As usual the Islanders have shown that the only luck they have is bad luck. Thanks to a victory on the last day of the season and now Chicago winning the draft lottery the Islanders have dropped from the 3rd overall pick down to the 5th. This drop will almost certainly rule out the selection one of the 4 premier prospects (Brendl, Stefan and the Sedins). Had the Isles stayed at the 4 slot they would have happily chosen whichever of these players was still available, most likey Henrik Sedin. However, now there is yet another window of oppurtunity for Mike Milbury to make a mistake. It is well known that Milbury has a penchant for making trades, especially involving first round picks. The Isles are currently involved in new arena negotiations, the outcome of which will drastically impact next year. If a new deal cannot be reached by early June, Milbury will be forced to cut payroll yet again. The dumping of veterans such as Pilon, Linden, and Smolinksi will vastly alter the Isles roster. Any deals will certainly yield some young, inexpensive players/prospects, like those for Isbister and Lindgren.
The Isles first round selection will have a great deal to do with what players they acquire in these deals if they do occur. Milbury usually picks the best available player regardless of position in the early rounds, though he has shyed away from Europeans and strayed with last year’s pick in Rupp. The Isles still have a good young defense and are as solid in goal as they’ve been since the cup years. They desperately need another goal scorer, particularly on the right side. Milbury still desires a legitimate number one center to play alongside Palffy, but won’t find one at the 5 slot. The Isles have plenty of depth down the middle with Lindgren, Linden, Smolinksi, Nabokov, and Krog expected to make the lineup. They are severly lacking a scorer behind Palffy and would do well to pick a player who can fill the net.
Jani Rita is a big powerful forward who plays a North American game, but hasn’t shown much of a scoring flair and had a drop in his final CSB rankings. Milbury seems to like these types of players and it would not surprise me if Rita was in an Isles jersey on draft day. However, I would much prefer Denis Shvidky a proven point producer. He has scored at every level, yet seems to have gone largely untouted this season despite his 35 goals and 94 points in 61 games. Svidky also played well at the WJC and stepped up his game in the playoffs with 7 goals and 16 points in only 12 games. I think it would be a mistake to select a center such as Lundmark or Connelly at the 5th spot for the Isles, given their depth at this position.
As we all know Milbury is always working the phones and a move up or down on draft day would come as no surprise. In the secod round the Islanders will also look for the best player, hoping someone has fallen through the cracks as Zehr did two years ago. Other possibilities for the 32nd pick include Brad Ralph, Mike Comrie, or Chris Kelly. Kelly has great speed is a teriffic two way player and had 36 goals and 77 points this past season. In the later rounds the Isles are interested in a pair of Swiss players, Flavien Conne and Luca Cereda. Conne scored 20 goals in the Swiss men’s league and showed well at the WJC. He is ranked 70th by CSB among European skaters, Cereda is ranked 14th.
In other news both Roberto Lungo and Chris Nielsen won their league titles and are in the Memorial Cup. This is Luongo’s second straight appearance. Both players were a large part of their teams success as Loungo posted a 16-6 record along with a 2.74 GAA and a .915 SV%. Nielsen managed 11 goals and 16 points in 21 games and scored several clutch goals despite playing against the opponents top lines.
The Islanders farm team, Lowell, made an early exit from the AHL post season but solid performances were turned in by Vladimir Orzagh (2-2-4) Warren Luhning (0-3-3) and Ray Giroux (1-1-2) in their 3 game sweep.
The top prospect list will be updated and edited after the draft with a report on all draftees as well as some other new entries.