6th Round — Nick Perbix
Draft year: 2017
Career stats: 69GP | 5G | 15A | 20P
While the Lightning had trouble signing Walker and Guttman (below) after four college seasons, there was no such issue with Perbix, who also ended his college career after the 2022 season.
Only requiring 14 AHL games, it was not long before Perbix got the call-up to the NHL. As the season progressed, it became apparent that Perbix was setting himself up to be Victor Hedman’s partner going forward — a key role that needs to provide good puck movement while being sound defensively so that Hedman can have free rein on offense.
With a two-year extension already signed, Perbix is set to continue providing reliable two-way play for the Lightning on defense.
Honorable mention: Cole Guttman (2017)
Guttman, like Walker, had a successful NCAA career before not signing with the Lightning last summer as he won the 2022 NCAA Championship playing for the University of Denver.
This season, after a strong start in AHL Rockford, Guttman was called up by the Chicago Blackhawks towards the end of the season and posted 6 points in 14 games, and even centered a line of former Lightning players consisting of Taylor Raddysh and Tyler Johnson.
Even with the Blackhawks set to draft Connor Bedard this year, who should become their franchise No .1 centerman, Guttman has the opportunity and talent to become the team’s second-line center and be a key piece in their rebuild.
In my opinion, the argument to have him above Perbix could be made based off future expectations, but for now they are neck and neck as Perbix has had more time to prove that he is a legit NHLer.