Only one player stands out from Steve Yzerman’s 1st round draft history with the Lightning
It’s such a minor enigma and yet so profound. Draft picks don’t pan out all the time nor serve tenure with the team that selected them. That’s how it goes in hockey. Some last. Some serve. Some succeed.
The expectation is for the first-round draft picks to do the most and go the furthest in the NHL, and when a team is ardent on player development, you’d think those picks would be keepers.
That’s the enigma of Steve Yzerman’s tenure as General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning… First-rounders have tended to be meh in one way or another.
I’m someone who thinks strongly of Yzerman’s tenure in Tampa. I believe in player-development, I believe in Tampacuse – the nickname for the AHL-to-NHL, Syracuse-and-Tampa system. There’s been pipeline production of a multitude of players who have served on the Lightning and moved on in the NHL.
Of course, pipeline development isn’t what’s traditionally tied to first-round picks in pro sports – they’re supposed to be the ones most-ready for top-level, professional play. They have skills, they have talent, their abilities have promise, what they lack is experience and tenure beyond the amateur ranks.
It’s weird that those first-rounders have been the expendable commodities of a team-building long-term.
In eight years as GM, Steve Yzerman has selected 8 players. Only two remain in the Tampa Bay system, one (Cal Foote – selected in 2017) has yet to play an NHL game. None of those players have played more than 328 games (four full seasons of play). Vladislav Namestnikov came closest, playing 263 before being traded to the New York Rangers.
The anomaly – the one 1st rounder still with the Lightning and playing top-tier hockey – is Andrei Vasilevsiky (2012 draft, second selection at #19 overall). Vasy is on the verge of becoming the Lightning’s all-time winningest goalie, he won the Vezina Trophy of 2018-19, overcoming an early-season injury that sidelined him. Oh, and that new contract…that huge new contract.
There’s more to discuss – what made these guys expendable, their production and role-playing (or lack thereof) in the organization and generally in the NHL, alternatives that Yzerman missed out on in the draft. All of these players (sans Foote) have NHL tenure – but it still remains the curious fact of the years of Yzerman that the high-expectation picks didn’t high tenure with Tampa Bay:
Note: Production numbers were not included just because of lack o time … They are rationale on why players were commodities in trades, or expendable for the organization, so I apologize for leaving that data out.