Islanders 2006 draft preview

By Dustin Nielson

Islanders Top 10 Prospects

1. Robert Nilsson, LW
2. Petteri Nokelainen, C
3. Ryan O’Marra, C
4. Jeff Tambellini, LW
5. Denis Grebeshkov, D
6. Sean Bergenheim, C
7. Jeremy Colliton, RW
8. Bruno Gervais, D
9. Blake Comeau, RW
10. Shea Guthrie, C

Team Needs

The New York Islanders are in need of defensemen for both the current roster and the prospect pool. Their top defensive prospect is Denis Grebeshkov and he will most likely be a regular and key contributor on the Islanders in 2006-07. Chris Campoli had a great rookie campaign and will certainly take more of role with the Islanders next season as a 22-year-old sophomore. Alexei Zhitnik is still capable of being a top three defenseman on the Islanders and much like Campoli will be able to chip in offensively. Beyond a top three of Campoli, Zhitnik and Grebeshkov, the Islanders are extremely thin on the blue line. John Erskine and Radek Martinek are solid third pairing defensemen.

With Grebeshkov ready to leave the prospect tag behind him, the future on the Isles blue line is not bright. Bruno Gervais, a sixth round pick by the Islanders in 2003, played in 27 games this past season, putting up three goals and four assists. With a solid camp, Gervais could very easily earn himself a regular job on the Island. Beyond Grebeshkov and Gervais, the Islanders have very little to develop over the next couple of years. Dustin Kohn, 46th overall in 2006, is still three or four years away from even competing for a job.

The Islanders haven’t selected a defenseman in the first round since drafting Branislav Mezei 10th overall in 1999 and it’s creating a problem the scouting staff will need address immediately.

Organizational Strengths

The New York Islanders have the luxury of boasting one of the top groups of forward prospects in the NHL. Robert Nilsson is ready to take a lead role offensively for the Islanders next season and could be joined in New York by a couple of other young European forwards. Sean Bergenheim and Petteri Nokelainen will be given every opportunity to make the Islanders full-time in September. Jeff Tambellini, who came over in Mark Parrish trade with the Kings, saw action in 25 games this season and is another young forward who has paid his dues and is ready to stick in the NHL. Ryan O’Marra, Jeremy Colliton and Blake Comeau are former CHL stars who appear to be on track for a 2007-08 NHL debut.

The Islanders technique for develop forwards is working very nicely right now with one or two players ready to step in and make an impact each season.

Organizational Weaknesses

It is a well-documented fact that the Islanders need help defensively. The blue line requires some upgrading in both quantity and quality.

Goaltending is solid at the top with Rick DiPietro, the No. 1 at the age of 25. Now is probably the time to start looking to add some depth in goal. Despite drafting four goaltenders since taking DiPietro first overall in 2000, the Islanders have not been successful with the picks. DiPietro could very well still be an Islander in five years but it wouldn’t hurt to begin the search for his replacement or even a capable backup.

Draft Tendencies

The Islanders have as many scouts in Europe as they do in Canada and that could be the reason three of their last four first round picks have been Europeans. In the past 10 drafts, New York has had 14 first round picks, nine have been used on forwards, three spent on defensemen and two used for goaltenders. In 2004 and 2005, Tony Feltrin and his scouting staff selected a center in the opening round and this year, with the amount of top-end centers available they could do the same. The Islanders clearly need help on the blue line, but the seventh overall pick in 2006 will most likely be used to add another forward, another center.

Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result: Peter Mueller, C

Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.