4 Islanders Draft Targets at Forward

In all likelihood, the New York Islanders will take a defenseman with their 13th-overall pick in the upcoming 2022 NHL Draft. Mike Fink has an article up on the site highlighting four that could find themselves in the Islanders’ organization by week’s end. However, Lou Lamoriello always keeps his cards close to the vest and could take a forward with that selection to complement William DuFour, Aatu Raty, and the other Isles forward prospects. If they were to go that route, here are four guys who should be available when he steps up to the podium on July 7.

Nathan Gaucher, Center, Quebec Remparts, QMJHL

Corey Pronman of The Athletic has New York taking center Nathan Gaucher at No. 13 (from ‘NHL Mock Draft 2022: Corey Pronman picks all seven rounds’, The Athletic, 6/30/22). The 6-foot-3 center has the offensive upside the Islanders are looking for to fill out the middle of their lineup. While they are set down the middle for the immediate future with Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson, J-G Pageau, and Casey Cizikas, the pipeline behind them is pretty dry. Gaucher could become the blue-chip type of guy that steps in once the Nelson and Pageau contracts expire or they are moved to the wing in the future.

Looking at these highlights from his draft year with the Ramparts, he reminds me a little bit of Nelson, a big center with above-average skating and a twisted wrister. Considering Nelson had 37 goals last season and has only improved since Barry Trotz came to town, Gaucher and Lane Lambert could be a match made in heaven.

Brad Lambert, Center/Right Wing, Pelicans (Liiga)

Ever since the hiring of Lane Lambert, Brad Lambert has been connected to the Islanders. It is no coincidence, as Brad is Lane’s nephew and a first-round talent this year. He has also been plummeting down the board after a less-than-spectacular draft year and is most likely going to be available to them at 13. His main talent is his speed, graded by many as the best skater in the draft. Here’s a highlight from the 2021 World Juniors, a game that was played less than a week after he turned 17.

There’s no doubt that the speedy skillset would provide another layer to the Islanders’ offensive attack. The main negative of Lambert’s game is that he “takes nights off,” especially defensively (from ‘NHL Draft 2022 top 127 prospects’, The Athletic, 5/31/22). Playing for a family member might provide a different level for Lambert, but it is risky for the Islanders who had issues with Oliver Wahlstrom’s defensive play this season. He would be a risky pick, but I could see the Islanders going for it and keeping it in the family.

Rutger McGroarty, Center, USNTDP (USHL)

Our lone American on the list, Rutger McGroarty is from Lincoln, Nebraska — a rarity for NHL-level prospects. He is also a coach’s son as his dad Jim was with the Lincoln Stars from the 2008-09 season through 2014. He would be the second-ever player, after Jake Guentzel, to be from Nebraska and drafted into the NHL.

Rutger McGroarty USNTDP U17
Rutger McGroarty USNTDP U17 (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

In 85 games played this season between the U.S. National Team Development Program, the National U18 team, and the World Juniors team, he put up 111 points. He was also poised to be a major part of America’s gold medal defense at the World Juniors before its postponement. He is currently ranked 22nd in the NHL Central Scouting rankings, dropping from 18th at the midseason projections, meaning he will almost certainly be available to the Islanders at 13. NHL.com’s Michael G Morreale has him at 18th overall to the Dallas Stars, among his highest positions in the mainstream mock drafts. He is committed to playing at the University of Michigan next season, which would provide some great off-night watching for Islanders fans next winter.

Conor Geekie, Center, Winnipeg Ice, WHL

Finally, Conor Geekie of the Winnipeg ICE could be available for the Islanders to take at 13, as he is mocked right in that area by most of the prominent prognosticators. He also has the NHL bloodline to go along with a fantastic draft year, as his brother Morgan was a Carolina Hurricane before he was taken in the Expansion Draft by the Seattle Kraken last summer.

Conor put up 70 points in 63 games this season on a stacked ICE team, and his teammate Matthew Savoie will almost certainly be a top-10 selection after his 90-point season. His team lost in the semifinals to the future champs, the Edmonton Oil Kings, in five games, which was a disappointing end for the ICE and Geekie, who had only three goals in the 15 playoff games.

Geekie is 6-foot-4 and can wheel with a great shot coming from the middle of the ice, as he is the best player on my list according to NHL Central Scouting at No. 5. But with many of the teams ahead of the Islanders needing defensemen, coupled with his poor playoff performance, he is a candidate to slip into the teens. If they can snag him, they could end up being the winners of the draft like last year when they picked a freefalling Aatu Raty in the second round. Yahoo Sports has them taking defenseman Pavel Mintyukov at 13 over Geekie, who they have staying in Winnipeg at 14.

Regardless of who the Islanders draft, they will be a welcome sight to a slim pipeline. With Wahlstrom and Dobson playing with the big club, there aren’t many prospects to be excited about behind DuFour, Raty, and Simon Holmstrom. While it is likely that the Islanders draft a defenseman, these forwards should get fans excited if one of them is selected too.