To tell you the truth, the Islanders really don’t look that bad this season. With an awesome powerplay, you’d think the team is starting to round out. Granted they’ve looked horrible the past couple of seasons, but the team really looks like it is shaping up. You can thank John Tavares and Matt Moulson for a new life out there on the island. They’re still a young team but the question still remains, how long can you say they’re still a young team. Since 2006 the Islanders haven’t used their first pick, in the first round, lower than number seven. To really understand how the Islanders ended up in this situation, and how perplexed their fans must be, you have to look back at their drafting and management. I bet you can name at least five players off the top of your head that were on the Island at one point. The trick is naming which players are still Islanders. Lets take a closer look at their first round draft picks since 2006
2006: Kyle Okposo
2008: Josh Bailey
2009: John Tavares (1st overall), Calvin De Haan (12th overall)
2010: Nino Niederreiter (5th overall), Brock Nelson (30th overall)
2011: Ryan Strome (5th overall)
2012: Griffen Reinhart (4th overall)
They’ve drafted six.. six, legitimate players to play in a top six system. Not to mention two stud defenders in Calvin De Haan and Griffin Reinhart. There is no reason why these guys shouldn’t be preforming. I’m not even mentioning Travis Hamonic which they took in the second round in 2008, or Matty Moulson who the Islanders finally took a chance on. Think of this too.. he’s the first person to post consecutive thirty goal seasons since Zigmund Palffy. That’s when they were wearing these bad boys..
Pre 2006 drafting is a different story. That has management written all over it. The fact that they were able to draft notable players such as Roberto Luongo, Zedeno Chara, and albeit Wade Redden, who all went on to have more than decent careers; and 30% of them were not held on to by the organization only speaks to the GM. Now lets look at some mistakes..
1992: Darius Kasparaitis
1993: Todd Bertuzzi
1995: Wade Redden
1996: Jean-Pierre (Jp) Dumont
1997: Roberto Luongo (4th overall), Eric Brewer (5th overall)
1998: Mike Rupp
1999: Tim Connolly (5th overall), Taylor Pyatt (8th overall), Branislav Meizi (10th overall), and Kristian Kurdoc (28th overall)
2000: Rick DiPietro (1st overall), Raffi Torres (5th overall)
2002: Sean Bergenheim
2003: Robert Nilsson
2004: Petteri Nokelainen
2005: Ryan Omara
The 1998 entry draft the Islanders took Mike Rupp. The same draft as Vincent Lecavalier. Although he was already taken, some other names floating around were Scott Gomez (30th), Simon Gagne (22nd), Robin Regehr (19th), Alex Tanguay (12th), and Nik Antropov (10th). Not to mention, Jonathan Cheechoo, Mike Ribiero, Brad Richards, Andrei Markov, Michael Ryder, and Pavel Datsyuk. These guys all came from the 2nd round, to the 7th respectively.
In 1999 The Islanders took Tim Connolly, and Taylor Pyatt. There’s not much to say about Meizi, or Kurdoc, but when you have 3 draft picks in the top ten you need to make them count. The draft itself was pretty weak so Connolly and Pyatt were better decisions than others they could have made
2000 wasn’t any better of a year than the previous years. They decided to use both their picks on Rick DiPietro, and Raffi Torres. Dany Heatly, Marian Gaborik, and Scott Hartnell were all within their grasp. First of all, they shouldn’t have let Roberto Luongo go. Not to mention, they traded Olli Jokenin as well for Mark Parish and Oleg Kvasha.
Remember what I said about good decisions with Connolly and Pyatt? Well 2001 was not a good offseason for the Isles. Not only did they trade both Connolly and Pyatt to Buffalo for Michael Peca, but the Islanders traded their first round draft pick along with Bill Muckalt and Zedno Chara to the Ottawa Senators, which sent back Alexi Yashin. The Senators than used that pick to choose Jason Spezza. Just a few people that were in this draft..
All of which went in that order. Not a very good decision by the Islanders. They sent two all stars to Ottawa for virtually nothing. The next few years, Yashin put up 75, 65, 34, 66, and 50 points. Spezza has averaged over 65 points since being traded to the Senators. Chara has averaged over 40 points since being traded from the Islanders. All together, they both average about 105 points. So that means that Yashin would have had to have 6+ seasons of over 100 points to make the trade worth while. Before you make a trade like this, you need to be absolutely 100% sure that you will get the results back in return. The Islanders didn’t, and now Yashin is retired, does anyone know if they’re still paying him?
As a Rangers fan I can’t really judge the 2002 draft because we drafted a player that just recently played in his first NHL game, but regardless the Islanders took Robert Nilsson 15th overall. Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Mike Richards, and Corey Perry were all taken after each team picked. Can you name one of those guys that isn’t an all-star? Not to mention, Jeff Tambellini was taken in that same draft. The Islanders traded washouts Mark Parish, and Brent Sopel for him and Denis Grebshkov. Grebshkov only played 23 games on the Island, and Jeff had trouble cracking the roster and was not offered a contract during free agency.
Enough about what could have been, the Islanders have started drafting for the future. Since they drafted forward Kyle Okposo in 2006, they look like they have started to change things around. Something is still off with this team though. According to hockeysfuture.com:
Strengths: The Islanders are strong at both forward and on defense. The team has many potential top six forwards, including Nino Niederreiter, Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson and Anders Lee. On the blue line, Griffin Reinhart was one of the most talented defensemen available in the 2012 draft, when added to prospects Matt Donovan, Ville Pokka(also selected in 2012), Scott Mayfield and Calvin DeHaan the prospect pool is very deep along the blue line.
Weaknesses: The biggest weakness within the Islanders prospect pool is the fact so many of their players graduate to the NHL at a young age, leaving the organization with few prospects at certain positions. For example, they have among the fewest prospects on the wing of any team in the NHL.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Ryan Strome, C; 2. Griffin Reinhart, D; 3. Matt Donovan, D; 4. Calvin de Haan, D; 5. Brock Nelson, C.
Regardless of how deep the Islanders are on defense, they still have a few capable forwards that are already on the roster. For sometime now my fellow co-host on the IceBox have been saying, “dude this team is going to be DANGEROUS in a few years.” They honestly are just missing that “it” factor. A David Clarkson, Brandon Prust, Milan Lucic, you can see that the Islanders play with emotion but there is a lack of leadership on this team. They don’t have a guy that goes out there and plays with emotion but REALLY goes out there and plays with his heart on his sleeve. You can’t trade for a player like that though, those are found, much like they found Matt Moulson. What they’re also missing is a solid goaltender. Evgeni Nabokov is by no means the answer on Long Island, and Timmy Thomas isn’t coming back from his hiatus anytime soon. Now that Rick DiPietro is out of the picture on the island, don’t be surprised if they use one of their buy outs to completely get rid of him. They need to draft a goalie, period. Or, since they are so deep on the defensive position they could make a trade (Mark Streit perhaps?).
A lot of these prospects have played for Jack Capuano for some time now. He began as an assistant coach with the team in 2006, and even coached in Bridgeport from 2007 until he retained the head coaching job at the big club on long island. Although his winning percentage wasn’t outstanding with the Sound Tigers, he still made the playoffs two of the four seasons he was in Bridgeport. My point being, most of these guys have played with Capuano now, and they know how he coaches, so they should know how to play for him, and they should know their role. With the talent that this team has there is no reason that Capuano and the Islanders can’t get into the mix of things. They’re a young team though, but how long can you say that?