Isles Look For Another Big Draft Day
The Islanders have been running a countdown promotion on their official web page that has been highlighting different prospects as they inch closer to this year's NHL Draft. The weekend begins on June 24th and the Islanders contain the fifth overall selection after moving down one spot since the New Jersey Devils won this year's lottery, moving from 8th to 4th overall.
Although they moved back one spot, the Islanders still have a top-five draft pick that can bring the team another cornerstone player in their rebuild.
Players like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson and Sean Courtier will likely be taken by the time the Islanders step up to the podium. But other candidates like Ryan Strome, Doug Hamilton, Ryan Murphy and Jonathan Huberdeau will be of worthy consideration.
Strome is coming off his second season in the OHL, his first full season with the Niagara Ice Dogs. As a 6'1, 183 pound center, he appeared in 65 games and scored 33 goals, 73 assists and 106 points, a significant improvement after only scoring 27 points in 61 games the previous year that was split between the Ice Dogs and the Barrie Colts. He also proved to be a valuable playoff performer, scoring 12 points in 14 games played this year. His two-way play seems to be strong as well with a +28 rating. The Islanders already have a play-making center in Josh Bailey, but adding another one to the mix couldn't hurt, especially since Bailey has yet to have his breakout season.
Doug Hamilton is a current teammate of Strome's and had a solid year as well with the Niagara Ice Dogs. According to a rank by ISS (International Scouting Services) that was published back in April, Head Scout Ross MacLean feels that Hamilton "is an explosive skater for a big guy, has tons of room to build on his frame and for the most part displays a still very raw skill set. He would be an exciting addition for any NHL team and is the kind of player development coaches’ dream of getting to work with.” He's 6'4, 193 pounds and still growing. He tallied 12 goals, 46 assists and 58 points in 67 games this season after only managing 16 points the year before, proving that he can possibly develop to even more of a force on the blue line.
Ryan Murphy had an outstanding year as another offensive blue liner for the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL. Although he is only 5'11 and 176 pounds, he managed to finish the year with 79 points in 63 games, an impressive stat that saw 26 goals along with 53 assists. His size shouldn't be too much of a concern since he is still young and filling out his frame. But like Hamilton, the Islanders can use an offensive minded defenseman that can become the backbone of the defensive corps once players like Streit, Mottau and Eaton move on.
Jonathan Huberdeau may come across as a rather smallish face-off man at 6'1 and 171 pounds, but he clearly has a great skill set after the season he just had with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL. Last year he only put up 35 points in 61 games, but this year he tripled his production with a 105 point finish, racking up 43 goals and 62 assists in 67 games. What might be even more noteworthy is that he put up an additional 30 points in 19 playoff games this year as well. He was ranked as the 7th best prospect in the top-10 according to ISS, but he could go higher with the way he played this year.
The Islanders have plenty of depth on offense and could see that development come to light with the addition of Nino Niederreiter into the lineup, something that almost everyone is expecting after the year he just had with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. But anyone will tell you that the draft is not about taking a player based on what you need, but taking the best player that is available when you step up to the microphone. The "best player" is determined by statistics, scouting reports, the combine's multiple series of tests, and of course the interviews that reveal the type of character that makes the player exactly who he is.
There is always the possibility that GM Garth Snow will be active that day, making moves as he has done in the past. He has only moved down once and has stayed put twice when drafting in the first round. He has also moved up in two of the past three first rounds, obtaining the 12th overall selection in 2009 to draft defenseman Calvin de Haan and 30th overall last year to pick center-man Brock Nelson. I would be surprised if Snow only makes his pick at the fifth slot and calls it a day. As for those of you who think Snow will trade this pick to land a top-tier forward, don't bet your money on it. The team expects to make the playoffs next year but has not lost sight of the goal ahead of building towards the future. A fifth overall pick is not easy to come by and the organization probably hopes it will be their last in the top-10. If that's the case, they are going to pick right.
Regardless of who they draft, it will be a fun few weeks to speculate as to whom Garth Snow and co. will pick on June 24th.
On a side note, here is a fun video for Islanders fans to enjoy with highlights of the 2010-2011 season. It was posted by user bufmemaud and is absolutely excellent. It's hard to watch this video and not get pumped for what should be an exciting 2012.
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