Islanders 2005 draft evaluation

By Omair Taher

The 2005 draft was Mike Milbury’s last as the Islanders general manager, and much like the rest of his tenure in Long Island, it contained more misses than hits. Out of seven total picks, Dustin Kohn is the only player still with the organization, while first-round pick Ryan O’Marra remains the only other NHL prospect. With Masi Marjamaki being the exception, the rest have never suited up for an NHL team, and are currently either playing mid-level professional hockey in North America, or have ventured overseas. As the Islanders continue to rebuild, it appears unlikely that this draft class will have a significant impact on the team’s future.

Ryan O’Marra, C, Erie Otters (OHL) – 1st round, 15th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 3

Many of the pre-draft rankings had O’Marra going somewhere in the middle of the first round, so the Islanders can’t exactly be faulted for selecting him at 15th. After all, the general consensus was that he was one of the safer picks that year. Standing at 6’3, 192 lbs, he was seen as a large two-way center with excellent mobility, vision, and puck handling skills. In the 2004-05 season he posted 25 goals and 38 assists for 63 points in 64 games with the Erie Otters. Those solid numbers, coupled with his strong character and leadership, drew comparisons to the likes of Hurricanes center Rod Brind’Amour and former Islander Michael Peca.

A career in the NHL seemed inevitable for O’Marra, as his steady progress in the OHL earned him his first NHL contract on March 29, 2006. He promptly made his AHL debut that spring, recording five points in eight regular-season games, and one point in three playoff games for the Sound Tigers. Though he returned to juniors the following season, he continued producing at over a point-per-game pace, and his future appeared promising. However, his career with the Islanders ended the following February when he was packaged in a trade that brought forward Ryan Smyth to Long Island.

With three years of professional hockey now under his belt, the soon-to-be 23-year-old hasn’t shown the ability to take his game to the next level. This past season, he posted 12 goals and six assists in 72 games for the Springfield Falcons. Injuries to the Oilers awarded him three games of NHL action, and he recorded his first NHL point in November against Vancouver. There’s still the distinct possibility that he can make it as a regular NHLer as he is relatively young, however, it seems all but certain that he will be a career minor-leaguer.

Dustin Kohn, D, Calgary Hitmen (WHL) – 2nd round, 46th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 22

Kohn has been the Islanders saving grace thus far. The 6’1, 195 lbs defenseman is the only remaining member of the 2005 draft class, and has shown some decent potential. Pegged to go early in the second round, he dropped a few spots before the Islanders nabbed him with the 46th overall pick. Scouts described him as a poor man’s Dan Boyle or Brian Campbell. He’s a small but gritty defenseman with good puck skills and strong offensive instincts. In the season prior to the draft, he recorded eight goals and 35 assists in 71 regular-season games and four assists in 12 playoff games with the Calgary Hitmen. Although his numbers dropped the following year, his last season in juniors ended on a strong note as he posted five goals and 45 assists for a career-high 50 points in 61 games with the Brandon Wheat Kings. He also had a strong showing in the playoffs, picking up one goal and nine assists in 11 games.

Having completed his third AHL season this spring, the 23-year-old is slated to become a restricted free agent this summer. However, the Islanders will likely keep him around. Though he hasn’t been producing at the same pace as he did in juniors, his numbers are still solid. He had two goals and 15 assists in 45 games with Bridgeport, and added two goals and two assists in five playoff contests. He also got some NHL action, playing in 22 games for the Islanders and recording four assists. At this rate, the Edmonton native could develop into a steady third-pairing defenseman in the NHL.

Shea Guthrie, RW, St. George’s School (R.I.) – 3rd round, 76th overall
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

The Islanders gave Guthrie one of the best birthday gifts a hockey player can dream of when they drafted him 76th overall on the day he turned 18. The 6’0, 205 lb right winger was selected straight out of high school where he put up 31 goals and 26 assists in 25 games in his senior year. He was touted as a strong offensive forward with explosive speed, a hard shot, and excellent passing skills. Guthrie spent four years at Clarkson University where he put up solid numbers. However, that apparently wasn’t good enough for the Islanders, as they opted not to sign him to an entry-level contract.

Currently, the Ontario native is coming off his first season of professional hockey in the ECHL. He began the year with the Utah Grizzlies, but was shipped to the Florida Everblades in December. In all, he played 55 games, posting 18 goals and 19 assists for 37 points. He also had a goal and three assists in four playoff games for Florida. As he approaches his 23rd birthday, it appears unlikely that he will make it to the NHL.

Masi Marjamaki, LW, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL) – 5th round, 144th overall
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 1

The lone European in the Islanders 2005 draft class, Marjamaki was chosen mostly on potential. He was originally drafted 66th overall by Boston in 2003, but after failing to get signed by the club, he re-entered the draft where the Islanders took him 144th overall. A native of Finland, he left his home country at 17 to play in the WHL. His production in juniors was steady, but unspectacular. In the 2004-05 season, he scored 14 goals and picked up 32 assists for 46 points in 50 regular-season games for the Moose Jaw Warriors. In the playoffs, he had a goal and two assists in give games.

Still, production wasn’t the key aspect of Marjamaki’s game. Standing at 6’2, 205 lbs, he was viewed as a grinder with a decent set of offensive tools. Scouts were impressed by the combination of his strong work ethic, skill, and willingness to play a gritty game. The Islanders promptly signed him to an entry-level contract that summer, but it ultimately didn’t work out. After two years, he returned to Finland, where he has been playing ever since. This past season, he dressed in 43 games for Ilves Tampere and recorded 12 goals and 10 assists. At the age of 25, he will likely spend the rest of his career in Europe.

Tyrell Mason, D, Salmon Arm Silverbacks (BCHL) – 6th round, 180th overall
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Selected out of the BCHL, Mason had a strong season going into the 2005 draft. The 6’2, 180 lb blueliner had six goals and 36 assists for 42 points in 51 games with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. Though expectations generally aren’t high in later rounds, Mason was viewed as a raw talent with a potentially high ceiling if developed properly. He went on to play at Clarkson University the following fall, but was unable to establish himself as the puck-moving defenseman some scouts expected him to be. In his senior year, he managed to produce only one point in 22 games.

The Islanders did not sign Mason. This past season, the 24-year-old played for the Texas Brahmas of the Central Hockey League, where he had one goal and four assists in 47 regular-season games, and one goal and one assist in eight playoff contests.

Nick Tuzzolino, D, Sarnia Sting (OHL) – 7th round, 196th overall
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Standing at 6’5, 225 lbs, scouts describes Tuzzolino as a massive blueliner who loved to play physical and had a fair amount of skill for a player his size. Though he primarily played as a stay-at-home defenseman, he was an excellent passer and displayed some offensive potential. In his draft year, he had two goals, 20 assists, and 128 penalty minutes in 67 games with the Sarnia Sting. That blend of size, aggressiveness and offense made him an intriguing project pick for the Islanders, and at 196th overall, there was very little risk involved.

However, the 24-year-old Buffalo native ultimately went unsigned after leaving juniors. He recently wrapped up his second season with the Alaska Aces of the ECHL. This past year he had nine goals, 22 assists, and 117 penalty minutes in 70 regular-season games, and no points in four playoff games. He will most likely play in the minors for the rest of his career.

Luciano Aquino, RW, Brampton Battalion [OHL] – 7th round, 210th overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

The Islanders selected Aquino with their final pick in 2005 draft. At the time, the 5’10, 210 lb right winger was coming off a strong year with the Brampton Battalion of the OHL. There, he had 25 goals and 46 assists for 71 in points in 65 regular-season games, and added nine points in six playoff games. He was promptly signed to a three-year entry-level contract that September, but returned to juniors for the 2005-06 season where he posted 72 points in 32 games, and had 21 points in 11 playoff contests.

Though Aquino was an overager that year, he seemed to have talent. However, his game didn’t translate well at the professional level. After bouncing around between the AHL, ECHL, and IHL, he eventually left to play in Italy. This past season, he played in 36 games for Valpellice, and had 27 goals and 46 assists. At 25, Aquino still remains a very fast and skilled offensive winger, but a career in the NHL doesn’t seem likely.