After five top-five selections in the previous six NHL Drafts, the New York Islanders made strides this season to avoid another draft lottery situation.
For the second year in a row, General Manager Garth Snow made a splash at the draft. Last year he came into the draft with a top-five selection and traded up to the 28th selection to make two picks on Day 1. This year, the organization came into the 2015 NHL Draft with no first round pick, but Snow traded former 5th overall pick Griffin Reinhart to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for the 16th and 33rd pick. Snow then packaged the 33rd and 72nd picks to the Tampa Bay Lightning to move up to 28th slot to make his second pick of the first round.
Snow added two high end forward prospects to the prospect pool in the first round in Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauviller. Snow then added five defenseman, three of whom are from the CHL: Mitchell Vande Sompel, Parker Wotherspoon, and Ryan Pilon. The Islanders capped off their draft by taking Andong Song out of Lawrenceville High School, and over-ager Petter Hansson from Sweden.
Mathew Barzal, C, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
1st round, 16th overall
Height: 5-11 Weight: 175 lbs
Barzal has been a highly touted prospect since he was taken first overall in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft. He could have been considered a surefire top five pick in most draft years, but due to this year’s depth talent, was projected to go anywhere from 5th to 10th overall. However, like the old saying goes, it only takes a team to like one player more than another for a player to slide and that’s exactly what happened to Barzal. The Islanders took advantage of this and were able to move up and take the skilled centerman.
Barzal is a high-end offensive dynamo who excels in the offensive zone. His calling card has always been his elite vision, however his shot is nothing to sneeze at. In this sense, Barzal has drawn favorable comparisons to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Barzal has amassed 111 points in 103 games over two seasons with the Seattle Thunderbirds. A knee injury sidelined Barzal for most of November as well as the entire month of December and caused him to miss the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in January. He played internationally for Team Canada at the U18 World Junior Championships for a second straight year leading them to a bronze medal. He paced the team in scoring with 12 points in 7 games.
Barzal will likely continue to develop in the WHL again next season where he has the natural offensive ability to challenge for the league scoring title. Barzal is a natural center, but similar to Ryan Strome may end up as a winger at the NHL level due to the Islanders’ depth at center.
Anthony Beauviller, LW, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
1st round, 28th overall
Height: 5-10 Weight: 173 lbs
Just like last year when the Islanders moved up to take Josh Ho-Sang, the Islanders traded for the 28th selection to take Anthony Beauviller. Similar to Ho-Sang, Beauviller oozes skill, but plays a more complete game.
Beauviller finished 8th in scoring in the QMJHL last season with 94 points in 67 games. The knock on Beauviller was his size. However, this past season is as much proof as any that small players can make an impact in the NHL with Tyler Johnson and Johnny Gaudreau becoming impact players. Beauviller plays with grit making his size less of a concern.
“Yeah now I’m a first round pick and I think for me that my height wasn’t something that bothered me. I was just playing my game, my size isn’t a problem for me.”
Beauviller was happy to be picked, coming off the board a little earlier than expected.
“Just wearing that jersey and surprised to be a first round pick, but very happy and very proud to wear that jersey.”
Like Barzal, Beauviller also played for Canada at the U18s, finishing with three goals.
“Barzal is one of my friends so I’m very excited to join him. I think it had an impact that we had a good chemistry at the Under-18s so I think that helped with the choice, but I’m very excited to join the New York Islanders.”
Beauviller will go back to Shawinigan to develop, but it won’t be long before he is in an Islanders uniform.
Beauvillier met with the media after his selection by the Islanders, with some of his comments (partially in French) being included in this Hockey’s Future video.
Mitchell Vande Sompel, D, Oshawa Generals (OHL)
3rd round, 82nd overall
Height: 5-10 Weight: 182 lbs
The Islanders continue to select players out of the Oshawa Generals organization, taking Vande Sompel in the third round. He projects to be an offensive defenseman who makes good reads and moves the puck well. Vande Sompel is a great skater and can quarterback a powerplay effectively.
The Islanders got a good look at Vande Sompel as he played with their top prospect Michael Dal Colle. The team finished in first place in the Eastern Conference and went on to win the Memorial Cup.
“It was a long year, but it was an unbelievable one. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. We started on top, and finished on top.”
Vande Sompel finished the year with 63 points in 58 games and added 14 points in 21 playoff games. The knock on Vande Sompel is his size, and if he will be able to contain NHL players in the defensive zone. He improved his defensive play in 2014-15, which was an encouraging sign.
“I think everything. I got to focus a lot on my upper body strength and learning how to play defense as good as I can. I think the offensive side of my game is coming along, it’s the defensive part I need to work on.”
Playing for the defensively sound Generals organization and has been crucial for his career.
“They’ve done so much for over the past two years, it’s been a heck of a ride. They’ve stuck with me every single part of the way. They’re first class and that organization is unbelievable.”
Vande Sompel will continue to develop in the OHL as the Generals look to repeat as OHL champions.