Islanders 2004 draft review

By Tom Liodice

New York Islanders General Manager Mike Milbury always loves to stir the pot on draft day. Normally general managers are quite tight-lipped when it comes to who their team will be drafting in the first round. Mike Milbury is no ordinary general manager though. He laid out some pretty specific guidelines to the press: no goaltenders, no Europeans. But one thing was sure to be certain; Milbury said that the Islanders pick would “shock the floor.” They did in fact select one goaltender, in addition to five forwards and four defensemen, and also selected four Europeans.

Petteri Nokelainen, C/W
Round 1 – 16th overall
6’1”, 187 lbs.
Shoots: Right
Born: January 16, 1986
Birthplace: Imatra, Finland
2003-2004 Team: SaiPa Lappeenranta (Finland SM-Liiga)

Even though Milbury did not hold to his word about drafting Europeans, the Islanders pick of Nokelainen did shock many on the floor, not just by going off the board, but by being one of the safest picks in the first round.

Ranked 10th among European skaters in the draft by CSS, Petteri Nokelainen has drawn comparisons to fellow Finn Jere Lehtinen. Nokelainen is a true competitor that plays a solid two-way game with very few mistakes. He is an excellent penalty killer with very soft hands. Competing in his first season of pro hockey with SaiPa Lappeenranta of SM-Liiga, Nokelainen has held his own for an 18-year-old and had a strong performance in the Under 18 WC’s, being in a four-way tie for the tournament scoring lead with 11 points in 6 games.

Blake Comeau, RW
Round 2 – 47th overall
6’2”, 198 lbs.
Shoots: Right
Born: February 18, 1986
Birthplace: Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada
2003-2004 Team: Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

Ranked 65th among North American skaters, the Islanders drafted a character player at the No. 47 spot in right wing Blake Comeau. With 123 PIM in 71 games, Comeau is the kind of player that the Islanders really need: a winger with some height that is not afraid to mix it up on the ice. With his passion and tenacity on the ice, Comeau also brings a winning history to the franchise. This past season, Comeau’s Kelowna Rockets won the prestigious Memorial Cup of the Western Hockey League, and just two seasons ago won a gold medal with Canada’s Under 18 team. Comeau is the type of player that can also be used in all situations; he can be used on the power play, can kill penalties and take many critical faceoffs.

Sergei Ogorodnikov, C
Round 3 – 82nd overall
6’1”, 185 lbs.
Shoots: Right
Born: January 21, 1986
Birthplace: Urkuresk, Russia
2003-2004 Team: THK Tver (Russia – Division I)

Ranked 11th among European skaters by CSS, the Islanders selected center Sergei Ogorodnikov at No. 82 overall. Ogorodnikov is a center with excellent vision. He also has great patience with the puck and has excellent hands. He scored three goals in six games for Team Russia in the 2004 World U-18 Tournament, and is expected to make a play for the Dynamo Moscow team in the Russian Super League next season.

Wes O’Neill, D
Round 4 – 115th overall
6’4”, 207 lbs.
Shoots: Left
Born: March 3, 1986
Birthplace: Windsor, Ontario, Canada
2003-2004 Team: Notre Dame (CCHA)

Considered one of the biggest steals of the 2004 Draft, the Islanders drafted Notre Dame defenseman Wes O’Neill in the fourth round. O’Neill was originally projected as a Top 10 pick, but when his stock slipped, the Islanders took advantage. O’Neill has all the tools to be a dominant physical NHL defenseman. He’s got a solid shot, able to move well for a big man and is quick enough to move into the play. O’Neill still has a few years to sharpen his skill, and will do so at Notre Dame University.

Steven Regier, LW
Round 5 – 148th overall
6’5”, 195 lbs.
Shoots: Left
Born: August 31, 1984
Birthplace: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
2003-2004 Team: Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)

One of the older players in the 2004 Draft after being passed over the past two years, left winger Steven Regier was taken in the fifth round. Standing at 6’5”, Regier is the tallest player that the Islanders picked in 2004. Even though at 195 lbs. and considered small for his size, Regier isn’t afraid to get in the mix as he totaled 111 PIM in 72 games. Regier is a player who loves to work hard, battle against the boards, and isn’t afraid to move into high traffic areas. In fact, one can compare Regier as a much taller version of current Islander Jason Blake.

Jaroslav Mrazek, D
Round 6 – 179th overall
6’3”, 200 lbs.
Shoots: Left
Born: January 14, 1986
Birthplace: Pisek, Czech Republic
2003-2004 Team: Sparta Praha (CZE Jun. League)

The Islanders added to their defensive corps by selecting Czech Republic native Jaroslav Mrazek in the sixth round. With the recent exit of former Islander Eric Cairns, Mrazek is the kind of player that the Islanders lack in their system right now, a tall, powerful defenseman. Mrazek is very solid in his own zone and always has his head up. He’s received much praise from his teammates from Sparta Praha, and also from Islander prospect Martin Chabada. Not only was Mrazek drafted by the Islanders, but he was also drafted by the Ontario Hockey League’s St. Michael’s Majors in the Canadian Hockey League’s Import Draft. This means that is Mrazek chooses to play Canadian major junior hockey, his exclusive rights will be held by St. Michael’s.

Emil Axelsson, D
Round 7 – 210th overall
6’3”, 198 lbs.
Shoots: Left
Born: March 19, 1986
Birthplace: Orebro, Sweden
2003-2004 Team: Orebro (SWE Div. I)

The Islanders continued their trend of drafting players 6 feet and taller when they drafted defenseman Emil Axelsson as their first seventh round pick. Axelsson is more of a defensive defenseman that likes to play with an edge. This is clearly evident as Axelsson racked up 83 PIM in 42 games. He’s a player with tons of character that could easily fit very well into the Islanders system.

Chris Campoli, D
Round 7 – 227th overall
6’0, 192 lbs.
Shoots: Left
Born: July 9, 1984
Birthplace: North York, Ontario, Canada
2003-2004 Team: Erie Otters (OHL)

The Islanders drafted their third straight defensemen by taking Chris Campoli from the OHL’s Erie Otters with their second seventh round pick. Campoli was the Otters second-leading scorer, totaling 20 goals, 46 assists for 66 points, and was team captain. He was also the recipient of the Canadian Hockey League’s Humanitarian Award for community service. Campoli has been passed up for the past two draft years, mainly because of his size, as he is considered small for a defenseman at only 6 feet. He has great hands and excellent hockey sense. Don’t be surprised if he competes for a spot in the AHL next year.

Jason Pitton, LW
Round 8 – 244th overall
6’2”, 196 lbs.
Shoots: Left
Born: May 23, 1986
Birthplace: Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
2003-2004 Team: Sault Ste-Marie Greyhounds (OHL)

The Isles drafted Sault Ste-Marie Greyhound, left winger Jason Pitton from the Ontario Hockey League. With 9 goals and 20 points in 67 games, Pitton has good fundamental skills. Although he was moved around a lot with his team, he has great potential and will fit in well with the Islanders organization.

Sylvain Michaud, G
Round 9 – 276th overall
5’11”, 196 lbs.
Catches: Left
Born: February 1, 1985
Birthplace: Repentigny, Quebec, Canada
2003-2004 Team: Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)

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