By Jake Ricker
The NHL Draft is here, and the Lightning have a first-round pick for the first time since 2019, but what will they do with it? In this article, we will take a look at some of the possible choices experts have suggested for the Lightning when they are on the clock with the 31st overall pick. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our site for the latest and in-depth coverage of all Lightning draft picks.
Trade the pick
While it's not the most exciting option, it's probably the most likely. The Lightning do not have picks in rounds two or three, so trading out of the first to gain a second and third would give them more options in the draft. The Lightning are also known for making great picks in these rounds and not as much for their first-round picks.
Al Murray, head of scouting, mentioned that the Lightning do have their eyes on a few players, so it sounds like they would like to use this pick if possible, but if none are available, trading would be the best option.
Luca Del Bel Belluz, Center, 18
Belluz has been linked to the Lightning the most indifferent mock drafts. He is 18 years old and plays center. Last season he had 30 goals, 46 assists, and 76 points. He is a great offensively-minded player that had a fantastic season. However, Belluz only had six points in 58 games in the 2019-20 season. But if he can continue to build off his last season, the future could be bright for this young man.
Belluz played soccer before getting into hockey and has often said the endurance he built playing soccer has helped give him a leg up while playing hockey. At 6'1'', Belluz has received high praise for his hands and shot. That was reinforced by his 30-goal season last year. Belluz also has experience on the power play and penalty kill, which is always a welcome plus. One knock against him is his speed; despite having some good acceleration, he is not the fastest player on the ice.
When it comes to his draft projection, Belluz has been projected to go as high as 15, but most have him going as a late first or early second. Definitely not a bad option for the Lightning if they choose to go the center route.
Denton Mateychuck, Defencemen 17
Mateychuck is a very solid defenceman, and being a left-handed shot, he fills a much-needed hole in the Lightning organization. He is a very offensive-minded defenceman scoring 13 goals and 51 assists for a total of 61 points. Nearly a point per game player Mateychuck does not lack in the playmaking department.
He has some solid defensive skills but might benefit from putting on a little more weight. At 5'11'' 194 LB, he can still hold his own and has more speed than most others. Mateychuck will probably not be NHL-ready for a few years but has shown great potential in the few years scouts have seen him play. The biggest issue for the Lightning is he is projected to go in the early to mid 1st round. If he does fall to the Lightning, however, he would be a great pick for the team.
Filip Measar, Right Wing, 18
Measar is one of the few players on this list that can play on the wing, making him a little more versatile. Last season Measar scored eight goals and eight assists for a total of 16 points. While his offensive ability is not as high as others, he does have a great hockey IQ, which is something that can be extremely valuable. One of his weaknesses is his speed. Not being the fastest player isn't essential but definitely puts you at a disadvantage in today's NHL.
Measar has some good potential but is probably one of the more riskier picks. He has also played at the center position, which gives him more value to the Lightning. While he could be a decent pick for a late first-rounder, there are some better options for the Lightning, in my opinion.
Nathan Gaucher, Center, 18
Gaucher is another solid offensive forward, scoring 31 goals and 26 assists for a total of 57 points. He is also listed at 6'3'' and 207 lb giving him a huge leg up in the physicality department. But perhaps the best part about Gaucher is his defensive ability. He won the QMJHL's best defensive forward award in the 2020-21 season. Gaucher has played on the penalty kill and on the power play and is probably best compared to Anthony Cirelli.
Gaucher is a jack of all trades and would be a good pick for the Lightning if he is available. This is someone that has a lot of upside and few downfalls. He may not be projected to be a top NHL player, but as the Lightning have shown, sometimes the bottom six players can be the most important in a Stanely Cup run.
Gleb Trikozov, Foward, 17
The Lightning are known for their success with drafting Russian players, and Trikozov could be added to that list. Last season he scored 23 goals, and 22 assists, for a total of 45 points. Trikozov is a shoot-first type of player, which is something the Lightning sometimes lack. He also has a lot of speed, giving him the ability to blow by players and make them look silly with great puck handling. One issue with Trikozov is his defensive ability, as he was caught standing in the defensive zone a few times.
Trikozov has played at all three forward positions giving him a lot of versatility. His potential is very high with his ability to put on a show offensively. But his not-so-great defensive ability and tunnel vision could hold him back. Trikozov held the second-best points per game (1.29) in MHL history, only behind the one and only Nikita Kucherov. If he is anything like the other Russian players the Lightning have drafted, this could be a home run pick.
Lane Hutson, Defencemen, 18
Hutson is only 5'11'' and 194 lb, which is small for his position, but he is still praised for his defensive play. He scored ten goals and 53 assists for a total of 63 points last season. He was also a plus 59, which isn't always the most telling stat but is impressive nonetheless. Hutson is definitely a more offensively minded defenceman, but he has found ways to keep his opponents off the board.
Hutson could use a few more years to improve his defensive ability, which has to be in tip-top shape with his smaller size, and possibly add some more speed. But being a left-handed defenseman, he would be a valuable addition to the Lightning organization.
There would be a lot of good options for the Lightning in this year's draft if they chose to use their first-round pick. Personally, Gaucher, Mateychuck, and Hutson would be my top picks, but it is really hard to predict what the Lightning might do. One thing we know for certain is the Lightning have one of the best scouting departments in the league. So whatever they decide to do, Lightning fans can rest assured there's a good chance it was the right move.
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