TCL Isles Round Table Discussion: The Islanders 1st Round 5th Overall Pick
The NHL offseason is officially underway as the Stanley Cup Finals came to a close when the Los Angeles Kings earned their 2nd Stanley Cup championship in the last 3 years. For the New York Islanders, the focus now shifts to the NHL entry draft running from June 27-28th at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA.
Many Islanders fans will be in attendance at Nassau Coliseum for the annual draft party, more information can be found here. The Islanders hold the 5th overall pick in the draft and a lot of options the team can go with the selection.
I've summoned some of the TCL Isles staff to weigh in on what the Islanders should do with this year’s selection. You will see a variety of feedback from our team of writers whether it’s making a trade, drafting another prospect, and simply focusing on winning now.
The New York Islanders have added plenty of depth to their farm system over the years and have a wealth of prospects in Bridgeport, as well as the Junior level. With free agency consistently rearing its ugly head at GM Garth Snow whenever he has attempted to add top level free agents, this is the year that the pick should be moved in order to add an impact player. With Thomas Vanek and Matt Moulson having vacated a spot on the top line, the Isles could trade the pick for a first line winger to play with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo. Additionally, the Isles still need a top pairing defenseman. Either a crease clearing d-man with size, or a power play quarterback would be a major upgrade to the Isles' defense corps.
With that said, if the Isles cannot use the pick in a trade that immediately improves the team's chances of making the playoffs, Snow should retain the pick and take the best player available. Having lost next year's first round pick to the Buffalo Sabres in the Vanek/Moulson swap, Snow should not just trade the pick for just a marginal player.
I think what the Isles do with the 5th overall pick will depend on a few things. The first, who is still available at #5? Obviously the trio of Reinhart, Ekblad and Bennett figure to go 1, 2 &3 but if a situation similar to what happened last year with Seth Jones and one of them is available you at 5, have to pick them no matter what.
Secondly, if the Isles have yet to acquire/sign a top 4 defenseman then you have to look at what the trade market holds in that area for the pick. I am obviously assuming that Dan Boyle isn't yet signed because all indications thus far are that he wants to go to a contender since he is in the twilight of his career at this point. Personally I can't say that I don't understand, he only has about 2 years left in the tank and it will be about that long before the Isles are competing heavily in my opinion.
Lastly, it will be important for them not to force any trade or movement. The #5 pick is a good one and no matter what, one of Reinhart, Ekblad, Bennett, Draisaitl and Dal Colle will be available. All of which are top caliber players that can help this roster long term. So in short, don't be afraid to shop the pick but also don't be afraid to keep it if there are no offers that blow Garth away.
With the fifth pick, there's only one sensible thing the Isles can do- trade the pick for someone who can help now and in the future. This team should be beyond the point of "building" and should be looking to finally put together a team that can contend. They've already added a goalie, they've made an attempt to fix the defense. The team realizes they need to win now.
I'm not advocating trading the pick for a 34-year old Patrick Marleau, but if they can add a legitimate difference maker in his mid- 20's, they should go for it. I've heard names like Evander Kane and Brad Marchand thrown around as possibilities to be moved. No doubt there are a dozen other guys out there that will be available for the right price. A 23 or 24 year old will be here for the long haul and is more of a sure thing than another 18 year old kid. Plus the team has three-2nd round picks this year and will have the opportunity to add some talented kids to their farm system.
I understand the trepidation of moving the pick. But until the Isles can prove they can sign high-end talent via free agency, then the trade market is the best way to add those kinds of players quickly. It's also time to capitalize on the play of John Tavares and Kyle Okposo. They aren't old, but you'd hate to keep wasting their prime seasons. The team can ill-afford to wait another three years before the pick has a chance to help the big club.
It also should be a priority to the team to move into a new arena with a playoff team and not a team based solely on "hope." With new ownership on the horizon it'd come as no surprise to see the team try to make a splash draft weekend, but not by selecting a player.
With the NHL draft rapidly approaching, the Isles' faithful should feel enthusiastic that Garth Snow has shown a desire to keep this year's pick 5th overall pick. Why? Simply, it is a sign that he doesn't plan on the team being in the basement again. The Islanders have had their fair share of top picks in the recent drafts and it is an unfortunate reality that not every one of them can contribute immediately. Unfortunately not everyone can be John Tavares. It takes time to mold these young players and season them enough to be successful at the NHL level. The Isles don't have the luxury of waiting. They have their franchise player and need contributors now not in 2019.
Michael Dal Colle, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Nick Ritchie are all highly touted prospects and could add to the already deep Isles' farm. However, they don't fill the gap NOW. The Islanders would be making a huge mistake by keeping this pick. They need to trade it and acquire a proven scorer to play alongside John Tavares. All eyes have to be on Evander Kane up in Winnipeg. He is only 22 and has showed 30 goals in the NHL as recently as 2012 with the Thrashers. Interestingly enough, if you paid attention to the drama in Winnipeg, you'd know that Kane and his coach had some differences that eventually saw the talented Evander becoming a healthy scratch.
If the Islanders can't get Winnipeg to bite on Kane, they have to send the pick elsewhere for a defensemen or another winger. But I certainly am confident that the stars could be alligning to see Kane in Islander blue and orange. Evander's character has been questioned and he has shown some immaturity in the past. When you cannot attract top level talent to Islanders, you have to note this as a risk that is worth taking. Kane has all of the skills to be a top tier NHL player and maybe playing with John Tavares could be the spark that puts him over the hump. He also signed an extension during the 2012-13 offseason for 6 years. If Garth could bring him here, we wouldn't risk him not resigning.
If the Islanders can make a trade for a player that they can hold onto for the long term then I would say yes trade the pick. If this isn’t the case then Garth Snow should keep the selection and bring in another young piece for the future. With no first round pick next year it is important for the Islanders to get the most out of this year’s selection. This selection is crucial with no 1st round choice in 2015 as of now but again that can also change over the next year. With Brooklyn less than a year away it’s important for the Islanders to keep sending the message to their fans that the attitude is winning now.
I hope to see many of you at the draft party as this will begin the final year of Islanders hockey at Nassau Coliseum.
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