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Lightning at the Draft! Written by Laci Bloomers - July 26th, 2012

The CMHL Draft, unlike similar events in the NFL and NBA, is designed first and foremost to build organizations for the medium and long-term future, and not to fill immediate roster needs as the pro football and basketball drafts do.

That was the approach the two-time Stanley Cup (has a nice ring, doesn't it?) champion Tampa Bay Lightning took in the first two rounds of the 2012 Entry Draft.

In the opening round, using the 23rd overall pick acquired from San Jose in the Ryan Malone deal, the Lightning took a bit of a chance on Tanner Pearson.

For Pearson, it's a long-awaited moment in the spotlight of the world hockey stage. The Ontario native became eligible to be drafted in 2010, but was passed on with all 210 picks in that year's draft and all 211 picks in the 2011 draft.

Now, the wait is finally over. Pearson has established his name and found his team; he has a future in hockey and, at last, a set of optimistic expectations.

Once the amazement fades away and realization sinks in, though, Pearson—and the Lightning, as well—will begin to understand the brilliance of Friday night's pick.

After all, Pearson could, despite his long wait, be the biggest steal of the entire first round.

The 6'0", 198-pound winger scored a whopping 37 goals and 91 points with the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League, finishing third in scoring in a junior league that produced 1/3rd of the first-round picks this year. While a broken fibula kept Pearson out of the playoffs, the flashy winger made his mark as one of the most productive prospects in all of Canadian junior hockey.

By comparison, No. 1 pick Nail Yakupov, playing for Sarnia of the OHL, tallied 69 points, a full 22 lower than Pearson. The 19-year-old simply slipped under the radar, tainted by a imperfect past and an overlooked set of skills.

But the Lightning didn't make that mistake—and, in the process, may have found themselves a top-10 caliber player with the 23rd selection.

In Round 3, the club feels they may have repeated their 1st round steal, although not in the same fashion.  Samuel Kurker was projected as a 4th rounder earlier this season, and then found himself as high as the early second round.  When the Lightning came up with Florida's 3rd round selection, they were surprised that the Boston native was still available.

This potential power forward stands just a shade under 6' 2, tips the scales near 200 pounds, and has racked up 52 goals in 49 games over the last two seasons for St. John's Prep, one of the better college prep programs in New England.

The Boston-area native skated for Team USA at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament last fall, and really caught the eye of Tampa scouts there.  He then went on to tally 32 goals in 24 games for St. John's Prep this season, and capped off his year by committing to skate for legendary coach Jack Parker at Boston University with a hockey scholarship.

Chief of Scouting for the Lightning, Dave Andreychuk, was pleased with the selections.  "We honestly were able to draft two forwards we did not think would be available at those picks" he stated, "so we are very pleased to add Tanner and Sammie to the Lightning organization."

"Who wouldn't be excited to be drafted by an organization of this caliber" said Pearson.  "It will drive me to become the best player I can be so that one day I can wear this sweater!"

Whether the Lightning acquire any deeper picks in the Draft this year remains to be seen, but so far they have added pieces that they are very pleased with.

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