(April 10) Although the NHL Entry Draft is over two months away, the
Islanders will probably need every last minute to mull over the
variety of intriguing options they have facing them in the first
The most interesting of all could be dealing the pick, which after
the lottery could be as good as No. 1 or, in the most likely
scenario, be No. 4 or No. 5. Since the Islanders would be in position
at 4 or 5 to grab an excellent prospect but not a blue-chip bonafide
front-liner, the franchise could decide it has enough youth for now
and swap the pick for a more established player.
(We think the only people who would be really irritated with trading
the pick would be the staff here at your friendly website. Imagine
working on our fancy Draft Central 2000 for 75 days, only to not
draft in the first round!).
Another option, assuming the Islanders don't win the lottery, could
be to take the pick, throw in another goodie the Islanders would miss
but deem expendable, and move up in the draft. Most scouts would tell
you if you ended up with Marian Gaborik or Dany Heatley, you would be
the team most likely to have added a future NHL All-Star to your
lineup. Would Minnesota, Columbus or Atlanta give up the chance to
tab a Heatley or Gaborik in favor of depth? We'll see.
Since most scouts agree picks 3 through 15 are a crapshoot -- there
are plenty of fine young players but no one that distinguishes
themselves away from the group like Heatley and Gaborik -- there are
other possibilities for the Islanders. They could trade their spot
for a veteran and a later pick. Or they could trade their top-five
choice for more picks in the earlier rounds, especially since one of
theirs went in the Felix Potvin trade.
Although this does not appear to be a draft where you can get a Tim
Connolly at 5 and a Taylor Pyatt at 10, the Islanders, pleased with
the results of last year's four-pronged assault in the first round,
could decide to go after more early picks. With plenty of depth in
goal and defense -- especially the kind of big, rangy defensemen
every team is looking for -- the staff could continue its search for
scoring forwards with an extra pick in the top ten.
And then, of course, the Islanders could simply stay put. Should the
Islanders take their turn at 4 or 5, they certainly would bring home
a top prospect. There's a heart-and-soul kid like Prince Albert
center Scott Hartnell, right now the consensus third choice, but he
could be on the board. There's this year's mystery, Dynamo LW Alexei
Smirnov, who irritates the same scouts who also insist he's too good
to go past the fifth spot. In Erie RW Nikita Alexeev and Calgary LW
Matt Pettinger, the club would have safe picks, top-six forwards with
the chance of someday getting on the first line.
If the Islanders decide to go for the best available player
regardless of position, defensemen Rostislav Klesla of OHL Brampton,
Boston College hitman Brooks Orpik and game-breaking Swede Lars
Jonsson could get the call. While the Islanders also seem to have
plenty of goaltending, Slovakian netminder Peter Hamerlik and Boston
University's Rick DiPietro (if he opts into the draft) may be just
too good to pass up.
Since this site loves wild cards, the Islanders would do well to take
a look at rangy Russian C Mihail Yakubov, potentially a perfect fit
as the big, No. 2 center behind Connolly. And then there's Klesla's
teammate in Brampton, C Raffi Torres. He's not big, fast or super-
skilled, but Torres makes plays and just never goes away.
So, with 74 days left until the draft, we have no answers for you --
only options. Plenty of them. Be assured the Islanders will be
weighing every one of them quite possibly until Gary Bettman calls
their name on June 24.