Tampa Bay's scouting staff has a sharp eye for middle-round draft gems. Among the players the Lightning have found recently beyond the second round: Brayden Point (third round in 2014), Anthony Cirelli (third round in 2015), Mathieu Joseph (fourth round in 2015) and Cedric Paquette (fourth round in 2012).
Maxim Cajkovic could be the next prospect to follow a similar path after the Bolts nabbed the QMJHL Saint John right winger in the third round in 2019. “He’s got a pro shot, and he has a knack for getting it off on the rush,” said Sea Dogs coach Josh Dixon. “He’s an explosive skater with speed coming down the wing, and he can drive past defenders. He’s strong on the puck, and because of his competitive nature he can also win puck battles.”
Cajkovic was the top pick in the 2018 CHL Import Draft after a solid showing with Slovakia at the under-18 world juniors, where he finished with four goals and 11 points, one point behind Jack Hughes, the No. 1 selection in the 2019 NHL draft. The transition from the Swedish under-20 league to major junior proved to be a challenge for Cajkovic, who joined a Saint John team in the middle of an extensive rebuild. And as the top pick from the import draft, Cajkovic drew the attention of opposing teams on a nightly basis.
The Sea Dogs struggled last season, but Cajkovic ended up leading the team in scoring. “You really see true colors and how driven you are to keep making yourself better,” Dixon said. “A big part of Max’s maturation last year was being resilient and showing up every day to make himself better regardless of what the results might be. He’s able to overcome adversity and make himself better despite all the challenges that he had.”
Cajkovic got off to a slow start with Saint John this season after an early injury – but not before he had a good camp with Tampa Bay. “He knows how to shoot and make plays,” said Lightning assistant GM Stacy Roest. “He’s a hard worker, not the biggest guy, but he’s a powerful player.” – Erik Erlendsson