Did Lightning find first-round value in fourth round of NHL draft?

Tampa Bay, with just one pick in the first three rounds, traded into the fourth to select Dylan Duke.
The Lightning traded into the fourth round of the NHL draft to select Dylan Duke.
The Lightning traded into the fourth round of the NHL draft to select Dylan Duke. [ RENA LAVERTY | Courtesy of US National Team Developmental Program ]
Published July 25, 2021|Updated July 25, 2021

The Lightning didn’t have a pick in the first two rounds of the amateur draft, but they think they might have found first-round value in fourth-round pick Dylan Duke, a left wing with the U.S. National Development Team program they traded up to get Saturday.

“It was an opportunity for us to get a player that we felt should’ve been drafted probably a few rounds before where we were able to get him,” general manger Julien BriseBois said “It didn’t actually cost us anything in terms of assets, and we get a player that we feel pretty lucky that we were able to have him slide to that draft position.”

The Lightning sent the Canadiens a fourth-round pick in the 2022 draft for the chance to move into the fourth round to select Duke, ranked as the 29th-best North American skater in the final NHL Central Scouting rankings. The Lightning didn’t have a fourth-round selection in the draft entering Saturday.

BriseBois described the 5-foot-10, 175-pounder from Strongsville, Ohio, as a competitive wing with a knack for going to the net. Duke compared his game to those of the Lightning’s Anthony Cirelli and the Canadiens’ Brendan Gallagher.

“A big part of my game is scoring goals in front of the net,” said Duke, who is committed to Michigan. “I think I go to the net hard, and I battle in front of the net for rebounds and tips.”

Duke, who scored 58 times over his past two seasons, scored again when the Lightning took him with the 30th pick of the fourth round, 126th overall.

“If there was one spot I wanted to go to,” he said, “it was Tampa Bay.”

Assistant general manager and director of amateur scouting Al Murray thinks Duke will fit right in.

“He is all about what we call a Bolt,” Murray said. “He’s high energy, really smart, competitive, always net-front, always banging around, has good skill level, good skating.”

Losing Yanni

BriseBois said the Lightning knew going into the expansion draft that they would lose a good player, but that didn’t make the departure of third-line center Yanni Gourde for the Seattle Kraken any easier to accept.

“Yanni is one of the model success stories of our development program and such a heart and soul guy,” BriseBois said. “No one competes harder than Yanni. Pound for pound, one of the strongest guys we have, so obviously it hurts.

“It also hurts losing Barclay Goodrow (in a trade with the Rangers). We’re going to lose other players probably within the next week here, either via trade or them signing as free agents somewhere else. That’s just the reality of our business.”

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Brise Bois said Tampa Bay tried to work out trade scenarios with Seattle that might have given them more control over the player the Kraken took but the two sides weren’t able to come to an agreement.

“So ultimately at the end of the day, they decided to just pick a player,” he said, “and they got a really good one.”

Rounds 5-7

The Lightning took center Cameron MacDonald of the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL with the final pick of the fifth round. He described himself as a player who can score but plays a 200-foot game.

MacDonald said the Lightning have been his favorite team for as long as he’s been watching hockey.

“They’ve developed some of the best prospects in the game,” he said. “So if I can get to that level, I know they have a great staff there to train me.”

After selecting defensemen Alex Gagne and Daniil Pylenkov with the last pick of the sixth round and fourth pick of the seventh, they grabbed left wing Robert Flinton with the 19th pick of the seventh before closing the draft by taking big right wing Niko Huuhtanen with the 224th and final pick.

The 6-foot-2, 204-pound Huuhtanen reminds Murray of a player who has hoisted the Stanley Cup after the past three NHL seasons.

“He’s not Patrick Maroon,” Murray said, “but he’s a Finnish 17-year-old version of Pat Maroon.”

The Lightning closed out the NHL draft by taking right wing Niko Huuhtanen with the 224th and final overall pick.
The Lightning closed out the NHL draft by taking right wing Niko Huuhtanen with the 224th and final overall pick. [ Photo from video/ ]

Times sports multimedia producer Rachel West contributed to this story.

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