowness. Assistant Steve Thomas, likely an eye in the sky; video coach Nigel Kirwan; and goaltenders coach Frantz Jean are expected to be retained. … The team's prospect camp is Saturday through July 10 at Brandon. … Yzerman said Syracuse D Brendan Mikkelson will not get a qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent. W Ben Pouliot is not expected to be qualified, either.