Best in Round is a ten part series. For each installment, I’ll be going through a specific round of the draft for the Tampa Bay Lightning and selecting the best player the team selected in that round. The player didn’t need to play for the Lightning or play significant time with the Lightning to qualify. Only that they were drafted by the Lightning. The rest of the selection criteria is purely subjective based on my own opinions. Some opinions may also be based on future speculation for players that have not finished their career or are just starting.
From 1995 through 2004, the entry draft had 9 rounds. While not quite as sparse for talent as the 10th and 11th rounds that we covered last week, the 9th round was still very much a gamble on players. Getting any NHL contributions from them was a successful pick. Even getting some AHL play was a good thing at this late stage of the draft. After the 2004 lockout, the draft was reduced to only 7 rounds, which is the format we still have today.
For the 9th round, there were really only two choices possible: Nick Tarnasky and Martin Cibak. Neither lasted in the NHL for long with Tarnasky having 245 games compared to Cibak’s 154 games. Their point totals were similar: 30 for Tarnasky and 23 for Cibak. Both are still playing professionally. Tarnasky has spent five of the past six seasons in the AHL with a one year stint in the KHL mixed in. Cibak has bounced around Europe since departing the Lightning after the 2005-06 season having spent time in the SHL and KHL and the past two seasons in the Czech league.
With their careers having been so similar and neither likely to end up back in the NHL again in any kind of significant capacity, there was one measure that gave a player the edge… Stanley Cups. Martin Cibak was a member of the 2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning team that won the franchise’s first Stanley Cup. While he only played in 6 playoff games, 4 of them came in the Cup Finals: games 4, 5, 6, and 7. Between his regular season appearances and his Finals appearances, he qualified to have his name on the cup and since he played in Game 7, he skated the Cup around the St. Pete Times Forum ice in full gear.
So with the Stanley Cup engraving of his name as the tie breaker, Martin Cibak is the pick for the best 9th round selection by the Lightning.
Check back next Friday as we’ll cover the 8th round!