Islanders 2010 draft preview

By Omair Taher

Top 10 prospects

1. Calvin de Haan, D
2. Jesse Joensuu, LW
3. Travis Hamonic, D
4. Kirill Petrov, RW
5. Andrew MacDonald, D
6. Rob Schremp, C
7. Trevor Smith, C
8. Jason Gregoire, LW
9. Rhett Rakhshani, RW
10. Aaron Ness, D

The New York Islanders have the fifth overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft.

Team Needs

General manager Garth Snow has done a good job adding to his club’s offensive arsenal over the past four years. With Calvin de Haan and Rhett Rakhshani signing entry-level contracts this spring, and John Tavares and Kyle Okposo already in the fold, there seems to be no shortage of raw talent. However, there are still plenty of holes left to fill. In order to start winning now, the Islanders need more proven players who can play big roles and take the pressure off of the youngsters. Last season, six of the team’s top ten time-on-ice leaders were 26 years of age or younger. Though they played fairly well given the circumstances, they had a tough time hanging in through the full 82-game schedule. It is difficult to determine how much money Snow will have to spend this summer, but adding some quality veteran leadership is absolutely necessary, especially with the possibility that 39-year-old captain Doug Weight could retire.

The other glaring need for the Islanders is the lack of size and grit. The new NHL may be all about speed and skill, but if this year’s Stanley Cup Final has proved anything, it’s that physicality still remains an integral part of the game. The Islanders aren’t a particularly big team to begin with, and after the departure of defenseman Andy Sutton in March, they’re really lacking a strong physical presence on the blueline. The return of Radek Martinek from last year’s season-ending ACL injury should make up for Sutton’s shutdown abilities, but the Czech blueliner isn’t exactly known for throwing his weight around. Listed at 6’2, 200 lbs, Dustin Kohn is currently the Islanders biggest defenseman, and he may not even have a permanent spot on the roster next season.

Organizational Strengths

The Islanders are well stocked down the middle and on the blueline, as their top 20 is dominated by centers and defensemen. Though many of their top center prospects, such as Casey Cizikas, Corey Trivino, and Justin DiBenedetto, are still a ways out, the team should be able to manage with what they have at the moment. 2008 first-round pick Josh Bailey has shown slow, but steady progress in two seasons so far, and Rob Schremp was playing the best hockey of his NHL career before going down with a season-ending knee injury in a game against the Flyers in March.

On the back end, the team’s defensive prospects appear to be more prepared to take the next step. de Haan will likely get a chance to make the big club out of training camp, and former second-round pick Travis Hamonic should be right there with him. Coming off of a trip to the Memorial Cup with the Brandon Wheat Kings this year, Hamonic seems to be one of the more NHL-ready prospects in the system and at 6’3, 215 lbs, he could be that big presence the Islanders are looking for on the blueline.

Organizational Weaknesses

Goaltending appears to be the club’s biggest weakness. Martin Biron is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and there are still several questions regarding Rick DiPietro’s health. The former first overall pick returned to action in January after sitting out over a year due to a knee injury, but only got eight games of action in before being sidelined again in early February and missing the rest of the season. Dwayne Roloson won the Islanders starting job last year, and played rather well in 50 games. However, he will be 41 in October, and may not be able to go the full distance.

The Islanders goalie prospects are promising, but Anders Nilsson and Stefan Ridderwall are expected to remain in their native Sweden next season while there’s a chance that Kevin Poulin could return to juniors for one more year. Finnish netminder Mikko Koskinen should get an opportunity to show audition for a spot on the big club in September, but after missing nearly the entire season due to injury last year, the Islanders may want him to get more experience.

Draft Tendencies

It will be Snow’s fourth draft as a general manager, and third with a first-round pick. The last time the Islanders had the fifth overall pick (2008), Snow traded down twice and eventually selected Josh Bailey at ninth overall. Conversely, he also traded up to select de Haan 12th overall last year. One thing that appears to remain constant is that he’s not afraid to make moves as he sees fit. The Islanders will have 10 picks in this year’s draft (5th, 35th, 58th, 65th, 82nd, 92nd, 125th, 155th, 160th, 185th) including two second rounders and two third rounders. They could use some of those selections to trade up, but they took 13 players in 2008 so it’s just as likely that they hang onto all 10 picks or even end up with a few more.

Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result at No. 5: Erik Gudbranson, D.

At 6’4, 195 lbs, Gudbranson is a massive bluliner who has drawn comparisons to Chris Pronger and Shea Weber. He’s a physical force in his own end, has a big shot from the point, and possesses excellent offensive instincts. If he reaches his full potential, he will be a very capable two-way defender for the Islanders.