Isles Begin Looking To The Draft

Cam Fowler (unkut009/Flickr)

According to Chris Botta’s blog at Islanders Point Blank, Garth Snow has admitted that next year’s goal for his team will be to make the playoffs – this year is not the year. Not that the fan-base needed a statement from the team’s GM to let them know that. Currently the Isles sit in the 14th spot of the East, a good 11 points behind the eighth seeded Boston Bruins.

The Toronto Maple Leafs, who sit dead last in the East, are only five points behind the Islanders. The Oilers look all but certain to finish with the worst record in the league, solidifying them with the best chance at keeping the first overall pick in the upcoming draft. However, although there is still ample time for things to change, with the Leafs gaining ground while the Isles continue to struggle looking for a win, the orange and blue seem destined to finish with a top-3 pick.

So now is when I will start to look at whom I hope the Isles will select at this summer’s upcoming draft. The most likely candidates to go in the top-3 are Tyler Seguin, Taylor Hall and Cam Fowler (in no particular order). First, let’s look at this team’s needs.

One can argue that you can never have too much offense. Currently in Bridgeport are players such as Jesse Joenssu, Trevor Smith and Matt Martin, two of which who have had a chance with the big club. Martin has won over the fans with his fists and hard hits while Joenssu has yet to find his place at the NHL level. Smith still has not made his 2009-10 NHL debut despite a good season with the Sound Tigers, however, it hasn’t been anything in which the Isles feel they should get him up as soon as possible. Players such as Kiril Petrov are still hopefuls for the future. Being that he wants to come to the Islanders and play in the NHL, it’s possible that you may see him in Bridgeport next year. But that still remains to be seen. Other notables such as Justin DiBenedetto have been having poor seasons in the minors, having only registered 14 points in 61 games played. The same can be said for Robin Figren, who has only scored a dismal 5 points in 50 games played and has found himself as a healthy scratch on several occasions.

So it’s safe to say that the offense in Bridgeport isn’t exactly stellar. The current Isles squad has Tavares, Okposo, Bailey, Moulson, Nielsen and Schremp as young scorers and play makers that have been working out well. However they are not consistent.

Taylor Hall (leafschik1967/Flickr)

Although John Tavares may be the go-to-guy, the Isles still lack a finisher. That’s where players such as Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin will be valued as major commodities. In both the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons, Hall played 63 games each in the OHL with the Windsor Spitfires. The first year Hall tallied 84 points (45 goals, 39 assists) while scoring 90 points (38 goals 52 assists) the second year. This year has been even better as the young stud has already scored 40 goals and 66 assists for 106 points in 57 games played.

Seguin has only two years of OHL experience under his belt with the Plymouth Whalers. In 61 games, Seguin scored 67 points (21 goals, 46 assists) in 61 games played last season. This year he has played the same amount of games and has scored 47 goals and 58 assists for 105 points, just one shy from Hall. Having another guy like Seguin or Hall to go along with future offensive threats like Tavares isn’t something most Islander fans will complain about.

But then you can take a look at the Isles future blue corps and realize they are kind of on the thin side. The fact that the injury to Andrew MacDonald and trade of Andy Sutton has allowed Dylan Reese and Dustin Kohn to play, (although effective at times), has displayed that both players are still some considerable time away from becoming every day NHL’ers. Mark Katic is a possible player to join the Isles, but he is still a few years away as well. The only two major defensive prospects that are expected to make an impact with the Isles in the near future are Calvin de Haan and Travis Hamonic, both of whom may be best served by a full year in the AHL before hitting the big show.

Tyler Seguin (TJ W/Flickr)

On the current roster lies Jack Hillen, Andrew MacDonald and Bruno Gervais with Martinek and Streit. Hillen and AMac are proven NHL defenseman and are going to be with the Isles for a long time. Gervais, on the other hand, continues to have many fans wondering how long of a chance he deserves to prove himself. He constantly puts himself out of position and struggles to contribute offensively. He is a very respectful athlete and a genuinely nice person, but he doesn’t seem ready to be an NHL defenseman.

Cam Fowler may be a guy to help remedy the weak blue line. This is his first year in the OHL with the Windsor Spitfires. In 54 games played, Fowler has combined 8 goals and 47 assists for 55 points. He is also 6’2, 190 pounds, and still growing. His size, strength and skill is something the Isles defense lacks, especially with Sutton now playing for the Senators and about to hit free agency. The L.A. Kings have exemplified the difference a strong defenseman can make with the selection of Drew Doughty a few years ago. Cam may not have the same type of career ahead of him as Doughty, but all contending teams have that young, anchoring d-man to carry the work load. Fowler could be that man for the Isles.

So when it’s all said and done – the regular season ends, the draft lottery comes and goes, and the Isles are up at the podium with which ever pick they receive, who would you want to hear Garth Snow announce as the next Isles hopeful of the future?

9 thoughts on “Isles Begin Looking To The Draft”

  1. For argument sake, lets say our pick falls between 5 and 8. At that point the big 3 Hall, Sequin and Fowler are long gone. #4 most likely will be either Gormley , Tarasenko or Gudbranson. That leaves us with Connolly , Niederreiter or one of above mentioned that didnt go at the #4 pick. Not to shabby. I agree with Bill. Dylan Mcllrath is the kind of rugged “D” man we can desperately use. I believe he may be available early in the 2nd rd. I wouldnt take him with an early 1st rd pick. Also, I’d prefer we avoid drafting a Russian. To many KHL problems.

    • I like Seguin, Niederreiter, and McIlrath not least because they are coming up fast in the rankings. Hall may not improve a lot over what he is now. If we miss out on Hall and Seguin, I would trade down for a pick and take Niederreiter–although Kabanov intrigues–especially if he might help bring the other Kirill across the pond, teach him English, and develop chemistry. I like Nino also because of his size which the Isles need on the top two lines.

      Might need to trade up our second rounder to get McIlrath as I suspect he will go mid to late first. In fact, with A-train already having one foot out the door, wouldn’t surprise me if Ottawa uses its first rounder for him. Now if I could get the NHL draft fairy to sprinkle some dust, the Isles would take home Seguin, Gormley, Niederreiter, and McIlrath. Two out of four would be pretty good as well.

        • No way to know how Garth will go. In 2008, he traded down when he was unable to get either Stammer or one of the franchise defenders in that draft. He passed over Colin Wilson, now a very nice center prospect for Nashville, and Luke Schenn, a shutdown defender for Toronto who has a lot of potential, for Josh Bailey. He added several nice prospects and still got Josh who promises to be a star second line center. Last year, he pooled all his assets together and moved his second first rounder up to get a much coveted defensive prospect in Calvin De Haan. Barring a trade between now and the draft, the team will have no second first rounder. He does have four picks in the second and third rounds and he could simply address certain organizational needs and / or bring in certain prospects he really likes. He could also use those picks to move up into the first round and get a special player like McIlrath. We’ll see.

        • Thanks. I am thinking that I may have read this. The high character part and the working on developing into a more complete player would fit Garth’s criteria.

  2. Seeing Fowler on the ice has not yet blown me away. I will see Gormley play for the first time later on this afternoon. The scouting reports on Gormley are impressive, and I’ll have a better idea of what my own opinion is on him and where he rates in comparrison to Fowler in a few hours.

    Interestingly, the NHL draft is becoming more and more about team need with the salary cap in place. The Islanders are still a team that needs everything. Ideally, a creative winger like Hall would be the guy who comes to the Island. With that said, we Islander fans can only hope for the balls to come up in our favor in about a month from now. For the most part, the team that finishes dead last has not retained the top pick all too often. Since the lookout ended, only the 2007 draft had a lottery winner with Chicago. So hopefully this will be the year that we win the lottery, and not a team scheduled to pick behind us.

    My order of of preference is as follows:

    1) Taylor Hall
    2) Tyler Seguin
    3) Brandon Gormley (I will confirm this later on today)
    4) Cam Fowler (Not official yet – this is default. He just hasn’t amazed me)

    • As I say, the Oil will take Hall. Their situation is peculiar as they are weak at RW but neither of the three is a RW. Drafting Hall will actually move Paajarvi-Svensson down to third on their organizarional prospect chart at LW. Nevertheless, Hall will not be on the board when we pick.

      Assuming Seguin is on the board when we pick, he is the obvious choice. My other first round favorites are Nino Niederreiter, who I saw in Prince George and who is tremendous, and Dylan McIlrath. Kabanov and Pulkinnen may slip due to injjuries and may be good sleeper picks.

  3. If I were going defense, I would look at Gormley rather than Fowler. He is more the prototypical Garth Snow-Scott Gordon type of defenseman. I would love to have him on the roster, but I think Seguin may be more essential.

    The Oil will likely take Hall. The Bruins are VERY deep at center, have no truly elite defensive prospects, and may be faced with losing Chara next summer. They will likely take their choice between Fowler, Gormley, and Gudbranson.

    The Isles spent a lot of picks on moving up to get De Haan. I have to believe that they see him as their future #1 defender. One of the problems with the offense this year is that they lacked a potent second scoring line. With Seguin centering JT and Kyle on the top line and Bailey centering Moulson and either Blake or Petrov on the second, scoring should pick up.

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