It’s sad to say, but one of the most exciting times of the year for Islander fans is the NHL Draft. Five of the last six drafts, the Islanders have had a top 5 pick. Now if you remember, the Islanders traded Matt Moulson and a 2014 first round pick to the Buffalo Sabres for Thomas Vanek back in October. One detail left out in that trade was that if the Islanders land a top 10 pick this season, they have the choice to defer the pick to the 2015 NHL Draft. Since the Islanders would have the 5th overall pick if the season ended today, it’s likely GM Garth Snow would keep this year’s pick. Now before we get into the possible draft choices for the Isles in June, let’s take a look back and evaluate the Isles’ first round picks since 2006.
- 2006 (7th Pick): Kyle Okposo
- 2008 (9th Pick): Josh Bailey
- 2009 (1st Pick): John Tavares
- 2009 (12th Pick): Calvin de Haan
- 2010 (5th Pick): Nino Niederreiter
- 2010 (30th Pick): Brock Nelson
- 2011 (5th Pick): Ryan Strome
- 2012 (4th Pick): Griffin Reinhart
- 2013 (15th Pick): Ryan Pulock
Overall, I think Snow has done a decent job with these picks. Kyle Okposo has become a dominant force for the Isles, as he is currently 2nd on the team this season with 59 points. John Tavares has emerged as an NHL superstar, finishing 3rd in MVP voting last season. Brock Nelson has had a strong year as a young center, showing he can hold his own in the NHL. 20 year old Ryan Strome is one of the NHL’s top prospects and just been called up from AHL Bridgeport to fill-in for the injured Tavares. Strome has played in 15 games this season for the Isles with one goal and three assists. Young defenseman Calvin de Haan has finally found himself in the Islanders lineup this season. Before this year, de Haan had only played in one career NHL game for the Isles. But this year, he has held his own with 10 points in 34 games and has been one of the Isles’ strongest defenseman. Finally, Griffin Reinhart and Ryan Pulock are young defensive studs who have been impressive in the OHL the last few seasons. Snow is relying on these two guys to emerge as the defenseman of the future for the Islanders, something this team has desperately needed in the last decade.
But there have been the disappointments. Josh Bailey has yet to fulfill his potential as a high-scoring winger. He’s had some decent seasons for the Isles (35 points in ’09/’10 & 32 points in ’11/’12), but his scoring has decreased over the course of his career. This season, he has a measly 5 goals & 16 assists in 50 games. Nino Neiderreiter looked to be a stud forward who would eventually play on the same line as Tavares. But he was never able to find his groove with the Isles during his rookie season in 2011 (one goal in 55 games). Nino eventually demanded a trade, and the Isles granted him his wish during the 2013 draft as they traded Neiderreiter to the Wild for forward Cal Clutterbuck.
Now onto the future…
After drafting back-to-back defenseman in the last two years, the Isles will likely draft a winger. With Sam Reinhart (Griffin’s brother) likely to go first overall this June, here are three forwards I feel would be a great fit for the Isles.
1) LW Leon Draisitl (WHL – Prince Albert Raiders)
Draistl is an 18 year-old German forward who currently plays for the Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL. According to scouts, he’s got size (6’2″ 208) and has excellent vision with the puck. His strong passing skills along with ability to be a playmaker has given him the nickname “The German Gretzky.” He is also the son of Peter Draisitl, who played on the German national team in the 1988, 1992, and 1998 Olympics.
2) RW Kasperi Kapanen (SM-liiga – KalPa)
Kapanen is a 17-year old Finnish winger who is a third generation hockey player. His father, Sami Kapanen, was a standout forward in the NHL for 13 years with the Whalers, Hurricanes, and Flyers. His grandfather, Hannu Kapanen, was a forward who played for the Finnish national team in the 1976 Winter Olympics. According to NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb, Kasperi is an excellent skater and has smart moves to the net. As a 17 year old, this kid is already playing in Finland’s top league and making an impact. I wouldn’t mind seeing this guy wearing orange and blue in a few years.
3) LW Michael Dal Colle (OHL – Oshawa Generals)
I feel that Dal Colle would be the ideal pick for the Islanders, if he’s still around in the draft. There’s been talk that this guy will go in the top 5 so if the Isles have a later pick, there’s no chance they will get him. It seems that Dal Colle is the best available two-way player and compares himself to Hurricanes’ captain Eric Staal. Personally, I think he resembles more of a young Evgeni Malkin. He has the speed, the size and the scoring ability to become an NHL superstar. Down the road, I would love to see a player like Dal Colle play on the same line as Tavares.