The Islanders luck truly is turning around. First, a solid ownership takes over the franchise, and now fortune smiled on the up and coming Islanders when they won the 2000 draft lottery. With only an 8 percent chance, the Islanders’ number came up and became the first fifth place team in draft lottery history to jump up to the No. 1 pick. The jump dramtically improves their positioning considering the players available. The Islanders will now likely select one of the two highly touted impact players, Dany Heatley or Marian Gaborik. The most likely pick would be Gaborik.
The Isles have a host of Heatley-type playes, rugged up and down players with deft goal scoring touch (Isbister, Green, Pyatt, Hunter). However Gaborik projects as a speedy game breaker, something the Isles desperatley need since the departure of Ziggy Palffy. Gaborik scored 25 goals in 50 games in the Slovak Men’s league and averaged almost a point a game. He starred at the World U-18 team with 6 goals and 8 points in 6 games for a weak Slovakian team. Heatley had solid numbers as a freshman at Wisconsin, but not overwhelming. In the past few years very few college players have made a big impact in the NHL. Throw into the mix that Heatley is actually a year older than Gaborik and the choice seems clear.
The other option of course is trading the 1st overall selection. The Islanders biggest need is a solid veteran defenseman and then another veteran forward. The 1st pick is an asset than many teams would love to have, and Mike Milbury’s phone will be very busy this June. Read more»
Some great news in the Islanders organization as right winger Mattias Weinhandl, played Tuesday night for the first time since early November. Mattias had been out of action since November after a vicious intentional high stick injured his eye in an international competition. Weinhandl dressed for his MoDo team’s Euro Hockey League semifinal game against Magnitogorsk (Russia). He did not play on a line with Henrik and Daniel Sedin as he had been doing all season long, but still managed to net a goal in MoDo’s 6-5 loss. In the shootout to decide the game, Weinhandl missed a second goal by inches.
Weinhandl is wearing a full shield to protect the injured eye. Yesterday, he was in the hospital for examination as it is expected he will have an operation soon to correct a cataract that formed in the eye. According to the team, Weinhandl played so well the other night that he is expected to be re-united with the Sedins tonight against Färjestad.
At the time of his injury Weinhandl was among the Swedish elite leagues leading scorers with 9 goals and 19 points in 19 games.
As always there have been many recent development among Islanders’ prospects. The Islanders had seven players representing four countries at the recent World Junior Championship. Mathieu Biron led the way as an assistant captain on the Bronze medal Canadian team. Biron logged almost 30 minutes a game, seeing time in all situations. Mathieu’s all around play was stellar and he was honored as a member of the All-Tournament Team. Fellow Canadian Chris Nielsen was also played a key role. He was extremely versatile, was excellent defensively and scored huge goals including the game tying goal in the bronze medal game that forced a shoot-out. Nielsen was among Canada’s leaders in plus minus at plus 4.
The Isles had three players on the Slovakian team, Juraj Kolnik, Kristian Kudroc, and Branislav Mezei. Kolnik has a quiet tournament until erupting in the final game with two goals and three points to finish second in team scoring. Kolnik and Kudroc led the Slovak squad with plus 4 ratings. Kudroc was a dominant physical force while playing solid in both ends. Mezei scored a rare goal for the Slovaks and was their top defenseman.
Rounding out the Islanders representatives were Swede Bjorn Melin and American Brett Henning. Melin started off strong with three points in his first two games then did not register another point. Henning performed well in a checking role for the US squad, but failed to get on the scoring sheet.