Islanders D-Day: Draft Recap
You couldn't have been more wrong if you predicted the Islanders to take a forward in this year's draft. The Isles only selected defenseman out of all seven rounds of this year's draft. They also acquired the top four defenseman that GM Garth Snow has continuously talked about addressing in this off-season.
The first move came when NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the Islanders traded their 2013 second round pick to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Lubomir Visnovsky, a 35-year old defenseman (he turns 36 in August) in the final year of his contract. Visnovsky put up six goals and 21 assists for 27 points in 68 games last year with the Ducks. The year before was even better as the Ducks d-man scored 61 points in 81 games. 2012 was a tough year overall for the Ducks, so there's reason to believe that Visnovsky can be that same offensive weapon he was two seasons ago, especially on the power play. (Photo Credit: bridgetds/Flickr).
The team's defense was very weak last year, boasting a core that included Milan Jurcina, Mark Eaton, Mike Mottau and Steve Staios. In many ways, the poor defense unit could have been responsible for the lack of offense that came at the start of the year that caused the team to struggle so early on. All of the above were either way past their prime, oft-injured or just downright sloppy in their own end. Captain Mark Streit, Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald were the only real locks heading into next year with Matt Donovan likely having earned a spot with Calvin de Haan and Aaron Ness joining him for competition. Visnovsky will add a stabile veteran presence that will hopefully alleviate some of the pressure that Streit dealt with last year and will be someone that the younger guys can learn from.
He also could turn into a trading chip at the deadline, depending on where the Islanders are in the standings since he only has one year remaining on his contract. And don't be surprised if you hear Mark Streit mentioned in that type of scenario as well. But we'll save those talks for February. Right now Visnovsky is only a short term solution.
That's why the Islanders continued to stock pile their defense. With the fourth overall pick in this year's draft, Snow selected Griffin Reinhart, who led the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL in scoring on defense with 12 goals in 58 games to go along with 24 assists and 36 points. He also brings size with his offense, clocking in at 6'4 and 207 pounds. Reinhart comes from a strong hockey bloodline as well. His father Paul played over 600 games for both the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames and his brother Max was also drafted by the Flames in 2010. His younger brother Sam will be eligible for the 2014 draft as well. (mandelux12/Flickr)
According to many scouts, Reinhart possesses all the tools to develop into a number one NHL defenseman. Some have said he even might be NHL ready now. But for a team that has rushed some players in the past and has plenty of young, NHL ready defenseman looking for roster spots, there is no reason why he shouldn't spend at least one more season in the WHL before getting a look with the Islanders.
Reinhart joins a young group of defense prospects in addition to the aforementioned players. There is also Scotty Mayfield, the 34th overall selection in last year's draft as well as Andrey Pedan and Brenden Kichton. Although it has been a long road, Garth Snow has efficiently stock piled his system with young, talented prospects from the net out.
But Reinhart wasn't where it stopped. Snow selected Ville Pokka with the 34th overall selection in the 2nd round. Pokka is a 5'11, 187 pound defenseman out of Finland. In 35 games he had three assists but did put up seven points in four games with Karpat Jr. of the FInland Jr. squad. Adam Pelech would be the team's next choice on the blue line, going in the third round as the 65th overall selection. The 6'2, 210 pound defenseman played with the Erie Otters of the OHL last year and amassed two goals and 18 assists for 20 points in 44 games played.
The team has continued to add size to their blue line with fourth round selection Loic Leduc out of Cape Breton of the QMJHL. The 6'6 and 194 pound defenseman apparently plays physical, tallying 99 penalty minutes in 65 games played along with ten points. Their fifth round selection was Doyle Somerby, another big kid at 6'5 and 220 pounds. He played for Kimball Union out of High School-NH and scored one goal and 15 assists in 31 games. Niagara Ice Dogs defenseman Jesse Graham was the Isles sixth round choice. Slightly smaller in stature at 5'11 and 170 pounds, Graham possesses strong offensive ability. He racked up 41 points (four goals and 37 assists) in 68 games with the Ice Dogs. Jake Bischoff would close out the seventh round for the Isles; a 6'0 178 pound d-man that had 38 points in 24 games this season with Grand Rapids of High-MN.
As of now, it appears that the Islanders have completed their draft day acquisitions. They added their top four defenseman without trading away any prospects - something that Garth Snow previously alluded too. But with seven defense prospects added to the system, Snow still has the assets to make another deal for another top four defenseman or top six forward. The question comes down to, 'will he?' As mentioned previously by myself and every other blogger out there, free agency has continued to rear its ugly head at the Islanders every time Snow has picked up the phone. A trade might be the only way for Snow to continue to improve his team, whether it be for depth on defense or offense, or even for a top six forward.
When looking at the past, it's hard to suggest that there's any reason to expect an elite player joining this franchise. The only suggestive difference is that Snow has clearly been active with working the phones. Let's see if he has any more tricks up his sleeve.