Marty St. Louis did not want this to come out wrong, but the Lightning wing said, "Sometimes when you're not going to make the playoffs, you're better off just finishing last. At least you're going to get a great draft pick."
"It's not like you're trying to lose games," St. Louis added Saturday. "You're playing the game, and whatever happens, happens, and when it's all said and done, you see where you are. But it's nice to get the best possible draft position. We wouldn't have gotten (Steven Stamkos) if we weren't in that position. Pittsburgh would not have gotten (Sidney) Crosby.
"Those draft positions sometimes can turn a franchise around."
Given Tampa Bay's March swoon — it entered Saturday 28th in the 30-team league — it is closing in on a top-five pick and perhaps better depending on how the lottery balls fall.
Here are the consensus top three prospects:
Taylor Hall, LW, OHL Windsor: The speedy premier scorer in the draft would look good for any team needing offense.
Tyler Seguin, C, OHL Plymouth: Offensively gifted and perhaps a more well-rounded player than Hall.
Cam Fowler, D, OHL Windsor: Has drawn comparisons to young Kings star Drew Doughty.
Others who could be on the Lightning's radar: Dylan McIlrath, a defenseman with WHL Moose Jaw; Alex Burmistrov, a center with OHL Barrie; and Brandon Gormley, a defenseman with QMJHL Moncton.
As for St. Louis noting that Tampa Bay could benefit from a better draft position, coach Rick Tocchet said it is a natural discussion. "I know what Marty is saying. He doesn't go into a shift saying, 'I won't backcheck because I want the second pick in the draft.' You land where you land. You still have to put in the effort."
MINOR MOVES: The Lightning made several moves Saturday to help AHL Norfolk in its heated playoff race. The most notable: reassigning Jim Johnson as head coach.
Also sent to the Admirals were forwards Mark Parrish and Paul Szczechura, and defensemen Vladimir Mihalik and Matt Lashoff. Those players could be recalled after upcoming critical games for Norfolk.
Johnson was elevated to Tampa Bay assistant after assistant Wes Walz was fired in February. Both moves, which were made by GM Brian Lawton, were opposed by Tocchet, who gave Johnson only video and scouting duties.
Norfolk went 13-2-2 after Johnson took over for fired Darren Rumble in January. It was 6-6-2 under Leigh Mendelson, who will resume his assistant job. Ben Eaves, an assistant to Mendelson, will return to duties as strength and video coach.