Tampa Bay Lightning: Dmitri Semykin draft strengthens the blue line

(Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2018 Entry Draft is in the books.  It is now time to reflect on the players they have picked and see if they will make an immediate impact on the organization.

The Tampa Bay Lightning did not make their first selection in the draft until the second round. In the 2017 draft, all of the Lightning prospects that were drafted were sent back to their junior teams to grow and gain more experience.

This draft would prove to be important for this tropical team. After a season that saw them reach the Eastern Conference Final and be only one game from reaching the Stanley Cup, the Bolts would have a lower draft position.

Tampa Bay would decide to strengthen their defence by drafting defenseman Dmitri Semykin in the third round of the draft. Let’s take a closer look at what Semykin brings to the Florida team and how he will make an impact.

Semykin a Powerful Two-Way Defenseman

Semykin has already gained a strong reputation in the Russian Junior League. Playing for Stupino 2, he tallied eight goals, seven assists, 118 penalty minutes and acquired a plus-four rating.

Dmitri also played on the international stage for Team Russia, competing in the Under-18 championships. While on the team, he was a critical shutdown defenseman, retrieving pucks out of his own zone and being physical along the boards.

According to a Tweet by Bryan Burns, Tampa’s Director of Amateur Scouting Al Murray, had some great things to say about Dmitri.

The young Russian prospect is an effective two-way defenseman that can break out effortlessly out of his zone. He was a powerful shot, which will be useful on the Tampa power play and his size allows him to have a long reach, clogging passing and shooting lanes in the neutral zone.

 Semykin Was Missed By Many…Except for Lightning

 Entering the draft, the Russian defenseman went under the radar. HockeyProspects.com did not even have him ranked in their pre-draft rankings.

But selecting players who are off the board is nothing new for the Lightning. Last year, the Bolts selected Alexander Volkov in the second round.

Not many scouts knew were aware of the young prospect. But after signing with the Syracuse Crunch, he made an instant impact, tallying 23 goals and 45 points in 75 games.

As Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman explains, the key is to draft players that not only provide positional need but are also high-quality talent.

"At the age of 17 and 18, even 19 years old…you’re just picking the guy you like the best. Our needs, most of these guys it’s four to five years away, so our needs potentially change at that point. We’re not sitting there saying we need a goalie, let’s take a goalie. We need this, we need that. We’re just going to find good prospects. We generally look at where we like guys and which round we like them. And if they’re there, we’ll take the one we like the best"

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When Semykin is ready, he will be a critical piece for a Lightning team that prides itself on tough, physical defence. Last season, Tampa was 19th in goals against per game with 2.85.

However, one facet of their game that will need to improve is their penalty kill, which was 27th in the league (76.1%). Having a tall blueliner like Semykin will be crucial on the penalty kill, where they need to block shots and clear the puck out of their own zone.

 Lightning Will Take Their Time with Semykin

While there is a great mix of excitement and uncertainty surrounding the Lightning selecting Semykin, reality sets in and this is a player who needs professional experience before coming to play in the NHL.

Next season, Dmitri will be playing in the AHL for the Syracuse Crunch, where he will develop his skills and gain more experience playing professional hockey. It is clear that Tampa does not want to rush the young player’s development, which is especially important for a defenseman.

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It may not be for a few years but Semykin’s defensive abilities will surprise the critics and make a resounding mark on the Tampa franchise when he plays for them.