TAMPA — Julien BriseBois doesn’t have a crystal ball, so the Lightning won’t be drafting for need.
Outside of the first five spots, rarely does a player make an immediate impact in the NHL, and Tampa Bay is selecting 27th in tonight’s first round at Vancouver.
“We don’t look at need at all,” BriseBois said. “These players are only going to be contributing at the NHL level four or five years from now, and we don’t know what our needs will be in four or five years.”
Three years ago, the Lightning drafted Brett Howden at No. 27. It traded his rights and other pieces to the Rangers for Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller in February 2018. That wasn’t the plan when the hockey operations team gathered in Chicago in 2016.
Tampa Bay has drafted different ways in different years, but BriseBois said the first three rounds are largely predetermined. After that, there’s some fluidity, but still the Lightning plans to mostly stick to its rankings.
With that in mind, we surveyed some of the many lists ranking draft prospects to come up with five potential players the Lightning could take with that 27th pick.
Somewhat fittingly for a team with a heavy European presence, four of the five come from outside North America.
The list also ends up defenseman-heavy. The Lightning has a good pool of prospects at the blue line, but as BriseBois said, anything could happen in the next few years.
Tobias Björnfot, D
Ranked 27 by Canada’s TSN network
Bjornfot, 6 feet and 193 pounds, has been playing in Sweden and captained the country’s gold-medal-winning team at the under-19 World Championship this year. He’s a capable two-way defenseman with few weaknesses, the website Elite Prospects says. The site’s description of a strong skater who reads the game well and contributes offensively and defensively sounds like another Swedish defenseman we know. This year, Bjornfot had 22 points in 39 games with Djurgardens’ under-20 team and played seven games with the organization’s Swedish League team.
Pavel Dorofeyev, RW/LW
Ranked 27 by website hockeyprospect.com
The 6-foot, 163-pound wing has been playing in his native Russia. Dorofeyev put up 31 points in 19 games, playing in the Russian junior league, and he also played 23 games with Metallurg Magnitorgorsk of the KHL. Elite Prospects’ publication EP Rinkside praises Doroteyev’s high-end hands and vision, calling him a “pretty tantalizing offensive package.” In an example of how subjective these rankings can be, he’s rated 16th by Elite Prospects and 82nd by TSN.
Anttoni Honka, D
Ranked 27 by Elite Prospects
The 5-foot-10, 176-pound defenseman played on Finland’s gold-medal-winning World Junior Championship team this year. Honka’s aggressive style of play was apparent in some games of the tournament, but he was off in others. Honka had a good showing in the playoffs of Finland’s second-highest league, Mestis, with 11 points and a plus-2 rating in 17 games.
Matthew Robertson, D
Ranked 27 by ESPN
The 6-foot-4, 201-pound defenseman was part of the gold-medal-winning Canadian team at last summer’s Hlinka Gretzky Cup under-18 tournament. Robertson made marked improvement this year, going from minus-18 last season to plus-18 this year with the junior Edmonton Oil Kings in the Western League. He recorded 33 points in 52 regular-season games and eight in 16 playoff games. Website Prospect Pipeline called Robertson a smooth skater with great lower-body strength who is tough to knock off the puck. The site projects Robertson as a probable top-four defenseman with an NHL team.
Lassi Thomson, D
Ranked 27 by Canada’s Sportsnet network
The 6-foot, 190-pound Finn spent the past season with the junior Kelowna Rockets in the Western League. Thomson shoots and passes like a pro, Sportsnet says, and it cites his great skating ability. Elite Prospects calls him a fluid skater with “above-average offensive tools” who stands out for his slap shot. This season, Thomson recorded 17 goals and 24 assists in 63 games with Kelowna, his first year playing outside Finland.