Welcome back everyone and welcome to one of my favorite hockey times of the year, the NHL draft. Whether the Islanders end up last in the NHL or win the Stanley Cup, I love covering the weeks before this event because I have always been a believer of building a championship through the draft. I’ve spent the last month and a half researching potential Islanders draft picks to go along with current ones in the farm system. Over the next three weeks I will cover the expansion draft and who may go and who could be traded. Also during this month I’ll be going over my rankings of current Islanders prospects: the Graduates, the Professionals and the Juniors. After that is completed I will have 10 (maybe 12) prospects who the Islanders are most likely to be drafted in Chicago. Once I have completes that “Scouting Report” I’ll have my conspiracy theory about what the Isles will do with their pick.
Mathew Barzal or a Kieffer Bellows falling at a mid round number this year and the Islanders absolutely stealing them away. This draft is not going to be a “best player available” kind of draft. Many teams may get very picky about which player really fits into their system, which is why you may see players who were ranked 9th by many be selected 15th or even 18th by the real team. On the flip side of that coin, someone who is ranked 15th or 17th, may end up in the top 10.
I could see the Isles trading the pick if there are particular players available who may be ready for the NHL sooner rather than later. Any team either rebuilding or retooling would love to pick up a prospect who may only be a year at most away and get that player the necessary experience at the NHL level when there’s room. The Islanders don’t have that issue as I previously stated because they’re already stocked. Could I see the Islanders keeping this pick? Absolutely. Nino Niederreitter, and Griffin Reinhart (Thank you Robert!) are the only two, Garth Snow first rounders to be traded and he’s kept the rest of them to this point. The expansion draft may also impact how the Islanders approach the amateur draft. Depending on who the Isles lose or the packages offered to other teams in preparation for the Golden Knights, it may be a wise move to keep the pick and replenish what may be lost. However, after reading my articles and rankings of the current Islanders prospects, trading the pick may still be the right move.
Last year I thought the Isles were going to trade down and acquire a few more picks, including a first rounder, trade that first round pick and a prospect for a veteran player. The Islanders are in a similar situation. They have more resources to make a huge splash at the draft and improve the organization. When I think of Doug Weight, Luke Richardson, Scott Gomez, and eventually Kelly Buchberger as Islanders coaches, it screams NHL player development and there’s going to be a new standard of a playing level demanded by them. That means there could be a few players who may not fit into this new philosophy. If they’re not going to bring their “A” game (or maybe they don’t have one), there may not be a place for them on this team.
To my knowledge, I do not believe I have ever written this before but I will now: This month is the one of most important months in the franchises history. It’s definitely a top 3. Islanders fans have not seen this organization this deep with prospects since the Islanders won the Stanley Cup and their minor league team, the Indianapolis Checkers, won the Adams Cup (CHL) back in 1982 and 1983. There’s enough in the organization to improve the parent club, but what concerns me is how other teams value the current players/prospects in the organization. The trade(s) needs to make sense from a value standpoint. Also consider that the Islanders are not one of the hottest or shall I say “sexy” team that everyone wants to trade with. There are other players from other teams that are coveted and the Islanders may have to stay patient to make a move or two. Even if there isn’t a lot of player movement, yet there is some cap relief, that’s a good first step for improving the Islanders during the season.
The amateur draft is the unofficial start of the new season. It’s where organizations come to improve in areas they need long-term help in. It’s not a quick fix like free agency, but it does help teams build up assets for future moves. The Islanders are one of the deepest organizations in the NHL. Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore just how deep and move on to the prospects who may wear an Islanders Jersey in Chicago. I’ll also cover some of the rumors I hear as I do find them nothing more than entertaining at best, but some may certainly may be worth discussing. Time to see if the Islanders will be an improved organization.