Islanders Have Options With Very Late First Draft Pick

The New York Islanders traded away their first (with conditions) and second-round pick to the Ottawa Senators in the upcoming 2020 NHL Draft, which saw J.G. Pageau go the other way.

As of right now, there’s no telling when the draft will actually take place, with the season still on hold due to COVID-19, but there is discussion about holding the draft prior to resuming the season. Whenever the draft might be, the Islanders don’t have a selection until the third round.

Related: THW’s 2020 NHL Draft Guide

Most projections have the Islanders’ first selection coming in at pick 83. In one of the deepest drafts in recent years, there is reason to be excited for whomever the Isles organization announces when they step up to the podium, so long as they did their homework and are able to hit in the third round.

Islanders’ Top 5 Prospects

Ilya SorokinGCSKA Moskow (Russia)3rd Round – 78th overall (2014)
Noah DobsonDNew York Islanders (NHL)1st Round – 12th overall (2018)
Oliver WahlstromRWBridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)1st Round – 11th overall (2018)
Simon HolmstromRWBridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)1st Round – 23rd overall (2019)
Kieffer BellowsLWBridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)1st Round – 19th overall (2016)

You wouldn’t normally see a player with a full year of NHL experience on a prospect list, but Dobson comes in as an exception. His experience this year was an awkward transition as he had nothing left to prove at the junior level, but he didn’t meet the required age for the AHL and wasn’t exactly ready for NHL pace. Having played barely 30 NHL games, he showed flashes of brilliance but also showed he needed some seasoning. Most of his time came observing from the press box.

Noah Dobson New York Islanders
Noah Dobson, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

When you look at the rest of the Islanders’ top prospects, it seems as though they have some solid forward depth coming through. However, aside from Otto Koivula (who projects as the next prospect at six), the forward prospect pool really ends here.

After Dobson, there is a plethora of defensive prospects that could all turn into serviceable top-six defensemen in the NHL. This includes names such as Sebastian Aho, Grant Hutton, Samuel Bolduc and more. With their young defensive core of Ryan Pulock, Devon Toews, Dobson, etc., the Isles should look to take the best forward available when it’s their turn to make a selection this draft.

Islanders’ 3rd Round Targets

The Big Boys

Without a doubt, the Islanders should nab one of these big bodies if they become available with their selection this late in the draft. The forward group you see now is of average size, but aside from captain Anders Lee and Brock Nelson, the regular forward scorers are not all that big, and their top forward prospects don’t make them any bigger.

Bogdan Trineyev Team Russia
Bogdan Trineyev of Team Russia (Russia Hockey/FHR.RU)

Bogdan Trineyev – Right Wing – 6’3″, 176 pounds – MHL Dynamo Moskva

As big as Bogdan Trineyev is, he still has yet to grow into his body. He is described as a long and lanky forward, but is also said to harness some raw talent. Despite being physically immature, he is still considered to be a power forward, one that has no issue playing the man and throwing his body around, especially on the forecheck.

Trineyev is known to get into the dirty areas of the ice, and when the whistle blows, he has no issue stepping up to an opposing player, especially if it means defending a teammate. Even more impressive, the large forward displays an impressive high offensive IQ, and isn’t afraid to test his skill-set, flashing slick stick handles when necessary and sneaky speed. In 36 games this year, he recorded 12 goals and 26 points on the wing.

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As most players are this late in the draft, Trineyev is going to be a project. However with the right coaching and physical maturation, he could be a difference maker, using his size to change the course of any game.

Dylan Peterson – Center – 6’4″, 192 pounds – U.S. National U18 Team

The Islanders have an opportunity to draft Brock Nelson 2.0 if they were to select Dylan Peterson in the third round.

He already projects as an NHL-ready body with his large frame, who isn’t afraid to go into corners and win puck battles. He possess a heavy, accurate shot, complimented by soft hands. He has a long reach, and generates good speed at his size, and displays a very good stick-handling ability in tight spaces.

Peterson is committed to Boston University already, where he will have time to grow into his large frame and continue to develop his scoring touch. He hasn’t completely developed his scoring prowess, but the ability is there. When he grows into his body, watch out.

Jaromir Pytlik – Center – 6’3″, 201 pounds – OHL Greyhounds

“He’s big, he competes, he skates well and he’s got plenty of skill. I think he has all the tools to be a great pro.” (from ‘Pronman: Top prospects for the 2020 NHL Draft’, The Athletic 6/24/2019)

Jaromir Pytlik, OHL, Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds
Jaromir Pytlik of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

Almost a full year ago, Jaromir Pytlik projected as a first-round, top-15 pick. He currently projects as a late second, early third-round pick due to some holes in his game regarding offensive output, and there is some question to his skating.

But hey, as stated earlier, what pick in the third round of the draft isn’t a project? And there is no denying that size. Drafting a player that is 200-plus pounds is rare, so the Islanders shouldn’t pass up on the opportunity if he is available.

Pytlik is a forward who, despite his size, has flown under the radar this season. While he didn’t produce on offense to expectations, he is a player who makes his presence on the ice known every shift. He is still raw in talent but displays high-end, two-way forward material that has the ability to shut you down in the defensive zone while flashing offensive prowess. He shows some deficiency in positioning, but Pytlik is a player coaches depend on to get the job done on both sides of the ice, and he usually delivers.

Jack Finley – Center – 6’5″, 196 pounds – WHL Spokane Chiefs

Jack Finley should have the attention of scouts after a breakout performance for the Spokane Chiefs, with 57 points (19 goals and 38 assists) in 61 games this season centering the top line. He has only just turned 17, but is displaying high-end qualities in his game, such as winning a resounding 53.4% of draws in the face-off circle.

Like most of these larger prospects, he is still growing into his body, but combined with his skill, he makes for a winning combination when he reaches his final product. “His legs are catching up to him,” Viveiros added. “They’re getting stronger and quicker and I thought before the season was canceled how much he improved in his quickness and how quick he got around the rink.”

Finley lacks positive stick-handling skills, but his willingness to grind things out, plus his instincts and scoring ability, give him good opportunities in the offensive zone. He has the ability to put it all together and make for a solid second or third-line center in the NHL.

The Playmakers

Tristen Robins – Right Wing – 5’10″, 174 pounds – WHL Saskatoon Blades

When you research Tristen Robins, you’ll find he is a popular candidate for the Islanders’ first pick in the 2020 NHL Draft⁠ — and for good reason.

Tristen Robins Saskatoon Blades
Tristen Robins of the Saskatoon Blades. (Steve Hiscock/Saskatoon Blades)

Robins had a breakout year in the WHL with the Saskatoon Blades, scoring 33 goals, totaling 73 points. That was good enough for 14th overall in the WHL, not far behind projected first-round pick, Jake Neighbours.

Since transitioning to the center position, Robins has found a new gear offensively. He has positive skating ability that allows him to be offensively aggressive, while also being responsible in his own end — he pounces on loose pucks and puts pressure on the opposing defense. He possesses an excellent backhanded shot and has the ability to score highlight-reel goals, but he’s best known for his a low, hard shot with a quick release from inside the dots.

Robins can be sharp on his edges, making him elusive with his acceleration. Although he has some growing to do, he is still a physical player, which allows him to battle for puck possession in tough areas against bigger skaters. He has to improve on his ability to win face-off draws, but he has grown a substantial amount in his 200-foot game.

Antonio Stranges – Center/Left Wing – 5’10″, 178 pounds – OHL London Knights

Antonio Stranges projected as a first-round pick back in Nov. 2019. However, questions in his skating ability have seen his stock drop in the top rankings.

“But he also regularly leaves me wanting more or wondering if his skill will translate.” (from ‘Wheeler: Preliminary ranking for the 2020 NHL Draft’s top 62 prospects’, The Athletic 11/4/2019)

Stranges has since fallen out of first-round contention and is possibly headed for the third round. However, with the right mentoring, that first-round caliber skill could be mined out of the raw talent. One of his flaws is that he can disappear in his own end, but there is no questioning his unique skating ability, and his “I’m going to make something happen” attitude that makes for an elite offensive threat. He has really good hands and is creative on offense, which can make defenders miss.

If a first-round talent happens to fall this far in the draft, you jump at the opportunity to take on the project and draft a guy like Stranges in the hopes that you drew that diamond in the rough.

Alex Laferriere Right Wing, 5’10″, 178 pounds – USHL Des Moines Buccaneers

No, no, we’re not talking about the projected first-overall pick, Alexis Lafrenière. Alex Laferriere is his own player and one who has seen his value rise this past season.

Alex Laferriere Des Moines Buccaneers
Alex Laferriere of the Des Moines Buccaneers (Michaela Schnetter/Des Moines Buccaneers)

Laferriere has already committed to play at Harvard next season, which actually would help with his development for any team who drafts him, playing against bigger opponents than he has in the USHL.

The New Jersey-native led Des Moines in scoring with 45 points in 42 games this past season and was a consistent top scorer in the USHL, 17th overall. Laferriere has been perceived as having some skating issues, but he has still managed to build his stock with strong passing ability, and a high-end shot. He displays excellent puck skills, and works well off the rush with his teammates, allowing him to often deceive the goaltender. He’s known to be a bit creative in the offensive zone, changing the angles of his shot, and opening up unexpected holes on the net.

Related: The Best Late Round NHL Draft Picks

One of the biggest eye openers about Laferriere is that he doesn’t receive a ton of power play time, and most of his points come during 5-on-5 play.

Pavel Tyutnev – Center – 5’9″, 176 pounds – MHL Loko Yaroslavl

Pavel Tyutnev is a player that when you see on paper, you automatically think he is undersized. However, his mix of speed and skating ability make up for his size, making him a consistent threat on the ice.

Tyutnev has the ability to move the puck with ease and creates danger with his shooting and passing. When it comes to offensive tools, he has them all. The small forward has no issue putting himself in the dirty areas of the ice. He also has this ability to be very strong on the puck, keeping control while being harassed by defenders. He might only have 22 points in 36 MHL games this past season, but all 22 of those points were primary points, displaying his involvement on the offense.

He performed even better for Russias U18 team, chipping in 12 points in 15 games on the national stage.

Despite having limited power play time, and moving up and down the lineup all year, Tyutnev finished the season higher than most MHL players with a 24.54 shooting percentage, while averaging 1.47 shots per game. His high shot quantity, precise shooting ability and ability to move the puck makes him a valuable pick late in the draft.

Ryan Francis – Right Wing – 5’9″, 175 pounds – QMJHL Cape Breton Eagles

Ryan Francis is a small winger with what some consider “lightning” speed. Prior to this season, Francis didn’t contribute much in terms of points, but he changed that in the 2019-20 season.

With 24 goals, 72 points, Francis found himself in the top-20 scorers of the QMJHL, 17th overall. He is strong on the puck considering his size and is an excellent passer, but he shoots mostly from the perimeter. He’s a prototypical undersized forward with speed and agility complimented with good hands and a solid hockey IQ.

Depending how far Francis can push himself, he has the ability to become a middle-six scorer with offensive upside in the NHL.

Luke Evangelista – Right Wing – 5’11″, 166 pounds – OHL London Knights

What’s not to like about a London Knight who produces almost a point per game? Some will say he experienced this only due to the uptick in minutes as he was placed on the same line as prize Washington Capitals prospect, Connor McMichael, but he earned that line spot.

Evangelista recorded 23 goals and 61 points in 62 games before the OHL season was cancelled. He is an excellent playmaker as he has an innate ability to use his skating to beat defenders with his speed, drawing their attention and then dishing the puck off to a teammate to score the goal.

Despite not scoring his first goal until late October this season, when he finally scored, the flood gates opened. Obviously, Evangelista’s strong suit is playmaking, but if he can continue scoring at the rate he did, he will be a for sure steal late in the draft.

The London Knights do nothing but produce NHL product after NHL product and Evangelista has a lot to offer offensively for any team willing to take him. If he happens to fall a little later than expected, the Islanders should not hesitate to take him.

Blake Biondi – Center – 6’0″, 181 pounds – Committed to NCAA Minnesota-Duluth

It’s never easy to judge a player who is coming out of high school, but Blake Biondi caught the attention of a lot of scouts as he absolutely dominated at that level, and looked great for the USA U18 team in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

Blake Biondi Team USA
Blake Biondi of Team USA (USA Hockey)

Biondi was named Minnesota’s “Mr. Hockey” after putting up 76 points in 25 games. He has excellent puck-handling skills and skating ability. His speed, complemented by balance and edgework, helps him drive the net in expert fashion protecting the puck.

He’s really learned how to be a leader and what that really means. A lot of times we slap a “C” on a kid’s chest and say alright you’re the captain, you’re supposed to be the captain and we don’t really teach them how to do that. He’s been so open to advice and he’s really learned what that means to be a captain and he’s their leader.

Biondi’s high school head coach Patrick Andrews

Already committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Biondi will have an opportunity to play against bigger skaters and really test his skills, but the tools are all there. He has infectious confidence about his abilities on the ice that he brings every night.

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Biondi has elite skills for his age, and if he can continue to climb the ladder, the Islanders can scoop up an elite player late in the draft.

Final Thoughts

In their history, the Islanders have had a decent amount of success finding late-round talent such as Lee, Casey Cizikas, Ilya Sorokin and more. It’s possible that the organization tries to move up in the draft as well, as they do need to offload some salary.

If the team decides not to move up, though, they have a plethora of options available to them by the time their first pick comes late in the draft. All options can contribute at the NHL level if all goes right.