Despite the flurry of trading activity in the Top 10, the Islanders managed to hold tight and select three players with their elite picks. As expected the four premier players were all gone when the Isles stepped up to the podium at the 5th position. Connelly is an ideal selection for them at this spot, he is a dynamic offensive talent with explosive one-on-one moves and great vision. Thankfully Milbury and the gang shyed away from the larger but less prolific Beech. The Isles have a glut of good young centers who seem to be capable number two men. Connelly has all the earmarks of a legitimate number one center, something the team has craved but not had in many years. He was on pace for 50 goals and 100 points before a broken leg ended his season. Had he stayed healthy and posted those numbers he would have been ranked at least fifth by everybody.
At the eighth pick the Isles once again made a solid pick with Taylor Pyatt. Pyatt has all the tools to succeed, blazing speed, tremendous size and strength, and great hands. The organization has been itching for a prime time power forward for many years and Pyatt seems to fit the bill. They also now have great depth at this position with Pyatt and the recent acquisitions of Josh Green and Brad Isbister.
Things fell the way the Isles had wanted and they got got the two forwards they really wanted with their first two picks. At the 10 spot the Isles went with a bit of a flyer in Branislav Mezei. Mezei is a solid defenseman but isn’t offensive or particularly tough. Mezei is good addition to the Isles stable of bohemoth defensemen, and it is a position that needed restocking.
The Isles made a bit of a jump into the end of the first round when they acquired Dallas 28th pick. The Islanders pounced on Kristian Kudroc whom many considered a wild card in this draft. The Isles were one of the few organizations that had extended viewing of this mammoth blueliner and have a bit of history in plucking huge unkown defensemen (Zdeno Chara, Robert Schnabel). Kudroc has already played in the mens league for two years in Slovakia and was a dominating presence. Not only does he use his size effectively but he has a mean streak and an offensive flair to go along with a 98 mph slap shot. He is a very exciting prospect with his size (6-6 230) and two way ability. Kudroc is not far away from contributing and should be in the NHL within two years futher thickening the Ises “redwood” defense corps.
The move to select Kudroc moved the Isles out of the second round but the Isles did have two picks in each of the 3rd, 4th and 5th rounds. With these picks they focused on more European talent as well as more American players. With the 78th pick the Isles went with Mattias Weinhandl, a Swedish sniper. He is viewed as a one dimensional player but will make a career for himself if he can continue to produce. At number 87 the Isles chose high school phenom Brian Collins who posted better than a goal a game. This 6-1 center is expected to play college hockey next year. New York then had consecutive picks in the fourth round and went with Juraj Kulnik and Johan Halvardsson. Kolnik was a big time scorer in the QMJHL this season after coming over in the import draft. Halvardsson is a sizeable defenseman who saw time in the Swedish men’s league this year. Justin Mapletoft fell into the Isles lap at 130th. Justin was ranked 53rd by CSB and is an offensive threat whith good vision and grit. Finally with the 140th selection the Islanders decided on Adam Johnson, another massive blueliner who will likely play college hockey next season.
Mike Milbury and the gang landed two-thirds of a possible first line and Kudroc may turn out to be the steal of the draft. They could’ve used another winger at 10th but Mezei is a solid addition and this gives the Islanders great depth at defense so they can trade for a winger down the road. The Isles later round picks have potential and almost all are big time scorers at their current level. This is a nice turn around from years past when picks were used on big forwards who couldn’t skate or score. The draft seems to be the easy part for the Islanders, now coms the big challenge. Can they actually afford to sign four first round picks, and how many of these kids will actually be in the organization a few years down the road?