Islanders 2009 draft preview

By Stephen Good

Top 10 prospects

   1. Kirill Petrov, RW
   2. Jesse Joensuu, LW
   3. Trevor Smith, C
   4. Robin Figren, LW
   5. Jason Gregoire, LW
   6. Rhett Rakhshani, RW
   7. Justin DiBenedetto, C
   8. Corey Trivino, C
   9. Travis Hamonic, D
  10. Mark Katic, D

The New York Islanders enter the 2009 NHL Entry Draft with the first overall selection — one of five picks they own in the first two rounds. This will be GM Garth Snow’s third draft at the head of the Islanders table and will be the defining moment of his tenure as well as set the course of the franchise for the next decade.

The hockey world is eagerly waiting to see who Snow will call to the podium. Will it be the long time No. 1 rated prospect John Tavares, who broke Wayne Gretzky’s OHL scoring record? Or 6’6 Swede Victor Hedman, a potential franchise altering defenseman? Or even the fast rising Matt Duchene who with a strong season and all around game is a late but intriguing addition to the debate? Or could another GM possibly be able to make Snow an offer worthy of the top pick? Whoever is chosen will become the cornerstone with which Snow will try to rebuild this once dynastic franchise.

Team Needs

Any team that ends a season in last place is going to have a lot of holes to fill. The Islanders NHL roster has holes everywhere. They need a forward who can carry the offense, preferably a center to play with Kyle Okposo and help young center Josh Bailey. They also need to solidify the defense. Goaltender Rick Dipietro is the face of the franchise but needs to remain healthy. His many injuries require the Islanders look for a quality backup who may be relied upon to carry the load.

Adding one or two veteran forwards could help young guns like Okposo and Bailey. However, Islanders management may be content allowing their youth to develop with the experienced Doug Weight continuing to lead the forwards. They are committed to a rebuild and may not look to make many moves in the free agent market or through trades but instead try to grow from within.

Organizational Strengths

The strength of the Islanders prospects pool is at forward with eight of their top 10 prospects being up front to go along with their young NHL forwards. This strength is across all three forward positions with Kirill Petrov, Jesse Joensuu, Corey Trivino, and Robin Figren. They also have defensive depth with Aaron Ness, Travis Hamonic and Jyri Niemi leading the way.

Organizational Weaknesses

The Islanders have to acquire more top-end talent in all positions. They are currently ranked 29th in the Hockey Future’s Organizational Rankings. Their goaltending prospects are near barren. The defense needs a dominant blue liner who can be a stabilizing force and some more depth. Up front they need a player who can ignite the team’s offense by himself and make his linemates better.

Draft Tendencies

Since Garth Snow took over as GM, he has been at the head of the table for the last two drafts which have brought four OHL picks, three from the QMJHL, USHL, WHL, two high school players, along with one selection from each of Russia, Sweden, and Junior A . There is a trend towards North American players as only two Europeans were chosen with their last 18 choices. The Islanders previous two first selections have come from the OHL, although in 2007 the first selection was a third-round pick. Snow has shown an ability to move down in the draft and still pick up a player he has targeted while adding other assets.

The Islanders have a tough but enviable decision to make with the first overall pick. Either of Tavares or Hedman would help the Islanders with their rebuild. Both, plus Matt Duchene, have visited Long Island to meet with Snow and owner Charles Wang. After the drama of the first overall selection is over, the Islanders may look to bundle some of their picks and move up for a chance at another high-end talent they have targeted or could be content to make five selections in the first two rounds of a deep draft. Expect them to take a goaltender, but not until late in the second or early third round at the earliest.

HF Staff mock draft selection: Victor Hedman, D; Ethan Werek, C

2009 Islanders draft picks

   1. Round 1 – 1st Overall
   2. Round 1 – 26th Overall
   3. Round 2 – 31st Overall
   4. Round 2 – 37th Overall
   5. Round 2 – 56th Overall
   6. Round 3 – 62nd Overall
   7. Round 3 – 90th Overall
   8. Round 4 – 92nd Overall
   9. Round 5 – 121st Overall
  10. Round 6 – 151st Overall
  11. Round 7 – 181st Overall