The New York Islanders enter the NHL Entry Draft with a handful of options as part of a consequential offseason. With the 13th overall pick, general manager (GM) Lou Lamoriello can look to move the pick as part of a trade to acquire a veteran like J.T. Miller or Alex DeBrincat. However, in all likelihood, the Islanders will address the forward and defensive unit with their first two draft selections and, more importantly, help out the prospect pool, which is one of the worst in the NHL.
Interestingly, the Islanders’ second-round pick is at the end of the round rather than the middle, like their first-round pick. This is because of two trades where the Islanders moved their original second-round selection as part of a deal to send Andrew Ladd to the Arizona Coyotes. Despite losing the 45th pick, the team will have the 65th selection after trading Devon Toews to the Colorado Avalanche.
Ultimately, the Islanders have two selections in the first two rounds, and for Lamoriello, the two picks could be crucial in helping turn the team around next season.
13th Overall Selection
The Islanders will look to potentially move the 13th overall pick, especially to help a roster that is built to win now. However, in the upcoming draft, the 13th selection is in a unique spot in the first round. With a lot of uncertainty, a star prospect can fall into Lamoriello’s lap, and he will eagerly pounce on the opportunity to draft a player with a high ceiling.
The Dream Pick: Cutter Gauthier
Cutter Gauthier has skyrocketed up draft boards after an impressive NHL Scouting Combine. As a power forward, he can provide a different look to the offense and a great shot on the wing while also using his strength to remove opposing players from the puck in all three zones. While Gauthier struggles to accelerate and beat opponents as a skater, he is a complete forward and one the Islanders would love to add to the roster.
The problem is that Gauthier will likely not be available by the 13th pick. His ceiling has many teams eager to select him within the first 10 picks and even in the top five of the draft. The Islanders can hope the teams ahead of them pass on Gauthier, making more of a hopeful selection than a likely one. However, there will be plenty of top prospects available for Lamoriello, and if all the top forwards are selected, the Islanders can draft one of the best defensemen in the class.
The Projected Pick: Kevin Korchinski
If the Islanders draft a defenseman in the first round, there will be plenty of options available for Lamoriello. Pavel Mintyukov and Denton Mateychuk are two excellent two-way defensemen that could slide to the 13th overall pick but ultimately become reliable NHL players. However, the defensemen the Islanders should target in the first round is Kevin Korchinski, who might be the best puck handler from the position in the upcoming draft.
Playing for the Seattle Thunderbirds in the Western Hockey League (WHL), Korchinski not only created turnovers in the defensive zone but helped turn defense into instant scoring chances. His puck-handling and vision particularly make him a great defenseman in transition and from the point in the offensive zone. The Islanders can draft Korchinski and anticipate him inevitably playing alongside Noah Dobson once he is developed, which would give the team a great young defensive pairing for years to come.
Korchinski is a great selection for the Islanders, especially at the 13th pick. However, he still has to refine some parts of his defensive play. His defensive zone instincts aren’t great, and on the rush, the defenseman can oftentimes be out of place, allowing opponents to find quick scoring chances. As a result, Korchinski will likely spend a season, if not more, in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Bridgeport Islanders before making an impact on the NHL roster. However, the talented defenseman would be a great selection for Lamoriello, who would add another two-way defenseman to the unit.
The Reach Pick: Brad Lambert
The nephew of first-year head coach Lane Lambert seems like a perfect fit for the Islanders. However, Brad Lambert is one of the more unpredictable and polarizing prospects in the draft. He has a high ceiling, arguably one of the highest in the draft, with great speed on the wing and the ability to create scoring chances on the rush. But he struggled to finish scoring chances and contribute in the offensive zone, and his production in the Liiga (Finland) with the Pelicans was down last season. The lack of production has general managers around the NHL hesitant to draft the Finland-native, and it’s possible he can fall out of the first round altogether.
There is a path for Lambert to join the NHL roster and be an ideal player in the Islanders’ forward unit. However, with the 13th overall pick, Lamoriello would be making one of the riskiest picks in the draft if he selects Lambert. The Islanders can hope he falls to the second round, where like Aatu Raty, they would draft a steal, but early on in the first round, the selection would be a reach and a questionable one, to say the least.
65th Overall Selection
The Islanders will look out for two things as the draft unfolds, particularly by the end of the second round. For starters, are any of the elite prospects falling in the first round and out of the first round altogether, prompting Lamoriello to potentially make a move to select them. The second thing to watch is which position gets addressed. The Islanders need to help out both the forward unit and the defensive unit, and if they choose to select one position in the first round, they will likely select the other position by the second round.
The Dream Pick: Mattias Havelid
Assuming the Islanders have already drafted a forward, Mattias Havelid falling to the 65th selection would be perfect for the team. Havelid is a reliable second-pair defenseman who might not blow opponents away from the point but handles the puck well in the offensive zone while being a strong contributor across the board. He’s not a great two-way defenseman and still needs to work on his defensive play, but the Islanders will eagerly select him if he is available.
The problem is that Havelid will likely get selected at the end of the first round or early in the second round. He is a reliable defenseman that many teams will hope to add to their second pairing, if not their top pairing. But he could fall in the draft, and Lamoriello will pounce on the opportunity to select the Swedish prospect. Otherwise, he’ll have to take a chance on another prospect with the 65th pick.
The Projected Pick: Noah Warren
Noah Warren is another defenseman that could get selected at the beginning of the second round, especially after an impressive CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. However, it’s likely the defensive prospect will be available by the 65th selection, and the Islanders will eagerly select him. Warren excels on the defensive end of the ice and is a strong contributor in the offensive end of the ice as well.
Warren played last season with the Gatineau Olympiques in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and will be tested in the AHL and NHL once he is drafted. Furthermore, he is a right-side defenseman, and if he gets drafted by the Islanders, he’ll have to pivot to the left side of the unit, especially if he joins the roster. However, at the 65th selection, Warren would help fill the defensive need and allow the Islanders to leave the draft with a great class.
The Reach Pick: Jack Devine
If the Islanders draft a defenseman in the first round, the forward unit will get addressed shortly thereafter. Jack Devine was the youngest player on the National Championship-winning University of Denver in the NCAA and was a great player on the wing. However, the Islanders would be making a bold selection if they took him in the second round to help out the offense. While Devine helps out the offense with great play without the puck and can contribute on the defensive end of the ice as well, he isn’t a great skater and projects as a middle-six forward as his ceiling.
Other Notes for the Islanders Draft
The Islanders also have the 78th selection in the third round, giving Lamoriello plenty of options. Depending on the player selected with the 13th pick, they can likely select the other position of need in both the second and third rounds, hoping to land a possible draft steal at the 78th pick as well. In addition, they could look for a goaltending prospect in the third round or later.
The Islanders have drafted a handful of young and talented players in recent years, notably Dobson and Oliver Wahlstrom. However, finding young talent in the upcoming draft will be pivotal for the Islanders next season and for years to come. With Lamoriello already betting on himself in the offseason, firing Barry Trotz in a surprise move, he will now look to turn the team around, starting with the draft.