The 2010 NHL Entry Draft was much more subdued than last year, at least for the Islanders. Garth Snow and company arrived in Los Angeles with 10 picks, but traded away four of them over the course of the weekend.
The first trade was on day one, when they dealt their two second round selections (35th and 38th) to the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks for the last pick in the first round. The following day they traded the 95th overall pick to Colorado for a third round selection in 2011. Then, they sent their 155th and 160th picks to Atlanta for a fifth round selection in 2011.
It was clear that Snow was more focused on drafting players that filled specific needs for the team instead of simply taking the best players available.
Nino Niederreiter, RW – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
1st round, 5th overall
Height: 6’2 Weight: 203 lbs
Niederreiter, the first European selected in this year’s draft, addresses a major need for the Islanders. At 6’2, 203 lbs, he is a rugged power forward who has drawn comparisons to Hurricanes’ forward Erik Cole and adds some much needed size and grit to the team’s prospect pool. A native of Switzerland, he made the jump to North America last fall and spent the 2009-10 season with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. In 65 regular season games, he recorded 34 goals and 24 assists for 60 points, and finished with a plus-11 rating. He also had a very strong showing in the playoffs, scoring a team-high eight goals and adding eight assists in 13 games.
Though his numbers in juniors are impressive enough, his performance in the World Juniors this past winter is what really earned him some notoriety. Switzerland left the tournament without any hardware after taking an 11-4 thumping from the Swedes in the bronze medal game, but Niederreiter was one of, if not the only reason they even made it that far. He led the Swiss squad in nearly every statistical category with six goals, four assists, and 26 shots on goal in seven games.
Whether Niederreiter makes the big club next year depends on number of factors including how well he performs in training camp and what other additions the Islanders make this offseason. However, he will have just turned 18 when the season gets underway, and won’t be eligible to play in the AHL for another two seasons. Therefore, it is possible the Islanders could opt to play it safe and return him to juniors. When he does make it to the NHL, Niederreiter should seamlessly fit in with the talented young core already in place. The presence of fellow countryman Mark Streit should help with the transition.
Brock Nelson, C – Warroad H.S. (Minnesota)
1st round, 30th overall
Height: 6’3 Weight: 205 lbs
Brock Nelson, a Mr. Hockey Award finalist comes from a long line of great hockey players, the most notable being his uncle Dave Christian, a former NHLer and member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team. Standing at 6’3, 205 lbs, Nelson is yet another big power forward, and just like Niederreiter, there is more to him than his size. The soon-to-be 19-year-old is has all the makings of a good two-way center. He is mobile, plays strong on the puck, is responsible on both ends of the ice, and dominates the faceoff circle.
Most intriguing about him though is his ability as a finisher and playmaker. In his senior year of high school his point distribution was about even as he posted 39 goals and 34 assists in 25 games. He will be attending the University of North Dakota next fall where he will join fellow Islanders prospects Jason Gregoire and David Toews. It is difficult to gauge how his game will translate to the collegiate level, but he has the offensive skill, vision, and creativity to succeed. Still, he may be at least two years away from making it to the pros.
The Islanders’ streak of drafting power forwards ended when they selected Kabanov. The 6’2, 175 lbs left winger isn’t small by any means, but his game relies more on finesse than power. Like many Russian snipers of past and present, he is a highly skilled player with impressive speed and a vast arsenal of stick-handling moves. At times, he can make even the most seasoned defenders look like rookies. As far as raw talent goes, Kabanov is up there with some of the top players in this year’s draft. However, there are some concerns regarding his attitude and work ethic.
After refusing to sign a contract with his KHL club, Salavat Yulaev Ufa, he left Russia to play for the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL. This resulted in a dispute between the two teams that ultimately required IIHF intervention. Though Moncton emerged as the victors, the effort appeared to be all for naught. Kabanov dressed in 22 regular season games for the Wildcats, posting 10 goals and 13 assists, but only played one playoff game before leaving the team.
Around this time last year, Kabanov was ranked as a top-five talent by some. Even his biggest critics likely did not picture him slipping to the third round. While the Islanders did not take a huge risk selecting him 65th overall, they certainly have their work cut out for them. He is only a few weeks shy of his 18th birthday so he could mature as he gets older, but patience will be required. At this point, it is uncertain where he will play next year. He will not be eligible to play in the AHL so if he fails to crack the Islanders roster out of training camp, his options would be limited. A return to Moncton or the KHL remains possible, but seems unlikely.
Jason Clark, C – Shattuck St. Mary’s H.S. (Minnesota)
3rd round, 82nd overall
Height: 6’2 Weight: 180 lbs
The Islanders went right back to bulking up by selecting Clark with their second third-round pick. The 6’2, 180 lbs center has excellent defensive awareness and uses his big frame well when battling along the boards and in corners. He played for Shattuck St. Mary’s last season where he recorded 23 goals and 23 assists for 46 points in 54 games.
The 18-year-old does not have great offensive potential, but is talented enough to contribute on occasion. There is still a chance he could improve his offensive game when he begins attending the University of Wisconsin this fall, but for now he projects as a strong two-way forward who can chip in offensively. The Islander’s will likely give Clark as much time as he needs to develop, so it could be up to four years before he joins the organization.
With injuries limiting de Haan’s season, DeHart emerged as the Generals’ top defenseman, leading all blueliners with 10 goals and 40 assists in 68 games – more than he recorded in three prior seasons of junior hockey combined. At 6’2, 187 lbs, the Missouri native is a big body who plays well at both ends of the ice and has shown great leadership abilities.
Previously undrafted, the 20-year-old will likely return to juniors next season as an overager, but if he can build off his impressive 2009-10 campaign, there should be a pro contract coming to him in the near future.
With their final pick of the 2010 draft, the Islanders selected Rosen out of Clarkson University. The 5’11, 180 pound netminder only saw 20 minutes of action in his freshman year, but in the season prior he played for the Kingston Voyaguers of the OJHL. There, he posted a 14-3-1 record, 2.99 goals against average, 0.899 save percentage, and three shutouts.
The 19-year-old Rosen will start the 2010-11 season behind two juniors on the goaltending depth chart next season, so he will definitely have to earn his ice time. It is still too early to determine if he has a future in the pros, but he will likely ride out the four full years of his college eligibility.