Islanders 2002 Draft Review

By Bill Bennett

All in all it was a mixed bag for many Islander fans over the weekend, they improved the prospect base in some areas, but did not improve in the area where they are most lacking on the back line. Two trades were made that left me wondering why ?

1. Sean Bergenheim C, Jokerit Finland, 22nd pick.

The Islander website says their scouting staff had Bergenheim ranked 11th on their scouting list for the Draft. “Picking at 22nd, I thought we’d be able to get someone in the 8th to 13th range [on our list],” said GM Mike Milbury. “I think for [Head Amateur Scout] Tony [Feltrin], I could say we were very happy Sean was available.”

Described as ” A complete package ” by Isles lead European Scout, Anders Kallur, Bergenheim is considered the fastest player in the 2002 draft, with attitude and competitiveness to match. “I love his character,” said Kallur. “It’s first-rate. He competes every shift and is a real team player. He is a very good skater and will score some goals.” “He has the upside to be a second liner,” said Kallur. “He’s going to see more playing time the next season. That will definitely help him. He plays for one of the best clubs in Finland in Jokerit.”

Bergenheim spent the first part of the 2001-02 season with the junior team in Vantaa before joining Jokerit in the Finnish Elite League, which captured Finland’s league championship. Bergenheim was 2-2-4 in 28 games for Jokerit’s senior team.

He was a member of Team Finland at the 2002 World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic, which captured the Bronze medal. He notched one assist in seven games. Bergenheim represented Finland at the 2002 World Under-18 Championship in Slovakia, leading his team in scoring and ranking seventh in the tournament’s scoring race (8-4-12 in eight games played).

Questions: The question on Bergenheim’s game at this point is his ability to score. As for the Islanders it was an interesting pick for a team that needed defense and saw Babchuk go to Chicago one pick earlier. The Isles are very deep at the center position for the future so clearly the pick of Bergenheim reflects a strategy of taking the best player available. Of course there were about a dozen players rated ahead of Bergenheim taken later with better offensive numbers, so time will tell with this pick.

3. Franz Nielsen C, Malmo Jr, Swe, 87th pick.

Nielsen is a 5-11, 192-pounder who shoots left.
In 29 games this past season, Nielsen posted some hefty numbers — 15 goals, 27 assists and 42 points.

“He’s a highly intelligent player,” said Head Amateur Scout Tony Feltrin. “He’s a very skilled player who is very creative with the puck. His hockey sense and accountability for his own zone are very good.”

Nielsen is going to need some time to develop, according to the Islanders’ scouting staffers. “He needs to get a lot stronger,” said Feltrin. “That’s going to play heavily into his development into being able to play in North America.”

Questions: Clearly it’s going to take some time for Nielsen to develop. After Branislav Mezei, the Isles have no player in it’s organization on defense that was drafted higher  than fifty. The good news is the Isles have a lot of prospects at center at the College, European, and AHL levels.

5. Markus Paulsson F, Morrums, Swe, 149th pick.

Acquired on Saturday in the deal that sent Mariusz Czerkawski to Montreal for Arron Asham. He is 6-1, 183 pounds and appeared in 31 games for Morrums, scoring one assist, four penalty minutes and a -8 rating, shoots left handed.

“Don’t let the stats fool you,” said Islanders scout Doug Gibson, “this guy is a very good skater and puck handler. He’s raw in a lot of areas and hasn’t played at a top level yet. There’s lots of room to grow. That will come with playing and more coaching.”

“This guy has a lot of upside,” said Gibson. “The potential is there. He comes from a very small town in Sweden. It’s going to be some time before he starts putting things together. He has a good frame that we expect will fill out well.”

Questions: Not too many questions about this pick, size and strength, also he has to grow some more.

This pick has been called a steal in some circles and was drafted in the CHL import draft by the Saskatoon Blades, with a full background article in on Thursday.

6. Alexei Stonkus D, Yaroslavl, Rus.

The blueliner was rated 29th among non-goalies by NHL Central Scouting.

The defenseman is a 5-11, 175-pounder that patrols the blueline for perennial Russian powerhouse Yaroslavl. What the scouting staff likes about the Russian is his physical game, not the most common trait among young Europeans. Stonkus played for Russia’s Under-18 Championship team this past season. Isles scout Tony Feltrin says “He’s physical, he plays with an edge,” “He is a good open ice hitter and moves the puck well. I like his mobility.” In eight games with Yaroslavl, Stonkus had one assist and 12 penalty minutes.

Questions: Only problem I have with the selection is this was the Isles top defensive draft pick and it’s the sixth round. Aside from that I like this pick a lot.

7. Brad Topping G, Brampton OHL

Topping, the 16th-ranked North American goalie by NHL Central Scouting, played in 50 games, recording a 3.42 goals against average and a .903 save percentage.

The netminder is a combination butterfly-standup style goaltender at 6-1, 185 lb.

“I like his package,” said Islanders’ OHL scout Doug Gibson. “He has very good size and he’s very athletic. Topping faced a ton of shots this year. His stats don’t do him much justice to be honest.”

“Every time I saw Brad play this season, he gave his team a chance to win,” he said. “That’s important for every goaltender.”

Questions: Outside of puckhandling, this is a very good pick. The Islanders needed to add a goalie to the prospect base as Andy Chiodo may become the starter for St. Michaels next season and is the only other prospect in the organization, outside of David St.Germain with Trenton. (ECHL)

8. Martin Chabada, LW, Sparta Praha (Czech)

This past season with Sparta Praha, Chabada scored 19 goals and 40 points in 51 games along with a +29 rating and 113 penalty minutes. It was a far cry from his 2000-01 numbers, just nine goals and 19 points in 43 contests. Chabada is 6-1, 203 lbs.

“He had a very good year,” said Isles’ European scout Karel Pavlik, who once coached Chabada. “He skated on the first line with the league champion. That is impressive. I like his offensive instincts. They are very good. He can skate and handle the puck.”

Pavlik believes the talented Czech, who hails from Kladno, the same hometown as Jaromir Jagr, may be able to come over this fall and compete for a job in training camp.

To play in North America next season, Chabada needs to be signed by July 15.

Questions: Chabada cannot be considered a prospect, because he is twenty five and clearly a gamble at a point in the draft where you take veterans. The Ct Post on Wednesday wrote that he may be coming over to play for Bridgeport.

9. Per Braxenholm D, Morrum (Sweden)

Braxenholm has good size at 6-2, 210 pounds.

“He’s a North American style player,” said Isles’ European Scouting guru Anders Kallur. “He loves to take the body and be physical. He’s a good skater and I see no major weaknesses in his game.”

Braxenholm split the season in Sweden’s junior league in Kallinge before being promoted to the “A” league with Morrum late in the year.

“I liked what I saw in those 15 games,” said Kallur. “They were a high-pressure time for that team and he fit right in.”

Questions: None

Trades: The bigger story about
the Isles 2002 draft at this point has to be the three trades Mike Milbury made with his third rd pick,  fourth rd pick and the trade of Maruisz Czerkawski.

Godard Trade:
In this kind of draft, a third round pick for a physical winger (on a roster full of physical wingers) is a very high price to pay. Godard was playing for Bridgeport as a Panthers prospect. This seems like a move the Isles could have given a much later pick for, when you consider Bridgeport at this moment has Jim Cummins and Dave Roche.

Timmander Trade:

The Isles dealt the fourth round pick for Timmander, and even though it’s hardly a steal in this kind of draft, one look at the Isles game seven roster against the Leafs says they needed to do this. Timmander is not a physical defender, but eats minutes and plays a steady game. Only problem here is the Isles have several fifth defenders, what they need is a true defender who can replace Jonsson, Aucoin, Hamrlik and with the new faceoff rules, it will no longer be possible to play Aucoin the minutes he saw last season. Peter Laviolette is familiar with his game from playing in Boston, so this may be a Bates kind of hunch.

Czerkawski trade:

Clearly it was time for Mariusz to move on because he could never get his game going here last season. It’s a shame because he really carried a bad team for a few years and instead of twenty wins, the Isles could have easily set new records for futility without his production.

He was tied for the pre season scoring title, had moments in his season where he scored the kind of goals that should get any player with his skills going overtime (Carolina) hat-trick (Washington) but the consistency never came as he did not produce enough on either of the top two lines. And there were too many nights he was invisible.

Mike Milbury traded as if he could not leave Toronto with Czerkawski on the roster and when you are talking about a player with a three year average of thirty goals, you have to do better than this. I was left with the impression Milbury was trading against himself and settled for a lot less.

It’s summer, he is not getting paid, someone would have taken his salary in a deal at some point, which is below market for his scoring. Montreal will be competing with the Isles for a playoff spot and this trade is a big risk if Czerkawski scores for Montreal.

The Isles saved over five million dollars on the trade, and can put it toward a winger for Yashin, but it’s not a good move for this return, he could have been included in several possible trades.

The next question is where does Arron Asham fit on the Isles ?

He is considered a gritty, third line banger, listed as a center/right wing. He is only twenty three and has some upside and a scoring background. But these are two positions on the Island that are set for the most part unless the fourth line is altered by trade.

The impression I have about Asham is that he played for a very injured Montreal organization, with job openings, and could never win a full-time spot thru playoff-less seasons. He is going to have to step up and do more than hit to win a job on this roster. This move leaves me with the impression he will replace Mats Lindgren in the stands, or Claude Lapointe, in his final contract year.


The Ct Post also reported that Chris Armstrong and likely Marko Tuomainen will be playing overseas next season.