Tampa Bay chose the skill route with its first pick Friday night and swung for the fences.
The Lightning chose Anthony DeAngelo with the 19th pick in the NHL draft, who led the Ontario Hockey League with 71 points by a defenseman while playing for Sarnia, the same team that helped groom Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos.
Tampa Bay also held the 28th pick but traded it to the New York Islanders for a pair of second-round picks, the 35th and 57th overall. The draft concludes today with rounds two through seven, starting at 10 a.m.
While DeAngelo, 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, has high-end skill, his character came under attack last season when he was twice suspended for violating the OHL’s harassment, abuse and diversity policies. One time was for directing a slur at a teammate in January.
But Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman and head amateur scout Al Murray did extensive research during the interview process and feel the incident was the act of a 18-year-old.
“We definitely had a long look at it,’’ Yzerman said. “We did our homework with the people that he’s played for, the people he played with, his family. We know the entire history and we think this is a young man with great potential.
“We’ve talked about the suspensions, how he’s handled certain situations and that he is going to have to change if he’s going to make it as a professional hockey player, and we believe in him. These kids are 18 or 19 years old, they are going to change, some of them change for the better, some change for the worse. We expect him to change for the better.’’
There is no doubting his skill, however, as DeAngelo compares his game to that of Dan Boyle. Some scouts agree, with NHL Central Scout Chris Edwards stating, “His puck skills and playmaking ability are excellent. He sees the ice very well and creates offensive scoring chances with great passes. He has a very good shot and gets it on net.’’
DeAngelo, who grew up in New Jersey, just 25 minutes away from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, site of this year’s draft, said he had a good interview with the Lightning. And just like with Tampa Bay, he was asked about the suspensions and other issues repeatedly while hoping he convinced teams he had seen the errors of his actions.
“My honesty to teams, to tell them I learned from my mistakes,’’ DeAngelo said. “I will change, I will bring a good character to whatever organization I’m headed to. ... I was just nervous about where I was going to go. I was confident I’d hear my name, I was confident of my interviews and I’m so excited to be a part of Tampa Bay.’’