New York Islanders 2012 draft review

By Josh Buckingham

 

Photo: The New York Islanders used the fourth pick overall to select defenseman Griffin Reinhart, the highest pick they have used on a defenseman since 1995 (Courtesy of Ian Altenbaugh/HF)

 

New York Islanders GM Garth Snow selected defensemen early and often in 2012, using all seven picks to bolster their blue line. His seven picks included a prospect from each of the three Canadian major junior leagues, one from Finland, and two other American born blueliners.

The Islanders also made a trade to immediately improve their defense by acquiring Lubomir Visnovsky from the Anaheim Ducks for a 2013 second round pick. He has one year remaining on his contract and was most likely brought into the fold to mentor their rising defensive prospects such as Calvin de Haan, Matt Donovan, and Aaron Ness.

Griffin Reinhart, D – Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
1st Round, 4th Overall
Height: 6'4 Weight: 205 lbs

At the fourth spot Reinhart seems to be a pretty safe selection considering defensemen are such a gamble being picked this high. He has the pedigree of a solid NHLer because his father, Paul Reinhart, played over 600 NHL games during his career. Reinhart is a hulking defensemen that possesses above average skating ability for his size. He has a booming shot from the point, which helped him register 12 goals for the Oil Kings in 2011-12. He also makes a very good first pass out of the defensive zone. Given his ideal size, he really does not throw it around enough and punish opposing forwards, but he has a great stick to go along with superb defensive positioning. 

Reinhart will definitely benefit from another year in Edmonton, defending their WHL championship and Memorial Cup berth. He will also fight for a spot on Team Canada's U20 WJC blue line. If he can improve his skating and develop a mean streak, the comparisons to Chris Pronger he has garnered would not be farfetched one bit. Though he is a few years away from making the jump to the NHL, Reinhart projects as a top-pairing shutdown defensemen with offensive upside.

Ville Pokka, D – Kärpät (SM-liiga)
2nd Round, 34th Overall
Height: 6'0 Weight: 198 lbs

An offensive defenseman, Pokka managed only three assists through 35 games in the SM-liiga, but it should not be alarming as it is a men's league and younger players are not often given a great deal of ice time. Pokka really stood out however playing for Finland in the 2012 U20 WJC. In seven games he posted one goal and three assists showcasing his potential as an offensive defensemen. He is not going to dominate physically, but he has great wheels for a blueliner. He will need to work on his positioning and overall defensive play before he is ready to make the jump to North America.

Pokka will refine his skills in Finland for at least one more season where he will hopefully earn more ice time to help his development. Another year playing for Finland at the WJC will also provide more valuable experience. Overall, Pokka projects as top four defensemen with a lot of offensive upside.

Adam Pelech, D – Erie Otters (OHL)
3rd Round, 65th Overall
Height: 6'2 Weight: 209 lbs

Pelech became the third member of his family to be drafted by an NHL team and the third defensemen the Isles selected in a row in this years draft. Possessing rock solid size, Pelech is a minute munching stay-at-home defenseman that is not afraid to block shots and makes life miserable for opposing forwards. Though he does not have a ton of offensive upside, he does move the puck very well from the backend.

He is a few years away from making the jump to the NHL and will benefit from returning to his junior team in Erie. Given his desire and work ethic, he could be a welcomed addition to the Islanders blue line in a few short years.

Loic Leduc, D – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)
4th Round, 103rd Overall
Height: 6'5 Weight: 194 lbs

Leduc is a mammoth of a man and he uses his size to intimidate opposing players. He is not afraid to throw his massive frame around and drop the mitts if needed. He needs to add a good amount of weight to his towering frame if he is going to be able to compete against grown men. The defenseman is without a doubt a stay-at-home defensemen with little if any offensive upside.

Leduc is a long-term project for the Islanders that will likely remain in the QMJHL for another year or two before making the jump to the AHL. If everything goes as planned he could become a very serviceable third pairing defensemen.

Doyle Somerby, D – Kimball Union Academy (USHS)
5th Round, 125th Overall
Height: 6'5 Weight: 223 lbs

Somerby is another gigantic blueliner that already possesses an NHL frame and he has not even completed his senior year at Kimball Union Academy. He is another long-term project for the Islanders as he is set to attend Boston University for the 2013-2014 season. He is still very raw and will definitely benefit from playing against collegiate competition. Overall, Somerby is a very long way from competing for a spot on the Islanders blue line, but is nonetheless a very intriguing prospect.

Jesse Graham, D – Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
6th Round, 155th Overall
Height: 5'11 Weight: 170 lbs

This selection marked the third IceDog that Snow has selected in the past two years (Ryan Strome, Mitchell Theoret). Graham is on the smaller side, but is a very elusive defender. He has a ton of offensive upside and is a great special teams quarterback, posting 41 points in 2011-12. He also possesses great vision allowing him to make crisp breakout passes.

Graham will go back to Niagara for another year of seasoning where he can work on developing a two-gay game. If everything goes as planned the Islanders could have three Niagara IceDog alumni in their lineup in the near future.

Jake Bischoff, D – Grand Rapids (USHS)/Omaha Lancers (USHL)
7th Round, 185th Overall
Height: 6'0 Weight: 181 lbs

Like Somerby, this young defenseman has yet to complete his senior year of high school. Bischoff is a very intriguing prospect given he excelled at both forward and defense for his high school team, and was a standout baseball player as well. He is a world-class athlete that is still very raw, but has a ton of upside. He should split next season between his USHL team, the Omaha Lancers, and his high school team. Then he will return to Omaha for a full season before he joins the University of Minnesota for his freshmen campaign in 2014-2015. Like much of this draft class, Bischoff is a long-term project that the Isles will keep close tabs on.