Fortunes changed for New York Islanders following 2009 NHL Draft

By Christian Litscher

John Tavares - New York Islanders

Photo: Selected first overall in the 2009 NHL Draft, center John Tavares has developed into one of the top offensive players in the NHL. (courtesy of Steven Ryan/Icon SMI)

The 2009 NHL Draft was a franchise altering one for the New York Islanders. They finished with an NHL worst 61 points, won the NHL Draft lottery, and earned the right to select first overall.

The Islanders were faced with the tough choice of who to take with many quality players available. The decision came down to OHL star John Tavares and Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman, with Brampton center Matt Duchene making a late season push for the top spot. The Islanders elected to go with Tavares.

The organization came away one of the bigger winners of the 2009 NHL Draft as every player they selected has appeared in at least one NHL game.

John Tavares, C, London Knights (OHL) – 1st round, 1st overall
Status: NHL player
NHL games played: 344

The first player to ever be granted exceptional player status for the OHL has had the limelight on him since he was 14. Tagged as the "Next One", Tavares has been the most hyped prospect since Sidney Crosby came into the NHL four years earlier. Tavares stepped into the OHL and put up a point per game as a 15-year-old and broke Wayne Gretzky's scoring record with 72 goals as a 16-year-old.

The OHL scoring prodigy became everything he was advertised to be at the NHL level. Coming into the NHL straight out of the draft, Tavares put up a respectable 54 points to lead the Islanders in scoring. He was a finalist for the Calder Trophy which was won by Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers. Tavares has been a prolific scorer that has gotten better every season since.

Tavares truly established himself amongst the NHL elite during the 2012-13 shortened season where he carried the Islanders to a playoff berth. He was a Hart Trophy finalist along with fellow superstars Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. Tavares was named captain of the Islanders on September 9th, 2013 making him the 14th captain in franchise history. This season, he is ranked second in the NHL with 64 points, behind only Crosby.

Tavares was chosen to represent Canada roster at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Tavares has international experience with Canada before playing in many World Championships as well as multiple under-20 and under-18 championships.

Calvin de Haan, D, Oshawa Generals (OHL) – 1st round, 12th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL games played: 29

It has been an up and down road for the former first round pick. A teammate of Tavares in Oshawa, the Islanders liked de Haan's game enough to trade up in the first round to select the defenseman.

De Haan has struggled with injuries following his selection at the 2009 NHL Draft, missing parts of the 2009-10 and 2011-12 season as well as most of the 2012-13 season. He has gotten his career back on track this season starting in the AHL appearing in 17 games before getting called up to Long Island. De Haan got off to a slow start with no points in his first 17 games in the NHL but has found his groove recently. He currently has eight points through 28 NHL games.

De Haan appears to have put his injury troubles behind him and is a key part of the Islander's defense going forward.

Mikko Koskinen, G, Espoo Blues (SM-liiga) – 2nd round, 31st overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL games played: 4

Drafted out of the SM-liiga as an overager, Koskinen crossed the pond right away to play in North America. He started with the Utah Grizzlies of the ECHL and got some games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers the following season. For 2010-11, he became the starter for Bridgeport and got a cup of coffee in the NHL posting a 2-1 record in four appearances.

Koskinen returned home to Finland in 2011 where he started for KalPa for the next two seasons. He is currently playing in the KHL where he is one of the best goalies statistically. He is sporting a .940 save percentage and a 1.67 goals against average to go along with it.

Koskinen may have come overseas too early and did not get much of an NHL chance when he was here. The talented Finn has put up great numbers in every other league.

Anders Nilsson, G, Lulea Jrs. (SuperElit) – 3rd round, 62nd overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL games played: 9

The Islanders decided to draft another goaltender when they selected Nilsson in the third round. The Swede was said to have huge potential with his size and athleticism. In his two seasons after the draft, Nilsson served as the starter for Lulea in the SHL. He finally made the trip to North America in the 2011 off-season.

Nilsson played as the backup in Bridgeport during the 2011-12 season and put up fantastic numbers. The lanky goaltender again was the backup for the 2012-13 season but struggled with injuries. Nilsson earned his role as the starter for the 2013-14 season where he has backstopped a weak Sound Tiger team.

Nilsson has received some NHL looks when injuries have hit. In 10 NHL appearances, Nilsson has posted a 2-4-2 record, but has not received very much goal support.

Casey Cizikas, C, Mississauga St. Michael's Majors (OHL) – 4th round, 92nd overall
Status: NHL player
NHL games played: 112

Drafted in the fourth round, Cizikas has had a quick path to the NHL. After finishing his career with the St. Michael Majors, Cizikas spent half of the 2011-12 season with Bridgeport before getting called up to Long Island towards the end of the year. Playing in 15 games, Cizikas registered four assists and displayed a ton of grit and speed. Due to the NHL lockout, Cizikas returned to Bridgeport for the start of the 2012-13 season, but has been an NHL regular since.

Cizikas is a core part of the Islander's bottom six forwards and is a player that brings a lot of energy to the team. He is a key penalty killer and leads all Islander forwards in time on ice when shorthanded. His offense is still coming around at the NHL level, but he is a big game player and showed this with four points in last year's playoffs.

Cizikas's entry-level contract runs out this summer and he should be in line for a nice raise.

Anton Klementyev, D, Yaroslavl-2 (Russia) – 5th round, 122nd overall
Status: NHL Bust
NHL games played: 1

Klementyev was drafted in the fifth round as a defenseman who plays a safe game and can move the puck up the ice. He crossed the pond right out of the draft and played in Bridgeport for the 2009-10 season. The then 19-year-old even got one game with the big club when injuries struck the Islander's roster. He would play another season and a half in the AHL before opting to return home to Europe during the 2011-12 season.

He currently plays for Sokol Krasnoyarsk in the VHL where he has two assists in 18 games. Klementyev is no longer a part of the Islander's organization and has been passed by younger defenseman in the system.

Anders Lee, C, Edina High School (Minnesota High School) – 6th round, 152nd overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL games played: 2

Anders Lee was a great value pick in the sixth round. He was drafted out of high school as player who had good size and instincts, but was still a raw talent. Lee played in the USHL following the draft and then spent three seasons in Notre Dame before turning pro at the end of the 2012-13 season. Now with Bridgeport, Lee sits second on the team with 33 points in 44 games.

The Edina native got a taste of NHL action appearing in two games after finishing his season at Notre Dame and tallied two points. The former Fighting Irish has had no problems putting up points at every level he has played at. Lee is however versatile enough that, even if his offense does not materialize in the NHL, he should have no problem carving out a role.

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