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.
When you start looking at the fourth round of the draft, you’re generally looking at players that can at least be role players in the NHL. They may not have long careers in the NHL and may bounce around between the minors and the big leagues, but they can be very valuable players. Every once in a while, a team can take a gamble on a player with a lot of skill that has questions stemming from character or size that can really pay off. One recent example of that would be Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames who was selected in the 4th round of the 2011 draft and has 143 points in 160 games.
So do the Lightning have any of those kind of diamond in the rough hits in the 4th round or do they flub around and not get much out of their fourth round picks? Let’s take a look at some options!
Our first option is also the player in this category that played the most games in the NHL during his career. Gavey was the 74th overall pick in the Lightning’s first draft in 1992. He was a center playing with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL. The Greyhounds were the OHL Champions that year, but Gavey only contributed 18 points in 48 regular season games and another 8 in 23 playoff and Memorial Cup games.
The Lightning saw something in him though and the next season he posted 84 points in 62 games in the regular season. The Greyhounds were not the OHL Champions with Gavey having 14 points in 18 playoff games. However in 1992-93 they were the hosts of the Memorial Cup and so had an automatic berth in the tournament. Gavey had five points in four tournament games as the Greyhounds captured the Memorial Cup.
Gavey would go back to the Greyhounds for one more season and put up 102 points in 60 games and also win Gold with Team Canada at the WJC U20 tournament with Gavey putting up 6 points in 7 games. With his Junior career completed, Gavey signed with the Lightning and began his professional career.
Gavey spent the 1994-95 season in the IHL with the Atlanta Knights scoring 35 points in 66 games. The next year he would make the Lightning roster and spend the whole year in Tampa with 12 points in 73 games. He began the 1995-96 season with the team and had 3 points in 16 games before being traded to the Calgary Flames for goaltender Rick Tabaracci. Tabaracci would play 55 games for the Lightning before being traded back to Calgary in the offseason for a fourth round pick used to select Eric Beaudoin. Beaudoin played in 112 NHL games all for the Florida Panthers in case you were wondering.
Gavey would then bounce around the league eventually playing for Dallas, Minnesota, Toronto, and Anaheim after leaving the Flames. He retired from hockey after the 2006-07 season playing in the German professional league for a year. In total he had 91 points in 360 NHL games and 3 more points in 19 playoff games.
Defenseman Mike Lundin was the 102nd overall selection in the 2004 draft by the Lightning. He had just finished his freshman season at the University of Maine with 19 points in 44 games and an NCAA championship. He played his full four years at the University of Maine before turning pro with the Lightning. While in college, Lundin was on the Hockey East All-Academic Team every year and earned Second All-Star Team honors in his senior season as well as winning the Len Ceglarski Award for Sportsmanship.
Lundin spent his first professional season in Tampa with 6 points in 81 games and only 16 PIMs while maintaining a plus-three plus-minus rating. The following two seasons were split between Tampa and the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL. While with Norfolk, he had 45 points in 78 games, but never translated that offensive output to the NHL.
For the 2010-11 season, Lundin was back in Tampa full time and had 12 points in 69 games. He added 2 more points in 18 playoff games as the Lightning were one win away from going to the Stanley Cup Finals. Following the season, General Manager Steve Yzerman declined to make a qualifying offer to Lundin making him a free agent. He signed a one-year deal with the Minnesota Wild but only played 17 games for the Wild and 2 more for their AHL affiliate.
Lundin played for Almtuna IS of the Allsvenskan league, which is the second league in Sweden, for 12 games during the 2012-13 lockout and then played in 11 games for the Ottawa Senators after the lockout ended. Lundin then left North America to play for Barys Astana of the Russian KHL. He has spent the past three seasons there and has become a solid player in the KHL scoring 96 points in 173 games. He is currently a free agent, but is only 31 years old.
Jones is a forward with pretty good size currently listed at 6’2″ and 216 pounds. He was the 102nd overall pick for the Lightning in the 2005 draft from the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL. He played the 2005-06 season back in the WHL with Moose Jaw and contributed 85 points in 72 games and 21 points in 22 playoff games as Moose Jaw lost in the WHL Finals.
Jones then turned pro with the Lightning after signing an entry level contract. He spent parts of 6 seasons with the Lightning bouncing back and forth between the NHL and AHL, never really establishing himself in Tampa as he only played 78 NHL games for the Lightning and never topped 22 games in a year. However, he did play in 7 playoff games during the 2010-11 run to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Jones was traded during the 2011-12 season to the Calgary Flames for Brendan Mikkelson. He spent parts of 3 seasons with Calgary going back and forth with their AHL affiliate the Abbotsford Heat. He spent the 2014-15 season with the Philadelphia Flyers organization getting into 4 games in Philadelphia and spending the rest of the season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. In 2015-16, Jones split the season between the Utica Comets and the Charlotte Checkers in the AHL.
Through his entire NHL career, Jones has been little more than a depth player. At this point in his career, he can provide veteran leadership in the AHL and has 294 points in 466 AHL games.
The Gaspe, Quebec native Cedric Paquette was drafted 101st overall in the 2012 draft after having 48 points in 63 games for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. He followed that up with 83 points in 63 games the following year. He joined the Syracuse Crunch for three playoff games and earned the name “Dump Truck” from the guys at BoltProspects.com. They were impressed with his tenacious game and the reasoning behind the nickname was that a dump truck isn’t pretty, but a dump truck gets work done and a dump truck doesn’t stop. That exemplifies Paquette when he is playing his game.
Paquette spent most of the 2013-14 season in Syracuse playing a top forward role and had 44 points in 70 games to go with 153 PIMs. The coaching staff was impressed by his work ethic and his responsible defensive play and brought him up for the final 2 games of the NHL season and then played him in all 4 playoff games. It’s very rare for coaches to trust in a rookie that has basically no NHL experience to play in the playoffs. That speaks volumes for his character and style of play.
Since then, Paquette has spent most of his time in the NHL, only contributing 5 games in the AHL during the 2014-15 season. In 2014-15, he had 19 points in 64 games and 3 more goals in 24 playoff games. During the playoffs, Paquette was often tasked with taking on top competition and shutting them down which he was mostly effective at throughout the playoffs. There was even a quote about him learning that Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews spoke French and so that gave Paquette another way to chirp at him.
Paquette’s 2015-16 season was a let down as he suffered a foot injury during a pre-season game and reinjured it several times early in the season. He never really seemed to get over it and often disappeared in games. He had only 11 points in 56 games and 1 more point in 17 playoff games.
To be perfectly honest about Paquette, the verdict is still out on him. There are some that believe that he’s only one bad training camp away from being put on waivers. There is a bit of a squeeze that is starting on the bottom six with forwards like Tanner Richard and Joel Vermin approaching NHL readiness as well as the already established presence of J.T. Brown and Erik Condra who are both under contract for the next two seasons. Paquette is really in need of a bounce back season where he stays healthy and plays his pest energy game to remain in the NHL.
Jones has been a depth player all of his career and even compared to what Paquette has already accomplished, it doesn’t amount to much. Aaron Gavey was also mostly a depth player but he at least lasted 390 games in the NHL. Mike Lundin had 252 games as an NHLer and he has re-established himself as an offensive defenseman in the KHL.
This decision is really hard to make, but ultimately the pick is going to be Mike Lundin because of the harder position he played, his low penalty minute totals, and his re-emergence in the KHL. Lundin has put himself into a position that he could return to the NHL and at 31 years old, he still has some good hockey left to give to a team.