New York Islanders 2011 draft review

By Kyle West
Photo: The fifth overall pick at the draft, Ryan Strome is a workout partner of Isles star John Tavares. (Photo courtesy of Ian Altenbaugh/HF)

Adding another elite forward at fifth overall, the Islanders continued to stock the prospect cupboard in anticipation of the day when all the pieces come together to form a contender. With needs at every position, Islanders GM Garth Snow drafted the best player available in every round, adding four defenders and four forwards. Unlike previous drafts, Snow was content to let the picks come to him rather than make trades to try and move up or down in the draft order to address a need.

Ryan Strome, C – Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL)
1st round, 5th overall
Height: 6’0 Weight: 180 lbs

Introduced by local hero Kyle Okposo, the Islander’s first move of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft was to claim Ryan Strome from the Niagara Ice Dogs. The star center had gone through intense scrutiny from Isles staff on three separate occasions so it was no surprise they were planning to take him at fifth.

A dynamic all-around forward with elite speed and stick-handling, Strome also has the same roots in lacrosse that developed Tavares’ hand-eye coordination to superhuman levels. Traded to Niagara last season in the Alex Pietrangelo deal, he was given a chance take on a large role with the Ice Dogs and ran with it. A regular on the highlight reels, Strome makes plays at a dizzying speed and has the stick-handling skills to make opposing defenders look silly. His hockey sense is off the charts and he can be as effective on the penalty kill as much as the power play. Although slightly undersized for NHL action at 6’0 and 180 lbs, Strome’s agility and heads-up play should keep him out of trouble if he does make the Islanders in the fall. However, having seen 2008 first-rounder Josh Bailey stagnate after being rushed to the pros, the Isles may want to give their newest top prospect some more time to grow before he dons their colors.

Scott Mayfield, D – Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)
2nd round, 34th overall
Height: 6’4 Weight: 205 lbs

Although he often stood out among his peers in the USHL, it was Scott Mayfield‘s tournament play early in the 2010-11 season that got scouts excited about his potential. A rare big man who is both quick and mobile, Mayfield teased scouts with his potential as a top-four shutdown player and was a first round pick on many draft lists.

The rangy defenseman is scheduled to lace up for the Denver Pioneers next year where he will play a minimum of two years. With the loss of several defensemen, including the recent signing of fellow Isles prospect Matt Donovon, Mayfield could see considerable time early on in his collegiate career.

"They have two spots open, Donovon just signed with New York so that’s a big thing. I’m excited for (the possibility) and I think it can only make me better playing in those big games."

To earn those minutes Mayfield will have to play consistently and match opponents’ physicality. He also recognizes to do so he’ll have to get stronger.

"I’m hoping to play at 210, I’m about 205 right now, that’s the biggest thing for my freshman year," he said.

Johan Sundstrom, C – Frolunda (SEL)
2nd round, 50th overall
Height: 6’2 Weight: 196 lbs

Making use of the pick acquired from Montreal in the James Wisniewski deal, the Islanders opted for broad-shouldered Swedish forward Johan Sundstrom. A tall, right-handed power-forward in the making, Sundstrom caught the eye of scouts for his ability to fight through traffic and create scoring chances with a blend of strength, speed and very quick hands. He has dominated his own age group this year, scoring at will for Frolunda’s U-20 team, including an eight goals in seven games run in the playoffs, and did not look out of place playing against men with the Swedish Elite League entry. A strong-two way game and some strength in the faceoff dot may see him continue as a center, however given the Islanders depth down the middle, he may have find a spot on the wing if he wants to crack the Isles NHL roster.

Andrej Pedan, D – Guelph Storm (OHL)
3rd round, 63rd overall
Height: 6’4 Weight: 201 lbs

Using the third rounder acquired from Colorado for a fourth rounder last year, the Islanders added further size to the blue line ranks with the selection of 6’4 Andrei Pedan. A Lithuanian by birth, Pedan was a fixture on the Russian blue line at the recent World U-18 tournament. A first round pick by Dynamo Moscow in the 2010 KHL Draft, Pedan opted for the OHL as a development path. Although he initially seemed to struggle to adapt to the pace and physicality of the small-ice game, Pedan improved as the season wore on. By the playoffs, Pedan was on the top pairing and generating offense while being matched against the opposition’s top forwards, finishing with eight assists in just six games. A very strong skater with mobility that may be surprising for someone with his lanky frame, Pedan also has a very heavy shot and a crisp first pass. A player who has an upward trajectory of development, Pedan was taken a few rounds earlier than expected by the Islanders who obviously feel he has a high ceiling and the will to achieve his full potential.

Robbie Russo, D – USNTP (USHL)
4th round, 95th overall
Height: 6’0 Weight: 186 lbs

Stepping up in the fourth round, Islanders GM Garth Snow was able to snap up one of the draft’s top value picks in defender Robbie Russo, a player most experts had predicted would be taken in the second round. A mature and composed puck-mover, Russo was the top scorer amongst defenseman for the USNTP squad this year and was a stand-out player for the USA at the World U-18 tournament. Entrusted in all situations and excelling at reading the game, Russo was a key performer for the USA at that tournament and he was a familiar sight on the ice when the game was on the line. Born and raised in the Chicago suburb of Westmont, Russo will attend Notre Dame next season. Still relatively small by NHL standards, the 6’0 and 186 pound blueliner will have plenty of time to bulk up within the NCAA schedule and, most importantly for Islander fans, practice setting up teammate Anders Lee for scoring chances.

John Persson, LW – Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
5th round, 125th overall
Height: 6’2 Weight: 199 lbs

A 33 goal scorer in his second WHL season, Persson showed he has found the range in North America after just seven goals as a rookie with the Rebels. A rangy 6’2 winger who models his game after countryman Johan Franzen, this would be mule caught the eye of Islanders scouts with his physical play and ability to take a knock to score a goal. Even dropping the gloves this season, Persson has shown a deadly serious intent to make a name for himself in the rough and tumble WHL. The Rebels first round pick in the CHL Import Draft struggled along with the rest of the team through a dismal year last season, however this year the Swedish power-forward project was able to impose himself on the game and find a happy hunting ground in front of the opposition’s net. Not blessed with quick feet and more of a north-south winger, Persson may not need to be much of a skater if he continues to thrive by finishing in the blue ice.

Brendan Kichton, D – Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
5th round, 127th overall
Height: 5’10 Weight: 175 lbs

Making a quick return to the podium, the Islanders used their second fifth rounder, acquired from Atlanta last year to select overage WHL defender Brenden Kichton. One of the surprise performances in the WHL this season, Kichton was the catalyst for a remarkably strong season in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Spokane Chiefs. Undrafted last year, Kichton was invited to the Detroit Red Wings training camp but was still recovering from a broken hand and couldn’t show his best. On his return to the Chiefs, Kichton sparked a 29-8-6 run for his team and finished the season with 23 goals and 81 points in 64 games and posted a startling plus-55 rating. Kichton’s superb run of form took the Chiefs all the way to the WHL semi-finals where they finally bowed out to Nino Niederreiter and the Portland Winterhawks in six games. Although still thought to be too small at 5’11 for the NHL, there is no questioning Kichton’s ability to run a power play and generate offense from the blue line. Described by some scouts as a Dan Boyle-lite the Chief’s top blueliner silenced his critics this year and will look to form a further rebuttal next season to those who say he won’t make it at the next level.

Mitchell Theoret, C – Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL)
7th round, 185th overall
Height: 6’1 Weight: 210 lbs

Having traded their sixth round pick to Phoenix for Al Montoya, the Islanders had to wait until the seventh round to make their final selection, Niagara Ice Dog Mitchell Theoret. A rugged checking forward from Montreal, the 6’2 and 210 pound forward is believed to have hidden offensive upside that may come out with an expanded role for the Ice Dogs next year. A team-first player, Theoret accepted his checking-line assignment on a stacked team and applied himself to the role without complaint, finishing with nine goals, 11 assists and seven fights in 66 games. The wide-bodied forward has shown flashes of quick hands around the net, in particular a goal against the Oshawa Generals in Game two of their playoff series where he beat three defenders and calmly finished through the five hole. With several top line Niagara players looking to graduate to the pro ranks, Islanders first round pick Ryan Strome potentially amongst them, Theoret may get an expanded role next season.

Ian Altenbaugh also contributed to this article.