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Monday, May 28, 2018
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Tampa Bay Lightning

Bolts use aggressive defensive draft approach

The Lightning went on the defensive attack on the second day of the NHL draft.

Tampa Bay on Saturday used a pair of second-round selections to take defensemen, and general manager Steve Yzerman listened to his scouting staff and pulled off a pair of trades to move up to make two other choices.

With the two second-round picks Tampa Bay acquired Friday from the Islanders for the 28th overall pick, the Lightning chose Czech Republic defenseman Dominik Masin (pronounced “machine”) with the 35th pick and American blue liner Johnathan MacLeod with the 57th pick.

In the third round, Tampa Bay moved up one spot with Minnesota — giving up the 2015 seventh-round pick acquired from Vancouver in the Jason Garrison deal — to select high-scoring but undersized center Brayden Point.

The Lightning then traded both of their fifth-round picks to the Rangers to move into the fourth round to select another defenseman, Ben Thomas.

Including the first-round selection of defenseman Anthony DeAngelo, Tampa Bay used four of its first five picks on defense.

“We have generally gone with the best player available (draft philosophy), but when all things are equal we've kind of gone with need,'' Yzerman said. “Today we didn't specifically go after defensemen, and last year we didn't draft any, but it's just the way it played out. These (defensemen) were in the right spot for us.''

Tampa Bay also held serious conversations to grab the top defenseman in the draft, as ESPN.com reported that Florida — which chose Aron Ekblad — strongly considered an offer from the Lightning for the first overall pick. Lightning director of amateur scouting Al Murray said Yzerman asked the scouts if they wanted the first overall pick, but the Panthers retained the selection.

Maybe it wasn't the plan going into the draft, but with a stable of quality forwards and goaltending prospects throughout the organization, there is a lack of blue-chip-quality blue liners in the system.

Tampa Bay used the 10th overall pick on Slater Koekkoek in 2012, but there are question marks about his durability after three shoulder surgeries in the past two years as he gets set to begin his first year in the pro ranks.

While there are others — Dylan Blujus, Nikita Nesterov, Luke Witkowski and Dmitry Korobov among them — who might make it to the NHL, none have stood out to the point where they are considered full-time NHL players.

The Lightning hope that changed this weekend. On top of the flashy skills of DeAngelo, Masin brings a more steady and reliable style and has twice captained Czech Republic teams at the junior levels.

MacLeod, who is expected to attend Boston University, is known for his stay-at-home, physical approach, but there is more to his game.

“He plays with an awful lot of grit and toughness,'' BU head coach David Quinn told College Hockey, Inc. “Sometimes, when one part of a player's game stands out, people miss the other things he does well, and that can be the case with Johnathan. He's got skill, he shoots it a ton, and he skates well. He'll continue to improve his skill, skating and consistency and will be a very good all-around defenseman.''

All just part of a weekend the Lightning hope adds better balance to the organization's already strong farm system.

“The weekend went great. Whenever you get that one guy in the first round you feel is really an elite player, which we feel we did this year (with DeAngelo), then the rest of the weekend all seems to fall into place,'' Lightning director of amateur scouting Al Murray said. “This one fell into place. We definitely got players ... we were hoping would be there. We jockeyed around a little to get the players we wanted.''


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