I hope everyone (for the most part) enjoyed this season as much as I have and it should give the Islanders fans some optimism for next season. Before any of the potential big free agents can be added, every organization gets to improve on themselves at the NHL draft. The date for the draft is set for June 21st & 22nd and I’m sure you’ll hear a lot of speculation before then about who the Isles will draft or if they’ll trade the pick in a potential package or whatever crazy idea(s) people will come up with. Before anything can really materialize, Isles fans need to know what this organization has in terms of organizational depth at the minor and junior levels.
If you’ve been a fan of Isles Talk you know I love covering the draft and this is always the first piece to come out. One criteria to this is that the players must have been drafted by the Isles, so any college free agents or European players that came on as undrafted do not get ranked. I have three groups: The Juniors, players still in or finishing up their junior careers; the Pros, prospects playing in their entry-level contracts; and finally the Graduates, players who will become restricted free agents for the first time this summer. My rankings are simple: The higher the rank, the greater chance I believe this player could see some NHL time or become a regular in the NHL, hopefully with the Islanders. So for this piece, let’s take a look at the Juniors.
I haven’t seen an Islanders junior prospect pool this deep full of NHL potential since 2010 (Lee, Nelson, Niederreitter, de Haan and many more). There are at least three on this list who could become NHL regulars and a total of six could get at least a cup of coffee in the NHL. The best part of this class is that many of these players may remain here for another year. No wonder many who follow the prospects believe the Islanders to be in the top 5 in the NHL.
6. Blade Jenkins LW/C 2018 5th round, 10th pick (134th overall)
Jenkins reminds me of Kieffer Bellows. Skating needs to improve, good shot and has worked on his defensive game going from a -19 in 2017-18 to a +10 this past season. The best part? He doesn’t turn 19 until August. As of now, he’s looking like a diamond in the rough but I wouldn’t be shocked if he gets to Bridgeport in two years time.
5. Jakub Skarek G 2018 3rd round, 10th pick (72nd overall)
Skarek was considered to be the best goalie in this draft and the Isles made the right choice in getting him in the third round. He reminds me of a style to that of Tampa’s Andre Vasilevskiy. So why do I have him in 5th? Consistency….or lack thereof. To my knowledge he does plan to go back to Finland for next season and then possibly make the jump to the Sound Tigers, but his potential is still a regular in the NHL. How about a future Sorokin/Skarek combo?
4. Arnaud Durandeau LW 2017 6th round, 10th pick (165th overall)
A sixth round version to Anthony Beauvillier is the best way to describe Durandeau. He’s 20 years old and could see Bridgeport next year, if he fits into the Isles plans. He’s still in the mid 180lbs so he has some maturing to do in the weight room and Bridgeport will be the perfect place for that. He’s ranked higher than Skarek because it’s his time to come over to the pro’s and for me, that’s one step closer to the NHL than Skarek.
3. Bode Wilde D 2018 2nd round, 10th pick (41st overall)
Wilde was slated to get picked in the early part of the first round and it was a no brainer to pick him up in the 2nd round. He’s the Johnny Boychuk of the younger generation. He still needs more time in juniors, but if the age requirement was under 20 to play in the AHL, Wilde may already be there. No need to rush this potential top-4 defenseman.
2. Oliver Wahlstrom RW 2018 1st round, 11th pick (11th overall)
Remember Todd Bertuzzi before the attitude? That’s Wahlstrom. Right now, I’d say he’s even ahead of Kyle Okposo when Okposo was 18-19. He’s already played a few Sound Tigers games and did not look out of place. He had a shaky first year in college but had a decent World Junior Championship tournament. It’s believed he’ll go to juniors next year, but wouldn’t be shocked if he stayed for the first 9 games of the NHL season.
1. Noah Dobson D 2018 1st round, 10th pick (10th overall)
Think of Nick Leddy with better defensive skills and Devon Toews with better offensive numbers and that’s Dobson. He’s got potential for first-line pairing written all over him. Could certainly see him get a 9-game trial before being sent down to juniors where he’s already one everything.
Say tuned for more as I’ll go over the professional prospects in a few days. Enjoy the playoffs!!!