Islanders 2005 draft preview

By Gregory Maker

Islanders Top 10 Prospects

1. Petteri Nokelainen, C
2. Sean Bergenheim, C
3. Robert Nilsson, LW
4. Justin Mapletoft, C
5. Jeremy Colliton, RW
6. Chris Campoli, D
7. Wes O’Neill, D
8. Ryan Caldwell, D
9. Bruno Gervais, D
10. Igor Volkov, RW

Team Needs

Since April of 2002, the Isles have won only three playoff games, including a streak of five consecutive losses to Ottawa in 2003, and Tampa Bay in 2004. Their main weakness has been the ability to score goals in the clutch, only five in their last playoff series. Without a power forward, the team has struggled to play consistent hockey.

Since acquiring Alexei Yashin from Ottawa and Michael Peca from Buffalo prior to the 2001-02 season, the Islanders have not been able to build a team around them as they had hoped. They have made the playoffs the last three seasons, but have lost in the first round all three times. Yashin has not played consistently. Peca, the Frank Selke award winner as the league’s best defensive forward in 2001-02, has had his point total drop in each of his three seasons with the Islanders. The team needs a power forward that is not afraid to lay hits, intimidate the opponent and score goals consistently.

Organizational Strengths

The Islanders have four up and coming blueline prospects, 2004-05 AHL All Rookie Team Selection Chris Campoli (202nd, 2000), Notre Dame junior Wes O’Neill (115th, 2004), hard-hitting University of Denver product Ryan Caldwell (202nd, 2000), and Bruno Gervais (182nd overall, 2003) who made it to the last cut as an 18-year-old in 2003-04.

They also have a young array of prospects at center that are expected to make an impact. Last year’s first round selection Petteri Nokelainen (16th overall) has stood out as a solid player in the Finnish SM-Liiga, playing against men. The 19-year-old is a solid two-way player who will not produce a lot of points, but plays a solid defensive game and kills penalties very well. Sean Bergenheim (22nd overall, 2002) is another speedy center who has the ability to be a sniper. At 21 years old, he has already played 18 games for the Islanders. Justin Mapletoft (130th, 1999) is ready for a role as the fourth line center on Long Island with 38 games of NHL experience.

The Islanders also boast two young prospects on the wing. Robert Nilsson (15th overall, 2003) is believed by many to be the most solid offensive prospect in the system. Jeremy Colliton (58th, 2003) is a solid prospect at right wing. The product of the Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL is 6’2 195 pounds. He is the closest thing the organization has to developing into a power forward and will make his professional hockey debut next season most likely in Bridgeport.

Organizational Weaknesses

Goaltending depth is lacking for the Islanders. Sylvain Michaud (276th, 2004) is nowhere near ready for the NHL and might even have trouble finding a spot in the AHL. Brad Topping (220th, 2002) has been only average in the OHL and probably will not see time in the organization.

The Islanders also lack a serious offensive threat. No player on the team has scored 30 goals in the last two seasons and the team leaders in points had only 51 in 2003-04, Trent Hunter, and Oleg Kvasha. Those coming through the pipeline do not appear likely to top those figures.

Draft Tendencies

GM Mike Milbury has used the team’s last three first round picks on Scandinavian players, Sean Bergenheim, Robert Nilsson, and Petteri Nokelainen. The Islanders have selected 24 European players with their 43 picks in the last five drafts. They have secured their blue line, but are still looking for that power forward to add into their line-up.

The first round has been a Finn, a Swede, and a Finn, for the Islanders recently. If Milbury wants to keep with the pattern and select a Swede, he may look at Niklas Bergfors, a forward from Sodertalje Jr. At 5’11 192 pounds, Bergfors is not big but he might fit the Islanders formula. If they are going to take a power forward, left wing Guillaume Latendresse out of Drummondville of the QMJHL is a good choice. At 6’2 215 pounds, the French Canadian might be just what the Islanders need to help in their offensive game, although scouts have said he needs to improve his skating. If a goaltender is taken, Tuukka Rask from Ilves Tampere of Finnish Juniors should be available in the No. 15 slot.

With his speed and willingness to play hard and get involved in rough play, Alex Bourret would also be a great fit for the New York Islanders. At 5’10 209 pounds, Bourret could bring a presence to the Nassau Coliseum not seen since Clark Gillies.

Player most likely to be taken with the first selection: (Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result): Alex Bourret, RW, QMJHL Lewiston Maineiacs.

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