Leafs captain John Tavares celebrates a goal with his teammates
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Former NHL GM makes shocking admission about Leafs captain John Tavares

Published January 18, 2024 at 8:31

Brian Lawton was only the general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning for a couple short seasons between June of 2008 and April of 2010, however, his tenure was as controversial and newsworthy as any of his counterparts.

He was at the helm when the blockbuster trade between the Montreal Canadiens for Vincent Lecavalier was rejected. The former NHLer confirmed that himself a few years later. Reportedly, the owners couldn't get past their feud, otherwise the deal would have gone through and it involved P.K. Subban and Carey Price going the other way. He was also in charge when the Flyers offered up Claude Giroux for Paul Ranger.

Nevertheless, it wasn't all bad as he was given a golden ticket during the 2009 NHL Entry Draft with the 2nd overall pick. The New York Islanders ending up drafting John Tavares with the first overall pick and the Lightning, of course, drafted Victor Hedman next, and Matt Duchene went third overall to the Colorado Avalanche.

Jeff Marek sat down with Lawton recently and asked him whether or not he would have drafted Hedman first overall if he had won the draft lottery. His response was actually quite surprising.

"The first thing you should know is that back then, I believe that Pittsburgh was in the finals. The top-3 prospects that you just mentioned - Tavares, Hedman, and Duchene - were all invited to come to the finals and watch the game... I had pre-arranged at that time for all three kids to come from Pittsburgh down to Tampa because we had not made a final decision. Our scouting staff had presented a final list to me at that time and it was late in the game so we felt confident that it was Tavares, Duchene, Hedman.

We went to the lottery and someone said you don't seem nervous about the lottery. At that time we could only move back one spot, it was most likely that we would stay where we were, we could only move back one spot, and a small chance to move forward. I felt really confident that we would pick second and the answer to your question is that we would have drafted Victor Hedman first overall [had we won]."

Hedman has arguably been the best defenseman of his generation as he has 150 goals and 692 points in 1,016 games, on top of a James Norris, a Conn Smythe, and 2 Stanley Cups. He was a Norris finalist in 6 consecutive seasons, has a career-high of 20 goals and 85 points, has reached the 50-point threshold 6 times and in 160 playoff games he has added 110 points. Of course, Erik Karlsson's name is up there, as is Kris Letang's. Hedman, though, is a bit of a unicorn in terms of his size, skating ability and two-way game.

Tavares has also had a great career with 439 goals and 1,009 points in 1,070 games, including cracking the 80-point threshold on 5 separate occasions. Unfortunately he doesn't carry the same clutch moniker as Hedman or the playoff experience, however, I think both teams walked away with great players.

Hedman should go down as one of the best modern-day defensemen and the fact that Lawton would have taken him first overall shouldn't surprise anyone. The Lightning had also drafted Steven Stamkos first overall the year before, so going with a forward and a defenseman would have made more sense at the time.
January 18   |   1023 answers
Former NHL GM makes shocking admission about Leafs captain John Tavares

If you were the GM of the Lightning back in 2009 and you won the 1st overall pick, who would you have taken 1st overall?

Tavares32131.4 %
Hedman59658.3 %
Duchene555.4 %
Other515 %
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