Not since the NHL draft of 2008 have I witnessed a fan base more disappointed in a first round choice. Islanders fans saw one defenseman after another getting picked by teams during the mid first round of the draft and amateurs like myself who ended up doing a wish list instead of a mock draft this year were getting excited for the real possibility of one of our players actually getting picked by the Islanders and becoming the “steal” of the draft. Then pick number 23 finally came and the Islanders went off everyone’s board and selected Simon Holmstrom, a player who was ranked in the mid to upper 40’s by many in their prospect rankings. It was the first time I had heard a bar go silent after a pick. Who?!!! I knew who he was, and maybe two others, but that was it. Everyone left speechless and disappointed.
My wish list did have a “method to my madness” theme. Most of the players after Hughes, Kakko or Turcotte will still need a minimum 3 years before getting a shot into the NHL and once you hit the 20’s in this draft, it was more like 3-4. The Bridgeport Sound Tigers were in need of younger players, specifically at the right wing spot and as many fans are aware or perhaps wanted, you can never have enough centers. Brett Leason was number one on my wish list because he was ready now for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and could have been in their lineup this year as a second line right winger behind Oliver Wahlstrom. Everyone else I knew would need time, but if properly developed, they could be in the NHL at some point. Even during the second round I was hoping for a player from Europe like a Sebastian Aho, but at forward who could help the Sound Tigers and still have the talent to at least get a cup of coffee with the Isles. The theme for me was to get Bridgeport and injection of youth while continuing to draft players for the future in the lower rounds. The Islanders did that, it just didn’t go in the order I was expecting. So here is a quick rundown of the players the Islanders had drafted and why it’s still significant.
Simon Holmstrom: First Round (23rd overall)
When I was doing my research on Holmstrom he reminded me of Josh Bailey, someone who can play both wings but with Matt Barzal-like hands. His speed is average, but his passing is outstanding while his vision is great and he does have a two-way game about him. His injuries are a small issue for me, but if he can play relatively healthy over the next 3 years I won’t have a cause for any more concern. My personal issue will be that Holmstrom will get the Bailey stigma where if he doesn’t produce the moment he shows up and for the rest of his career, he’ll be ridiculed because the Isles left other sexier players on the draft board to get Holmstrom. Simon was slotted to be a first rounder earlier on in the season until injuries stopped that. I’ve been told that if he had played the entire year many would have ranked him in the top 15. There’s time for him to show everyone that the Isles made the right choice.
Sam Bolduc: Second Round (57th overall)
Bolduc is a more athletic Scott Mayfield, shut down defenseman. If Matt Barzal is Superman of cycling the puck around, Bolduc could be his kryptonite. If you remember my #5 player on my wish list was Matt Robinson, also a Scott Mayfield-type of defenseman so I can’t really be mad with this because this was something I was looking at with the first round pick.
Reece Newkirk: Fifth Round (147th overall)
Some had Newkirk in the top 100 or even in the top 120, so this could be a gem for the Isles in the 5th round. I think we have a younger Tanner Fritz with a potential to replace Casey Cizikas in a few years with Newkirk. He’s got a good shot, a nose for the net and his passing alone is good enough for the AHL now. He’ll spend the next two seasons in the WHL for Portland, but he’ll get more playing time as some of the older players move on to their professional teams.
Felix Bibeau: Sixth Round (178th overall)
Here’s your Casey Cizikas for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He’s 20 years old which makes him eligible to play this coming season and he’s Noah Dobson’s teammate from the Memorial Cup Champions, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. He’s a heart and soul kid who’s work ethic will be infectious to the Sound Tigers (assuming he comes over this year).
Cole Coskey: Seventh Round (209th overall)
Here is my Brett Leason version in Cole Coskey. Like Bibeau, Coskey is a 20 year old right wing and could play for Bridgeport this coming season. He could put up the numbers Leason will in the AHL, but I’m not sure if Coskey will get a call-up before Leason. The future benefit of having Coskey in with Bridgeport now is that he’ll have chemistry with some players coming as soon as next year in Bode Wilde and Blade Jenkins as they were his teammates for the Saginaw Spirit.
So after going over the picks and comparing them to my wish list, a few were granted. The Isles need wingers and got them; they went oversees in the first but instead of an over-ager, got a player whose potential could be higher; they brought in a shut defenseman anyways, but did it in a lower round, and they brought some immediate help to the farm system that was in need of it. None of these picks are sexy, but if they fit the system that’s in place, then I (and probably only me) have to give the Isles an A for filling in the holes of the organization and granting my wishes. Now let’s see how the Islanders fill in their holes on the team itself.