Islanders 2008 draft preview

By Peter Prohaska

Top 10 prospects

1. Kyle Okposo, RW
2. Blake Comeau, RW
3. Robin Figren, LW
4. Rhett Rakhshani, RW
5. Steve Regier, LW
6. Trevor Smith, C
7. Ben Walter, C
8. Jeremy Colliton, RW
9. Dustin Kohn, D
10. Frans Nielsen, C

The Islanders hold the fifth overall pick in the 2008 draft.  With only one defenseman in their top ten prospects, the Isles will almost surely take a blueliner as there are several good ones projected at the top.

Thanks to several convoluted deals, the Islanders have two picks in the second round: #36 and #53 (from Edmonton via Anaheim); two in the third: #66 and #73 (from Anaheim via Edmonton); #96 in the fourth; two in the fifth: #126 and #148 (from Philly); and two in the sixth: #156 and #175 (from Minnesota in the Chris Simon trade).  This gives them a ton of flexibility to move up and down in what is a deep draft class.

It’s been a busy offseason thus far, signing goaltender Joey MacDonald to replace the steady service of Wade Dubielewicz.  They have also signed defenseman Aaron Johnson, lost Freddy Meyer on waivers to Phoenix, extended right winger Tim Jackman’s contract, and signed left wing Kip Brennan. GM Garth Snow has said that Miroslav Satan, Ruslan Fedotenko, and Josef Vasicek will not be back either, leaving plenty of room for prospects to earn roster spots.

The Islanders certainly need some work to become candidates for a deep playoff run.

Team needs

The Islanders offense plainly stank last season, with the worst goals per game average and worst goal total in the league.  Their defense was hardly a point of pride either, as they gave up nearly three goals per game and finished toward the bottom.  If they want to climb above the .500 mark next season, Snow and company have to find help with the assets they have.

They have young talent in Kyle Okposo, Sean Bergenheim, and Blake Comeau, but more is needed.  They do have strong defensemen like Andy Sutton and Brendan Witt who won’t be intimidated and who can clear out space for their marquee netminder.

Organizational strengths

The Isles have plenty of scoring wingers coming up through the system, and decent centers as well.  A lot depends on next year: if prospects like Jason Gregoire, Robin Figren, Jesse Joensuu, and Frans Nielsen can continue their development with their current clubs, then some rough potential can become a true strength.

Organizational weaknesses

The Isles don’t have a great goaltending prospect right now, should DiPietro falter.  They are also a little thin at defense, but this draft is the perfect opportunity to find the kind of top-flight blueline help they need.  They have pieces, but nothing in the form of a can’t-miss blueliner in the system right now.

Draft tendencies

With a relatively new GM, it’s tough to talk about tendencies.  Last year, with only five picks, the Islanders began to address their defense.  They took three defensemen in rounds 3, 6, and 7.  Two picks 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 was out of the OHL.

This is Snow’s second draft and though the team could always trade picks, it would make sense to go with one of the solid defensive prospects in Round 1, get offensive help down the middle, and look closely at another promising goaltender in the late rounds. 

The top players by consensus are all defensemen after Steven Stamkos goes, and Snow has suggested D is a priority.  That said, if Russian forward Nikita Filatov is still on the board, the Islanders may be inclined to gamble for his skill.  Currently, NHL Central Scouting has defenseman Luke Schenn at No. 5 among North American skaters.  The Kelowna Rocket is a physical defenseman with some offensive skill. 

Hockey’s Future Staff Mock Draft result: Drew Doughty, D

Doughty put up good numbers in his second year in the OHL and possesses good size and skill. Best of all, his most consistent period came during the playoffs: 9 points in 10 games. The Islanders have gambled a bit too much on offensive flash in the past years and should take a conservative approach, solidifying the back end. They desperately need an early round hit to work out of their current rut, and Doughty, if available, could certainly be that player.