The Tampa Bay Lightning made a trade – just not one that you were expecting. As the second round was winding down, the Lightning made a deal for pick 57 with Montreal, sending them picks 124 and a 2021 second rounder. With that selection, the Lightning took 6’6″ center Jack Finley out of the WHL.
Then when it came time for Tampa Bay’s original second round pick – number 62 overall – they took another WHL center in Gage Goncalves.
Though many believed – myself included – that the Lightning would look to add depth to their defensemen corps, they opted for two centers instead. This is possibly in response to the roster moves they’re getting ready to make but with these players a few years away from playing in the NHL it’s more likely that Julien BriseBois and his scouting staff just like the guys and believe they can impact the team down the road.
Jack Finley – Center – Spokane Chiefs
Finley is a 6’6″, eighteen year old right handed shot that certainly has some work ahead of him, but is a very talented prospect. His size provides an advantage on the defensive side as not many centers are nearly as big as he is.
He’s viewed as a “pass first” guy that uses his vision and I.Q. to distribute the puck to the shooters he is on the ice with.
His father, Jeff Finley, played in the NHL for seventeen years for the New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers, Winnipeg Jets, Phoenix Coyotes, New York Rangers, and St. Louis Blues. His brother, Mason, is currently playing with the Okanagan Rockets’ U16 AAA team.
One of the big knocks on Finley is his skating, some attributing his issues in that department coming from his size. Another prospect the Lightning drafted a few years ago – Brayden Point – was also knocked for his skating so it’s certainly something the Lightning minor league system can work with Finley on.
Scott Wheeler of The Athletic had this to say about Finley;
"“Besides the fact that he’s huge, he’s one of the youngest players in the draft (he was a couple of weeks away from being eligible for next year’s draft), he’s decently talented and is one of the better cycle players in this draft… Finley does most of his work around the net, getting to the front to make little plays on tips and redirects, but he’s also a decent perimeter player because of that ability to protect the puck and make plays with his head up. His skating is still a bit of a concern for me, you’d like to see a player his size score a little more at the junior level and there just aren’t that many forwards his size having an impact in today’s NHL, but he has some intriguing tools that complement his length well.”"
Gage Goncalves – Center – Everett Silvertips
Goncalves is another center, coming in at 6’1″ and nineteen years old. He has a rocket of a shot and a next-level ability to read and react to things happening around him. He has great closing speed and is as obnoxious as they come for opposing puck carriers. Goncalves’ ability to stick to his man creates a lot of frustration for anyone trying to gain position in the offensive zone.
Bill Placzek of DraftSite.com said;
"“Second year eligible wiry winger who displays excellent vision and athleticism, and has added girth and strength since last season. Creative with the ability to go around defenders his game has alays been centered around high engery pace with quick tight turns and strong stick handling. Has a long stride and can stretch things out with his carries as well as tight area scores from rebounds he gets to before he can be neutralized.”"
Both of these picks by the Lightning seem to go against the consensus as to where people believed Finley and Goncalves would be drafted, but the Lightning have their system as to the type of people they like to draft and they work with those players on any shortcomings they may have.