The Islanders fire sale has continued with the departure of their best player, Ziggy Palffy out west to the Kings. As upsetting as this move is the Isles did manage to land some quality young players, as well as a third top 10 pick in the upcoming draft. Olli Jokinen is one of the premier young talents in the league. He was eased into the Kings line up this season and was impressive despite his decieving stats. He was a superstar in the Finnish men’s league for two years as a 17 and 18 year old posting better than a point a game, and has also shined in international competition. His acquisition gives the Isles the 3rd (Jokinen), 4th (Luongo), and 5th (Brewer) overall picks from the talented 1997 draft.
Josh Green is a huge winger and was a dominant scorer at the junior level. He has put up solid numbers in the AHL and played 27 games with the Kings last season put only saw limited ice time. He has great size and potential and should be able to find his scoring touch in the NHL with some quality ice time. The Isles also acquired towering defenseman Matthieu Biron, the KIngs first round pick last year. Biron gets better every year and has shown signs of becoming an offensive presence to go along with his sound positional play and toughness. It would not be difficult to project a huge blueline for the Isladers with Kenny Jonsson (6-3 197), Eric Brewer, (6-4 201), Zdeno Chara (6-9 255), Biron (6-6 215), and Vladimir Chebaturkin (6-2 213).
The Islanders also now possess three of the top ten picks in this years draft (5th, 8th and 10th). Milbury will scramble to move up and is enamored with the Sedin twins. Had Chicago not won the draft lottery the Isles would almost be a lock to land the Sedins as the could package the Kings and the Canadiens first round picks along with another veteran to move up to the second or third spot along with their fourth pick. Alas, the Isles have no good fortune and it seems unlikely that will be able to trade with teams to land the twins.
The Palffy trade leaves the Islanders right side extremely weak and this should be adressed in the draft. With 3 top 10 picks Milbury will essentially draft a whole forward line. At the 5th spot they will pick whichever center they like best among Lundmark, Beech, and Connelly. Milbury has publicly said he likes Beech but hopefully he will go either Lundmark or Connelly who although smaller are much better offensively. With the 8th and 10th picks the will go after their wingers. If Shvidky drops to the 8th spot he is a possibility. Taylor Pyatt seems almost certain to be one of the Isles slections. He is a big winger with blazing speed, two qualities that Milbury drools over. However unlike Rupp last year, Pyatt can put the puck in the net. Another strong possibilty seems to be Jani Rita. The phyisical Finn has explosive speed, a quick hard shot, and loves top initiate contact. The only question is how much will he score as a professional.
In other news, the Isles failed to sign LW Jeff Zehr. Instead of reentering the draft he became a free agent due to his age and was recently signed by the Boston Bruins. Centerman Jarrett Smith was also unsigned and he will reenter the draft. A strong possible selection in the later rounds for the Isles is Jan Hlavac. Hlavac was a top scorer in the Czech league this past season and was a star at the recent World Cup where he led the Czech Republic in scoring and to the Gold Medal. He is now 22, but was a second round selection by the Isles back in 1995. His rights were traded to Calgary for Jorgen Jonsson’s last year. It’s not hard to believe that the Islanders would redraft him as he is now realizing the potential the saw in him four years ago.