The New York Islanders draft history has been an interesting one to say the least. On the eve of the 2016 NHL Draft, we look back at their top draft classes in history.
The Islanders, along with the Atlanta Flames, became the 13th and 14th teams in the NHL. The expansion draft was held prior to the entry draft. Among their selections were goaltender Billy Smith, forward Ed Westfall and defenseman Gerry Hart. Believe it or not, Smith was the fourth goaltender selected in the draft. He wound up having the best career out of the four, winning 304 games in 17 seasons on the Island. “Battlin’ Billy” won four Cups and the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1983. Smith was indicted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1993.
Westfall was named the first captain in team history. He scored the first goal in team history, ironically enough in their first game against the Flames. Westfall played seven seasons with the Islanders before retiring following the 1978-79 season.
The team did quite well in the entry draft that season. New York held the top overall selection, and went with winger Billy Harris. The Toronto native started his career with six-straight 20-goal seasons, with a career-high 32 in 1975-76. Harris was not a part of the Cup-winning teams as he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings for Butch Goring on March 10, 1980.
Lorne Henning played his entire nine-year career with the Islanders. The center was a player/coach for the team in the 1980-81 season, becoming the last player/coach on a Stanley Cup-winning team. He became the head coach following Al Arbour’s retirement after the 1993-94 season. Henning had two separate stints as Islanders head coach.
Bob Nystrom was selected in the third round. “Mr. Islander” scored arguably the most memorable goal in team history, the Cup-clinching goal in Game 6 of the 1980 Final against the Philadelphia Flyers. Henning assisted on the goal. Nystrom played 900 games on the Island, scoring 20-plus goals seven times. The team retired his No. 23 in 1995.
Garry Howatt was selected in the 10th round. He scored a career-high 21 goals in the 1975-76 season. Known for their scrappy and energetic styke of play, Howatt and Nystrom formed the ‘Dynamic Duo”. He was a member of the 1980 and 81 Stanley Cup Champions. When he was traded prior to the start of the 1981-82 season, Howatt held the Islanders’ career penalty-minutes record (1,466) and career playoffs penalty-minutes record (279).
Few teams can boast that they drafted two future Hall of Famers in the same draft. The Islanders selected Clark Gillies fourth overall and Bryan Trottier 22nd overall. Gillies provided the Isles with an offensive and literal punch. Gillies had six 30-goal seasons for New York. The 2002 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee played 872 games, scoring 304 goals and 359 assists with the Islanders. His No. 9 was retired in 1996.
Trottier’s impact was felt immediately as he won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league top rookie. He scored a then rookie-record 95 points. Trots became the only Islander to win both the Art Ross Trophy as league’s top scorer and the Hart Memorial Trophy as NHL MVP. He won the Conn Smythe in 1980 scoring 29 points. In fact, Trottier scored 29 points in three straight postseasons. The seven-time all-star’s 1,353 points still rank first in team history. His 500 goals are second to Mike Bossy in team history.
Dave Langevin was selected in the 7th round. ‘Bam Bam” was strictly a stay-at-home defenseman. The 6’2″, 215 pound was named to the 1983 All-Star Team. A member of all four Stanley Cup-winning team, Langevin was named to the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 1993.
Stefan Persson was selected in the 14th round. The Swedish defenseman scored the Game-tying goal late in the third period in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. Persson scored five goals and ten assists during the team’s first Cup run. Also a member of all four Cup teams, Persson ranks in the top 20 in games played by a Swedish defenseman with 622.
It was not the quantity but the quality here. Mike Bossy was selected 15th overall. Arguably the best pure goal scorer in NHL history, Bossy had nine straight 50-plus goal seasons. His first, earned him the Calder Trophy.
Bossy became the second player in NHL history to score 50 goals in 50 games. He scored two goals late in the third period of the 50th game. The seven-time all-star scored a career-high 147 points in 1981-82, finishing third behind Wayne Gretzky and Trottier for the Hart Trophy. Back injuries ended his career at age 30. Despite the injury, Bossy managed to score 38 goals in 63 games in 1986-87. He finished his career scoring 573 goals in 752 games, averaging over 50 goals per season. Bossy was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991. His No. 22 was retired by the Islanders in 1992.
John Tonelli was selected 33rd overall. One of the better two-way forwards in Islanders history, Tonelli had eight 20- goal seasons, including two 30-and one 40-goal seasons. He assisted on Nystrom’s Cup-winning goal in 1980. Tonelli’s goal late in the third period in 1982 against the Colorado Rockies extended the Isles’ win streak to 15 straight games, a then NHL record. He played eight seasons on the Island scoring 206 goals.
Yes, it took 32 years for our next draft class. During that span Islander fans dealt with the wrath of Mike Milbury. Following Milbury’s destruction of the franchise, current general manager Garth Snow has done a fine job rebuilding the talent pool within the organization. It started with the 2008 draft with the likes of Josh Bailey, Travis Hamonic and Matt Martin, but the 2009 draft is where Snow really cashed in.
John Tavares was selected first overall. Tavares has been everything that New York imagined he would be. While his regular-season numbers were down this season, the two-time Hart Trophy nominee still managed to net 30+goals for the third time in his career. The captain carried the team on his back and advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1993. Tavares had 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 11 playoffs games this year.
Calvin de Haan was selected 12th overall. The defenseman has settled in nicely on the team’s second defensive pairing. He played a career-high 72 games this past season and finished fourth in the league with 198 blocked shots
Casey Cizikas was selected in the fourth round. He joined the Isles for 15 games in the 2011-12 season. Cizikas played 45 games in the lockout-shortened season of 2012-13 and has not looked back. Cizikas has spent the last two seasons with Martin and Cal Clutterbuck forming the best fourth line in hockey. He had a career season in 2015-16 scoring 30 points. Earlier in the month Cizikas signed a five-year deal worth $16,75 million.
Anders Lee was selected in the sixth round. The Minnesota native fell this late in the draft due to a couple of reasons, Lee was undecided whether he would attend the University of Minnesota to play hockey and football and he was playing in the USHL after being drafted. Lee could have left college and signed with any team of his choosing. Lee decided on signing with the team that drafted him. He scored his first NHL goal on his first shot. A numbers game had Lee start the 2014-15 season in Bridgeport. After a few weeks he made his season debut with the Islanders and scored 25 goals. Lee looks to bounce back from a down 2015-16.