Islanders 2008 draft review

By Peter Prohaska

With multiple picks and a high starting spot offering GM Garth Snow some room to maneuver, the Islanders used this deep draft to stock the organization.

The Islanders made a series of strategic moves during draft weekend.  They first traded the No. 5 pick to Toronto for the No. 7 pick.  They then traded the No. 7 pick to Nashville for the No. 9. Next, they dealt a third-round pick (#68) they had picked up along the way to Chicago for their third- (#72) and fourth- (#102) round picks.  The consensus has been that Garth Snow and his team did an excellent job getting extra picks to rebuild out of a deep draft class.  Having had only five picks in 2007, the organization probably took the prudent path for this rebuilding franchise.

Joshua Bailey, C, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Round 1, 9th overall

The word that keeps coming up with Bailey is ‘intelligence.’  It’s a quality that very often separates a good player from a great.  Bailey also possesses the ability to make goals happen.  2007-08 was his fourth year in the OHL, and he showed that he had mastered this level, exploding for 96 points (29 goals) in 67 games to lead his team.  This was the player the Islanders wanted, and they were patient about getting him, trading down to do so.  As a gauge of where he was expected to go, International Scouting Services had Bailey at No. 10.  As for whether he is the type of player the Islanders most needed, time will tell.  Bailey is a pass-first type, gifted in his vision.  Playmakers of his caliber are always useful, and Bailey is an excellent bet. 

Corey Trivino, C, Stouffville Spirit (OPJHL)

Round 2, 36th overall

Trivino scored 58 points (24 goals) in 49 games for Junior A Stouffville in 2006-07, and improved on those numbers this year.  He had 69 points (19 goals) in 39 games, one point shy of the team lead.  He manned the point on the power play as well, which got him 14 power-play assists, and three power-play goals.  ISS had Trivino ranked at #26. 

Trivino will attend the Canadian National Junior Team development camp, along with fellow draftees Josh Bailey, Travis Hamonic, Jared Spurgeon, and Mark Katic (2007).  He is headed for Boston University in the fall.

Aaron Ness, D, Roseau Rams (Minnesota High School)

Round 2, 40th overall

The Rams were a great story in the prep hockey press, going undefeated dating back to last season, and Aaron Ness was a huge reason for their success.  Hailing from the same town as the Broten brothers and Chicago’s Dustin Byfuglien, Ness was also named Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey for 2008.  Other winners have included Trent Klatt, Paul Martin, and Jeff Taffe.  He was ranked #29 by ISS coming into the draft. 

Ness will attend the University of Minnesota, so keep an eye on any tensions between Snow and Gophers coach Don Lucia, as emerged during Kyle Okposo‘s signing last year.

Travis Hamonic, D, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)

Round 2, 53rd overall

This right-handed product of Manitoba is a solidly-built rearguard (6’0, 192), who scored 22 points (5 goals) in 61 games for Moose Jaw.  He racked up 101 PIM as well.  He will attend the Canadian National Junior Team development camp this month, having already begun an international career on Canada’s gold medal winning U-18 squad.

David Toews, C, Shattuck St. Mary’s Sabres (Minnesota High School)
Round 3, 66th overall

The younger brother of Blackhawks standout Jonathan, Toews scored 100 points (44 goals) in 51 games, tying him for the team lead.  The competition is not always up to snuff at the high school level, which creates some inflation, but he is clearly a standout at this level.  ISS had Toews ranked at #27, but most others had him a bit lower. 

David is a little smaller than his brother, at 5’10, 175, but should develop over the next few years, following in his brother’s footsteps at the University of North Dakota.

Jyri Niemi, D, Saskatoon Blades (WHL)

Round 3, 72nd Overall

This talented Finn had a nice season in Saskatoon, putting up 34 points (14 goals) in 49 games from the blueline.  He had some issues with a bad wrist and a foot injury, which limited his appearances.  He was clearly able to contribute when he was in the lineup, however.  Also of note is the power of his shot, clocked at 97 mph at the Top Prospects Competition.  He has had surgery on his hip, too, and this clearly contributed to his dropping a bit on draft day.

Kirill Petrov, RW, Kazan Ak-Bars (Russian Super League)

Round 3, 73rd overall

A highly-touted prospect, Petrov has the huge size (6’3, 198) and the skill set to be an impact player.  He appeared in 47 games for his Russian club and tallied 10 points (4 goals) and 54 penalty minutes.  The concern is, and will be for the time being, the lack of a transfer agreement with Russia. ISS ranked Petrov at #17 and as a pure talent, Petrov might have gone quite a bit higher. If he develops into the NHL-quality power winger he might be, Snow and company might have gotten a bargain.

Matt Donovan, D, Cedar Rapids Rough Riders (USHL)

Round 4, 96th overall

An Oklahoma-born blueliner, Donovan contributed 12 goals and 31 points for Cedar Rapids to lead rookie defensemen.  He plans to play another year in the USHL and then join the Denver Pioneers of the WCHA.

David Ullstrom, F, HV71 Jrs. (Swedish 2nd)
Round 4, 102nd overall

Ullstrom scored 27 goals (54 points) with his junior club in Sweden.  He is a left shot, who is variously listed as a center and a wing.  He got into seven games for the Elite level club, but did not register a point.  He is big (6’3, 198) and took 86 penalty minutes in 40 games. 

Kevin Poulin, G, Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL)
Round 5, 126th overall

The first goaltender selected by the Islanders since 2006, Poulin had questionable numbers for a prospect once thought to be the best in this class.  His GAA of 3.69 and save percentage of .887 are not stellar and he finished with a record of 18-24.  He plays a somewhat unorthodox aggressive style, using his big frame (6’2, 210) and athletic ability to get out on shooters and cut off angles.  He will need time and coaching to develop his style.

Matt Martin, LW, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
Round 5, 148th overall

Martin is a nice story. Undrafted into the OHL, he made the Sting as a walk-on.  There he filled out to 6’2, 192 and developed a nice physical game.  Last year he scored 25 goals (38 points) for his club and took 155 minutes in penalties.  In the playoffs, he tallied 6 points (3 goals) in 9 games.  He embodies the kind of personal determination that the Islanders have been known for.

Jared Spurgeon, D, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)

Round 6, 156th overall

An Edmonton native whose brother Tyler is in the Oilers system, Spurgeon helmed the power play for the Memorial Cup winning Spokane Chiefs.  He scored 43 points in 69 games for the Chiefs, and added another 5 helpers in the playoff campaign.  He is a small player at 5’8, 175, but could add some mass during the next couple of years to complement his excellent two-way game.

Justin DiBenedetto, C, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
Round 6, 175th overall

This talented forward put up incredible numbers for the Sting, finishing second to Steven Stamkos in scoring.  The year before, he scored 28 goals and 63 points in 58 games, but this season upped that to 39 goals and 93 points.  He also had 10 points in 9 playoff games.  Born in 1988, he went undrafted previously. But his numbers speak of some good potential, especially with the right teammates.