Having dealt many of this year’s draft picks, specifically their first-round, 14th overall pick, second-round, 44th overall pick and fifth-round, 136th overall pick, the Islanders had to make the most of what picks they still had left.
It was a relatively quiet year for the orange and blue. No major trades were made. No high-end prospects drafted. As expected, the Islanders used a majority of their picks on defensemen, selecting three blue liners with their five picks. Of the team’s draft choices, two were out of the United States Hockey League, while two others were out of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The team’s top pick just finished a season playing in the Ontario Hockey League.
Mark Katic, D
5’9 – 180 lbs – Sarnia – OHL
Selected 3rd round, 62nd overall
Katic is a good skater who can move the puck well, the type of player who could eventually quarterback a team’s power play. Many scouts, however, are on the fence about Katic’s ability to develop into a NHL-level player, due largely to how small he is at 5’9. He has had difficulty handling power forwards down low. But what Katic does have is speed, giving him the ability to get right back in the play if he happens to lose a player. Katic will need to either develop his strength a great deal or become more disciplined in his defensive game in order to make it to the next step in his career.
Overall, there’s a lot of potential in a player like Katic. He has a long, impressive resume, including being selected to the 2007 CHL Top Prospects Game, playing for Team OHL in the Canada-Russia Challenge, being named to the OHL All-Rookie team, and being selected to the All-Star team at the U-17 Junior World Cup in 2006.
Katic has also steadily improved upon his point production, last season putting up 5 goals, 35 assists for 40 points and 31 penalty minutes in 68 games for Sarnia in the OHL. He has a long road ahead of him, but a lot of tools as well.
Jason Gregoire, LW
5’11 – 175lbs – Lincoln – USHL
Selected 3rd round, 76th overall
Shortly after the Islanders selected Katic, they were up on the board again with the 76th pick, choosing left wing Jason Gregoire. Ranked by ISS at 147th overall, Gregoire was a surprise choice to many. However, the Islanders scouts were quick to point out how Gregoire really came into his own at the end of the season, scoring four goals in four playoff games for Lincoln. He showed a great deal of on-ice maturity during this time, especially following an ankle injury that kept him out for nearly half the season.
Gregoire is known for his quick hands. He can win one-on-one battles with relative ease and has shown the ability to work down low and around the net rather well. He’s still many years away from being considered ready for the pros and will need to work a great deal on his defensive-zone coverage as well as his ability to win battles along the boards.
Gregoire represented Canada at the U-17 Junior World Cup, scoring four points (three goals) in four games. This past season, he registered 16 goals, 20 assists for 36 points and only 10 penalty minutes in 32 games played.
Maxim Gratchev, LW
5’10 196lbs – Rimouski – QMJHL
Selected 4th round, 106th overall
The Islanders were lucky enough to still be able to land left wing Max Gratchev in the fourth round. Ranked 39th overall by ISS, Gratchev was selected with the 106th pick. Many teams questioned his size and defensive ability, but the Islanders see a great deal of offensive potential in the tiny forward who was born in Russia but played all of his youth hockey in the U.S.
Of the Islanders selections in this year’s draft, Gratchev is likely the most ready. As to how far he gets is up to him, but he’s certainly showing signs of having the offensive abilities to compete at a higher level than the QMJHL. Gratchev has excellent vision on the ice and sound hockey smarts, always one play ahead when on the ice. He’s strong on both the power play and penalty kill, but scouts have noted that he’s especially dangerous in the offensive zone with his quick and accurate release.
As to what Gratchev needs to improve, he has to make better decisions with his passes. He’s known to be a bit of a loose cannon on the ice, skating everywhere that the puck is and without much discipline. His feet are almost too quick for where he should be on the ice. Last season, while playing for Rimouski of the QMJHL, Gratchev put in 35 goals, 42 assists for 77 points and 88 penalty minutes in 70 games.
Blake Kessel, D
6’1 – 210lbs – Waterloo – USHL
Selected 6th round, 166th overall
Selected in the sixth round, Blake Kessel, brother of NHLer Phil Kessel, likes to join the offensive rush with his speed and skill and can act as a fourth forward on the ice. He was converted to defense by Waterloo coach Bob Suter.
Last season for Waterloo, Kessel scored 11 goals, 27 assists for 38 points and 38 penalty minutes in 59 games played.This fall, Kessel will be attending the University of New Hampshire.
6’1 – 172lbs – Shawinigan – QMJHL
Selected 7th round, 196th overall
Defenseman Simon Lacroix has two things going for him. He has a right shot, an uncommon but desirable feature for most blue liners. He also has sound offensive traits — he’ll make the first pass and won’t hesitate to join the play.
Lacroix, however, still has many aspects of his game that need improvement. He needs to put on more weight so as to better work along the boards. He also needs to be quicker in getting back into position after joining an offensive rush. The coaching staff at Shawinigan love Lacroix for his consistantly positive attitude and stand-up characteristics. He’s also good in the locker room. After logging an average of 30+ minutes a game last season, Shawinigan expects to see him log even more ice time next year. Last season, Lacroix scored 11 goals, 27 assists for 38 points and 66 penalty minutes in 60 games played.
Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.