Tampa Bay Lightning's Steve Yzerman plans to take the best available player in NHL draft

PITTSBURGH — Al Murray has heard the talk that this weekend's NHL draft is not a strong one. He even buys the argument there is no superstar or consensus No. 1 pick.

But the Lightning's director of amateur scouting said this draft's beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

"Those are probably teams," he said of those who believe the draft is weak, "that don't have two first-round picks."

Tampa Bay is scheduled to pick 10th and 19th overall tonight at Consol Energy Center.

Speculation is it will select a defenseman in the blue-line-heavy draft, but Murray and general manager Steve Yzerman said the plan is to take the best available player, regardless of position.

"We have what we feel are 15 players that we really like," Murray said Thursday. "We feel comfortable we're going to get two of those guys between 10 and 19."

The Lightning — or more accurately, Yzerman — has gone through an interesting transformation when it comes to the draft.

There was a time Yzerman said he was "open to anything" in terms of packaging his top draft choices to swing a trade. But the acquisition of goaltender Anders Lindback filled Tampa Bay's most pressing need and squashed the chances of a blockbuster.

There also was a time Yzerman indicated he was willing to perhaps deal the No. 19 pick. And though he said Thursday that "depending on how that first round goes, (we might be) more flexible with the 19th," he added, "Right now … our best option is still sitting with 10 and 19."

Who the Lightning will select is anyone's guess, partly because there is so little consensus on how players are ranked and whose status will rise and fall at the draft tables.

For example, though it seems Nail Yakupov from Sarnia of the Ontario junior league will be taken first overall by the Oilers, Murray said he could see the right wing dropping to sixth "because there are other good players who bring different things to the table than he does."

And though it is believed the Lightning would covet an offensive-minded defenseman with a right-hand shot, such as Cody Ceci from Ottawa of the Ontario league, Jacob Trouba of the U.S. developmental program or Mathew Dumba from Red Deer of the Western junior league, Murray added a wild card: 6-foot-2, 196-pound Swedish junior Hampus Lindholm, the top-ranked European blue-liner.

"We know we're going to get somebody good at (No.) 10, and we think somebody else is going to fall at 19, and Lindholm could be one of those players," Murray said. "He's a very good skater. He's a good puck-handler, and he plays well defensively."

Put it all together and "it's probably going to be one of the most unpredictable drafts that I've been involved with," Murray said. "I think this draft is going to be a lot of fun because it's going to be all over the place. It comes down to a lot of individual team philosophies on what they view as most important."

In other words, it's in the eye of the beholder.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@tampabay.com. View his blog at lightning.tampabay.com. Follow him on Twitter at @LightningTimes.

>>fast facts

NHL draft

Where: Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh

When: 7 tonight (Round 1); 10 a.m. Saturday (Rounds 2-7)

TV: NBC Sports Network (tonight); NHL Network (Saturday)

Lightning picks: Round 1 (10th and 19th overall); 2 (40, 53 is Panthers' option); 3 (71); 4 (101); 5 (131); 6 (161); 7 (202)

Watch party: 6-10 tonight, Champps Americana Sports Bar at International Plaza, 2223 N West Shore Blvd., Tampa

Schedule has a home treat

Vinny Lecavalier will play his 1,000th game in the Lightning's 2012-13 home opener. 3C

Tampa Bay Lightning's Steve Yzerman plans to take the best available player in NHL draft 06/21/12 [Last modified: Friday, June 22, 2012 1:27am]

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