Islanders 2005 draft review

By Gregory Maker

The New York Islanders held the No. 15 position in the draft, which meant that the snaking aspect made it feel like most other drafts, with the selections about 30 players apart. They did make some trades along the way, and in the end GM Mike Milbury selected seven players, led by center Ryan O’Marra of the Erie Otters, the first North American selected in the first round by the Islanders since 2000 when they took Rick DiPietro (1st overall) and Raffi Torres (6th overall).

Milbury selected one center, three wings, and three defensemen. Three players were drafted out of the OHL, two out of the WHL, one out of the BCHL, and one out of U.S. High School East. The Islanders drafted five Canadians, one Finn, and one American. This draft marked the first time since 1986 that the Islanders did not select a player out of a European league.

Ryan O’Marra, C – Erie Otters (OHL)
Round 1 – 15th overall
6’1, 193 lbs.
Shoots: Right
Born: June 9, 1987
Birthplace: Tokyo, Japan

Raised in Mississauga, Ontario, O’Marra was projected to be a top ten pick as well as a safe pick. Milbury picked him up at No. 15. O’Marra is a character player, similar to former Islanders captain Michael Peca in his style of play. He is a great leader, who will produce a decent number of points (25 goals, 38 assists in 64 games last season).

O’Marra was a key member of the gold medal winning Team Ontario in the under 17 tournament where he scored 8 points in 6 games. He was an Assistant Captain on Team Canada in the August 2004 under 18 championships where he scored 5 points in 5 games. He played in the 2005 CHL Top Prospects game and did very well in the skating categories in the skills contest. O’Marra is a very skilled center with a good set of wheels. He handles the puck well and has a very good shot. He can score from many areas of the ice and doesn’t shy away from playing in traffic.

O’Marra will join the Islanders at training camp before reporting back to Erie for another year of junior hockey. O’Marra played with fellow Islanders prospect defenseman and AHL All-Rookie Team selection for 2004-2005 Chris Campoli in Erie.

Dustin Kohn, D – Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
Round 2 – 46th overall
6’1 182 lbs.
Shoots: Left
February 2, 1987
Birthplace: Edmonton, Alberta

With their second selection, the Islanders took defenseman Dustin Kohn from Calgary of the WHL, the first of two selections out of this league.

After playing a supporting role with the Calgary Hitmen in 2003-04, a season where he played both forward and defense, Kohn made a big impact from the blueline in 2004-05. Kohn quickly solidified his position on the club’s top pairing en route to tops amongst defensemen in scoring with 43 points in 71 games. The improvement in Kohn’s game came at both ends of the ice. While the 6’1 defenseman saw his offensive output rise from just nine points one season ago, defensively Kohn became much more reliable as well.

Involved in all special teams activity, Kohn saw a spike in confidence as the Hitmen coaching staff increased his ice time. Although the Edmonton, AB native finished just two points shy of finishing amongst the top ten defensemen in the league for total points, it was his top 50 finish in plus/minus that Kohn took even greater pride in. It was both of these statistics that helped earn Kohn a position on Team Cherry in the CHL Top Prospects game, opening the eyes of many scouts. At the conclusion of the 2004-05 regular season, the Calgary Hitmen named Kohn the club’s top defenseman.

A scout told Hockey’s Future before the draft, “He’s a hard guy to put a value on. He has great skills but he doesn’t play as tough as I’d like him to. He’s not that big but he’s a great skater and he’s an offensive threat. ”

Kohn will return to junior hockey in 2005-06.

Shea Guthrie, C – St. George’s (USHSE)
Round 3 – 76th overall
6’0 187 lbs.
Shoots: Right
Born: July 30, 1987
Birthplace: Almonte, Ontario

In the third round the Islanders took another center, Shea Guthrie out of St. George’s High School in Newport, Rhode Island.

Guthrie enjoyed an excellent senior year with St. George’s, playing a vital role in leading the Dragons to their first ever ISL/New England Division II title. He finished his final season with 50 points (26 goals, 24 assists). Guthrie earned numerous honors for his outstanding season that included the ISL’s Eberheart Division MVP, a selection to the All-England Division II First Team as well as the NEPSIHA and U. S. Hockey Report (USHR) Division II Player of the Year awards. He was also named to the Boston Globe’s All-Scholastic Team for the second year in a row.

St. George’s head coach Ryan Mulhern’s insights on Shea Guthrie: “He is one of the best players that I’ve seen at his age and what sets him apart from most kids is his natural speed. He is extremely explosive but glides faster than most high school players going all out. He is extremely agile and can stop and go all day. He has a great set of hands, a nose for the net, and exceptional passing skills. He is a competitor, a leader, and one of the classiest players that I’ve ever seen. Shea is a great hockey player and an even better person. He has really improved his defensive play over the last three years and has a great understanding of the game. Whatever team drafts Shea will be lucky to have him and he will do whatever it takes to play in the NHL.”

Guthrie will attend Clarkson University of the ECAC in Potsdam, NY this fall as a freshman along with the Islanders sixth round selection defenseman Tyrell Mason this fall. Clarkson has produced NHL talent in the past, most recently Carolina left wing Erik Cole.

Masi Marjamaki, RW – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Round 5 – 144th overall
6’2 202 lbs.
Shoots: Left
Born: January 16, 1985
Birthplace: Pori Statkunta, Finland

Marjamaki is the only European player selected by the Islanders in the 2005 NHL entry draft. Originally from Finland, Marjamaki began his junior career with the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL in 2002-03. He was drafted 66th overall by Boston in the 2003 NHL entry draft, but was not signed and re-entered the draft this year. His junior career, all in the WHL has spanned 179 games. Marjamaki scored 120 points (50 goals, 70 assists) during his junior career.

Marjamaki helped Team Finland win the bronze medal at the 2004 World Juniors, where he totaled 3 points in seven games. His 2004-05 season was disrupted by injury problems early on, but the Warriors captain still completed 51 games for a total of 46 points (14 goals, 32 assists) and 49 penalty minutes. He was part of Team Finland once again for the 2005 WJC, and went scoreless in six games.

Marjamaki is an agitator with a gritty style of play, and also an adept stickhandler who can maneuver the puck well. Increased ice time has helped his game tremendously and he’s demonstrated an ability to put up some points. He also brings a highly developed work ethic and leadership skills to his game, something that has earned him a spot as team captain, and will no doubt help his progress further down the line.

Marjamaki along with seventh round selection Luciano Aquino are the two picks by the Islanders in this draft most likely to end up in Bridgeport of the AHL next season.

Tyrell Mason, D – Salmon Arm Silver Backs (BCHL)
Round 6 – 180th overall
6’1 167 lbs.
Shoots: Left
Born: March 12, 1986
Birthplace: Grand Prairie, Alberta

Tyrell Mason is coming off an impressive two years in the BCHL with Salmon Arm. In 110 games, the defenseman recorded 78 points (13 goals, 55 assists). In 2003-04 he played with 2004 first round selections Travis Zajac, center (20th overall, New Jersey) who is now at the University of North Dakota, and Kris Chucko (24th overall, Calgary) who is at the University of Minnesota.

Mason has the height but he is lanky. At only 167 pounds, he is going to have to add a good bit of weight if he is ever going to get a contract in pro hockey. Mason will be attending Clarkson University in the fall. He will more than likely play out his eligibility there before getting any consideration for a spot in the Islanders organization. He will play at Clarkson with third round selection Shea Guthrie.

Nicholas Tuzzolino, D – Sarnia Sting (OHL)
Round 7 – 196th overall
6’5 225 lbs.
Shoots: Right
Born: January 19, 1986
Birthplace: Buffalo, NY

As the draft neared the end, Milbury went with size in the form of big man Nicholas Tuzzolino from upstate New York. Tuzzolino made the transition successfully from the USHL to the OHL, recording 22 points in 67 games with Sarnia in 2004-05. After being overlooked in his first year of his draft eligibility while playing for Lincoln in the USHL, he made some improvements in his game as the year progressed.

On a weak Sting team he saw a lot of ice time and was put into situations that he might not have had the opportunity to play in if he were on a stronger club. With a team-worst -29 rating, he had his moments where he was burned, but the big American will be that much stronger for it this year as Sarnia looks to rebound. Tuzzolino killed penalties and played a regular shift in his rookie year and that should continue next season as well.

An anonymous scout told Hockey’s Future before the draft, “The biggest knock on him might be his defensive play, which might sound odd for a real tall and big defenseman. He’s more of an offensive guy than a defensive guy, but his all around game came a long ways. He’s got great vision and he can move the puck from the point, he’s got very good hands for a point man his size. He’s got more vision and ability and sense on the offensive side of the puck than you would expect when you look at him. His play around his own net has to improve and he has to get meaner and use his reach a little better than he does, but to play at his size, he needs to take some penalty minutes and get in people’s faces and so far he’s not that guy.”

Luciano Aquino, C – Brampton Battalion OHL
Round 7 – 210th overall
5’9 198 pounds
Shoots: Left
Born: January 26, 1985
Birthplace: Mississauga, Ontario

Aquino is coming off a good year in the OHL, making the transition from college hockey where he played for the University of Maine. Aquino is small in stature but is quick and has good skill. He recorded 71 points (25 goals, 46 assists) in his only OHL season. Now 20 years old, he’s ready to turn pro. He stands a good chance to end up in Bridgeport of the AHL next season or at least the ECHL.

Jason Ahrens, Aaron Vickers, D.J. Powers, and Janine Pilkington contributed to this report. Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.