Lightning draft Ethan Gauthier, trade Corey Perry’s rights for pick

The Lightning’s brass arrived in Nashville this week with just three picks — none before the sixth round — in this year’s draft, but they set their eyes on making a bigger splash along Lower Broadway.

General manager Julien BriseBois told amateur scouting director Al Murray to “be ready for anything,” and Murray’s staff had targets ready at every turn. BriseBois on Wednesday moved up to No. 37 overall, the fifth pick in the second round, by trading forward Ross Colton to Colorado. Thursday, Tampa Bay traded into the fourth round, reacquiring the pick it sent to Nashville as part of the Tanner Jeannot trade in February for the 2024 fourth-rounder it received from Chicago in the 2022 Brandon Hagel acquisition.

The Lightning used their first pick to select a player who appears to fit their “Bolt” mentality, right wing Ethan Gauthier. The 18-year-old recently completed his second season with the Sherbrooke Phoenix of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. With their fourth-round pick, they took Jayson Shaugabay, the top high school hockey player in the country’s biggest hockey state, Minnesota.

The Lightning parted ways with pending unrestricted free agent Corey Perry, sending his rights to the Blackhawks for a seventh-round pick in next year’s draft. Chicago has exclusive negotiating rights with Perry, who picked up 31 of his 417 career goals and 65 of his 833 points during his two seasons in Tampa Bay, until free agency opens Saturday at noon.

Gauthier entered Bridgestone Arena for the draft’s second day admittedly disappointed that he wasn’t taken in Wednesday’s first round. But when he glanced at the board to see which teams had the first few picks in the second, one stood out.

“I told my brother right before the day started that would be the best thing that could happen to me (Thursday), being drafted by Tampa,” Gauthier said. “They’re exactly the identity of the team that I kind of wanted to join, a team that plays with grit, intensity, compete level, energy, and obviously has some skills out there.”

Those are some of the same traits the Lightning seek when drafting players, no matter the round. Gauthier showed tremendous offensive skill last season with Sherbrooke, amassing 30 goals and 69 points in 62 games and winning the 2022-23 Mike Bossy Trophy (awarded to the QMJHL’s top prospect for the upcoming NHL Draft). Despite size (5-11-1/2, 183 pounds) that might scare off some teams, the Lightning view him as a complete two-way player.

“We had him as a first-round-valued player,” Murray said. “And he’s a Bolt all day long. He has a lot of hockey sense, compete and skill, so it brings the whole package. He’s not the biggest guy physically, but nobody told him that, because he plays pretty physical. So, he brings all the attributes.”

Late Thursday night, BriseBois announced in a news release that Murray, who has overseen 13 drafts for the Lightning, has been reassigned to the position of senior advisor to the general manager. Longtime amateur scout John Rosso, the organization’s assistant player personnel director since 2019, will be in charge of all amateur scouting operations, as well as draft preparation and execution, moving forward.

Gauthier was the top pick in the 2021 QMJHL entry draft, so his offensive skill is well known. But he also showed the ability to play physically and work hard defensively. Murray said he is flexible enough to play any of the three forward spots along all four lines.

“He’s the kind of guy who gives himself 12 chances to make a forward group,” Murray said.

Shaugabay, 18, was this year’s Minnesota Mr. Hockey, an accolade that goes to the state’s top high school player.

“It’s just a really exciting feeling, a feeling I’ll never forget, and also a feeling that’s a huge dream of yours when you’re a kid,” Shaugabay said in a phone interview. “So, to finally experience that is pretty special. I didn’t really know where I was going to go, but I’m very excited for where I did go.”

Shaugabay had 33 goals and 96 points in 32 games as a senior at Warroad High School. His 304 points during his four-year career passed the school scoring record set by his cousin, current NHLer T.J. Oshie.

“He just obliterated their scoring stats for career and for season,” Murray said. “He’s an elite offensive player. He’s got hockey sense and skill. And like a lot of young players, he’s going to take some time to get bigger, stronger, faster. So, a number of years ahead, no need to rush him. But he brings the skill level that we’re looking for in players.”

Shaugabay will play full-time for USHL Green Bay this season — he skated part-time for the Gamblers the past two seasons — before advancing to college hockey. He is committed to Minnesota-Duluth.

The Lightning selected defenseman Warren Clark in the sixth round. Clark had six goals and 32 assists in 55 games with the Steinbach Pistons of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League last season. He will play at St. Cloud State, which produced Lightning defenseman Nick Perbix. Murray said Clark has similar attributes with his size (6-foot-3, 185 pounds), smooth skating and poise with the puck in his end.

With the first of their two seventh-round picks, the Lightning chose center Jack Harvey from the USHL’s Chicago Steel. Harvey, 20, had 40 goals and 34 assists in 62 games last season. Listed at 5-feet-10, 176 pounds, he was passed over in the previous two drafts. Murray said the Lightning like Harvey’s skill, and he has improved his competitiveness as he prepares to play at Boston University.

The Lightning took defensive-minded center Ethan Hay of the Ontario Hockey League’s Flint Firebirds with their final pick. Hay, 6-feet-1, 190 pounds, had 17 goals and 11 assists in 64 games this past season. Murray said the 18-year-old can play all three forward spots, is strong in the faceoff circle and has “bite” that shows a strong checking game.

• • •

Sign up for the Sports Today newsletter to get daily updates on the Bucs, Rays, Lightning and college football across Florida.

Never miss out on the latest with your favorite Tampa Bay sports teams. Follow our coverage on Twitter and Facebook.