Exploring a random Lightning draft pick from the pre-Yzerman era.

For this series, I’ve taken a list of every Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick, excluding the expansion draft, and put it into a random name picker. Also excluded are any Steve Yzerman era picks so the players eligible are BY. That’s Before Yzerman.

Now that the names are in the list, let’s spin the wheel and pick our random Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick.

And the selected player is…

Shane Willis

Shane Willis was a draft pick of the Lightning in the third round, 56th overall in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. He had scored 24 goals and 43 points in 65 games in the WHL for the Price Albert Raiders in his rookie season. He played well in the WHL and it seemed like the Lightning might have a forward with some skill to add to their fledgling franchise. However, the team could not come to terms with Willis and he decided re-enter the draft.

The second time around, he was taking 88th overall in the 4th round by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. The Hurricanes returned him to the WHL for another season where he put up 58 goals and 112 points in 64 games. He made his AHL debut at the end of the season and had an assist in one game.

In 1998-99, Willis was sent to the Beast of New Haven in the AHL and put up 31 goals and 81 points in 73 games. He made his NHL debut playing seven games with the Hurricanes without recording a point. The following season, the Hurricanes moved their minor league affiliation to the Cincinnati Cyclones of the IHL where Willis had another impressive minor league season with 35 goals and 60 points in 80 games. He also played in two more games with the Hurricanes without a point.

2000-01 was Willis’ break-out season. He made the Hurricanes roster and scored 20 goals and 44 points in 73 games. Unfortunately, that would by far be his best NHL season. The following season, he only had seven goals and 17 points in 59 games before being traded to… THE TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING! What a coincidence?! Of course, this was a different front office by then in 2001-02. The Lightning sent goaltender Kevin Weekes to the Hurricanes for Willis and everyone’s favorite fighter Chris Dingman.

Willis finished out the season with four goals and seven points in 21 games for the Lightning. 2002-03 saw him back in the AHL with the Springfield Falcons. The 2003-04 season was much the same as he played 55 games in the AHL. However, he did play 12 games and recorded six assists for the eventual Stanley Cup winning Lightning. Unfortunately for him, he did not play enough games or play in a Stanley Cup Finals game to get his name on the cup.

With the lockout coming in 2004-05, Willis was sent to the Springfield Falcons of the AHL where he served as Captain. He scored 18 goals and 34 points in 58 games. After the lockout season, Willis was a free-agent and decided to sign with HC Davos in the Swiss NLA. He had decent enough success scoring five goals and 20 points in 32 games. he didn’t finish the season with Davos though and signed with Linkoping HC of the Swedish SHL. He finished out the season with Linkoping recording an assist in six games. He came through in the playoffs though with six goals and 11 points in 13 games.

After his stint in Europe, Willis attempted a comback in North America signing with the Carolina Hurricanes. He would spend all season in the AHL though as a point per game player but never earned a call-up. The Nashville Predators gave him a contract the next summer and sent him to the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL. He played one game and then missed the rest of the season. He attempted another comeback in 2008-09 playing one game with the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL before being signed to an AHL contract by the Springfield Falcons. He played in 32 games with 14 points and retired following the 2008-09 season.

Since retiring from professional hockey, Willis has taken a job with the Carolina Hurricanes managing their youth and amateur hockey programs. He also does pre-game analysis for Hurricanes TV broadcasts.


Article first appeared on www.draysbay.com