The 2022 NHL Entry Draft has come to a close and a handful of teams are excited and optimistic about the talented players they selected. The New York Islanders, in particular, had an impressive couple of days where they set themselves up to not only win now but also in the foreseeable future.
General manager (GM) Lou Lamoriello has already made a handful of shocking moves this offseason, and the draft was no exception. The Islanders had the 13th overall pick but he made a splash by moving the pick for Montreal Canadiens defenseman Alexander Romanov. The trade was a big one, but it was only the start of a massive draft for the Islanders.
First Round: Acquiring Romanov – A
Lamoriello had hinted toward a busy offseason and the trade for Romanov looks to only be the start for an Islanders team looking to bounce back next season in the standings. They needed to upgrade their forward and defensive units in the draft and particularly find a young defenseman to pair with Noah Dobson. Romanov not only helps out the defense but elevates it, giving the Islanders one of the best groups in the league.
Romanov isn’t a star or the defenseman that many fans envisioned to pair alongside Dobson like Jakob Chychrun. However, he is a reliable, disciplined skater who adds a tough hard-hitting style to his play, making him one of the bright spots in an otherwise difficult year for the Canadiens last season. Moreover, he can force turnovers in the neutral zone and defensive zone to help turn defense into instant scoring chances.
The 22-year-old isn’t going to open up the offense from the point, scoring only three goals and 10 assists last season with the Canadiens. However, Romanov is a great skater which allows to him defend the rush and help out the offense in transition, allowing him to continue improving on the offensive end of the ice. The Islanders entered the first round with the 13th selection hoping to improve the defense. Lamoriello did just that, but in a more impactful way, acquiring a player that helps the team immediately.
Second Round: Defenseman Calle Odelius – A
Calle Odelius was one of the best players available at the 65th selection, making him a more than worthwhile pick for the Islanders. The Swedish prospect could have been selected at the end of the first round if not early in the second, but instead fell right into the Islanders’ lap.
As a two-way defenseman that handles the puck well in all three zones, Odelius’ style is suited for the modern game. His passing notably sets him apart from the other defensemen in this draft class as he can not only play a fast-paced game but also create scoring chances, finding open skaters on the rush and from the point. He still needs to develop, but the Islanders landed a potential middle-pairing defenseman at the end of the second round.
The Islanders still needed to address the forward unit, something they failed to do in the first two rounds. However, Lamoriello made it clear that the defense wouldn’t be a liability for the team next season and for years to come. While the unit didn’t struggle last season, allowing only 2.82 goals per game, the veteran-heavy left side carried by Zdeno Chara and Andy Greene was slower and struggled to carry the puck out of their own zone. Moreover, the unit felt the absence of Devon Toews, who was traded in the 2020 offseason to the Colorado Avalanche, and his two-way defensive ability helped his team win the Stanley Cup last season.
After two rounds, the Islanders had already acquired their young defenseman for next season and selected another one that will likely impact the team in a big way a few years down the road. Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech will continue to lead the top defensive pairing but now the future looks younger and faster, especially after the additions of Romanov and Odelius.
Third Round: Forward Quinn Finley – B+
After upgrading the defense, Lamoriello needed to help out the forward unit, which remains an offseason priority for the Islanders. In the third round, he selected Quinn Finley, a 17-year-old winger who is a speedy skater and more importantly a playmaker.
Finley has a lot to work on and it will be a few seasons before the Islanders see him at the NHL level. However, in the third round, they managed to help out the forward position and refuel the prospect pool with a promising skater. Ideally, Lamoriello would have drafted a forward earlier, especially considering the need to help out the offense in the immediate future. However, drafting the best player available in the second round and third round respectively also could pay off for the team down the road.
Fourth Round: Defenseman Isaiah George – B
Isaiah George is a talented defenseman from the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and looks poised to only improve after a strong season with the London Knights. With the 98th pick and first selection of the fourth round, Lamoriello tripled down on the need to improve the defensive position both in the farm system and the NHL alike. George is another prospect that thrives in the neutral zone and is a great skater that will both stop opponents on the rush and help out the offense, which projects him as a second or third-pair defenseman.
The Islanders landed another talented defenseman, but the question is the intention with the pick. After drafting one in the second round and acquiring Romanov, George is unlikely to find a spot on the roster even in a few years. Furthermore, the team already has prospects including Robin Salo, Grant Hutton, and Samuel Bolduc in the American Hockey League (AHL) who are more developed and potentially ready to make an impact at the NHL level by next season. George is a talented defenseman and can leapfrog multiple prospects as a fourth-round draft steal but ultimately, there aren’t many avenues for him to make an impact in the NHL.
Islanders Late Round Selections: B
The Islanders used their last two selections in the draft to help out the forward unit. In the fifth round, they selected Matthew Maggio, while in the sixth round, they drafted Daylan Kuefler. While it’s unlikely both of them will make an impact as late-round draft picks, they were still valuable selections and hopeful draft steals for Lamoriello.
Overall Islanders Draft Grade: A-
The Islanders had a strong draft that will help them as soon as next season but also refueled the farm system. The acquisition of Romanov was the highlight as the team acquired a young roster defenseman and only traded away the 13th overall pick to do so. However, aside from the big trade, Lamoriello managed to add depth, particularly to the defensive position with some high-ceiling prospects.
The draft also hit towards a busy free agency period, one where the Islanders will look to add a star to their roster. Lamoriello put a strong emphasis on upgrading the defense during the draft but didn’t do the same for the forward unit. With the Islanders entering free agency hoping to add a scorer or a puck distributor, they look poised to make a move for Johnny Gaudreau or another elite forward. While Lane Lambert will be a first-year head coach for the team next year, the draft has only reinforced the competitive mentality for a roster hoping to compete for the Stanley Cup again in 2022-23.