It is very easy to look back on what could have been for the New York Islanders, but some of the decisions in the 10 years have definitely not worked out. Most notably, the Islanders have been near the bottom half of the standings routinely this decade and didn’t help themselves with some of their decisions in the NHL Draft. From 2010-12, the Islanders picked in the top-five three times. None of these players remain on the team, and Ryan Strome was the only player to play in over 100 career games for the Islanders.
For much of John Tavares’ tenure with the Islanders, he was looking for a lethal goalscorer to play on his line. Though Matt Moulson and P.A. Parenteau had career years playing on his wing, he never had that dynamic player fans wish he had. Now let’s take a look at two potential players from each of the drafts between 2010 and 2012 the Islanders could have chosen.
2010 NHL Draft
The Islanders selected Nino Niederreiter with the fifth pick in the first round and virtually nothing but problems came out of it. He was barely given an opportunity and when he was in the lineup, he was playing right wing on the fourth line with Marty Reasoner and Jay Pandolfo. He was never invited to training camp in 2012-13 and eventually asked for a trade. Though the Islanders denied the rumors of a potential trade, general manager Garth Snow dealt him to the Minnesota Wild for a true fourth-line winger in Cal Clutterbuck.
The name that jumps out immediately of a player the Islanders missed out on (along with 15 other teams) is Vladimir Tarasenko. The St. Louis Blues acquired that pick from the Ottawa Senators and used the 16thpick to select the Russian superstar.
Tarasenko made his debut in the league in the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season. He scored just 8 goals followed up by 21 the next season, but ever since then, he has not had a season in which he has scored fewer than 30 goals. He had a career-high of 40 in 2015-16. That just happened to be a season where the Islanders could have used some scoring help especially in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, as they struggled to score against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Another potential prospect the Islanders missed out on was Jeff Skinner. Not only does Skinner put up good numbers, but he has also made it a habit to score against the Islanders. Skinner went seventh overall to the Hurricanes and quickly made his debut for Carolina a couple of months later.
He was an All-Star in his first professional season and has consistently been a goalscorer. After a couple of sub-par years to his standards, Skinner scored 40 this past season with the Buffalo Sabres, earning himself a big contract extension.
2011 NHL Draft
The Islanders continued their climb from the bottom of the league to 79 points in 2011-12. While New York was a bit unlucky with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog, Jonathon Huberdeau and Adam Larson all going in the top four picks, the Islanders went with Ryan Strome with the fifth pick. By no means can people say Strome was a complete bust, as he did contribute a couple of nice seasons for the Islanders, but it just never seemed like they saw his full potential.
Couturier is definitely not a player that can turn a franchise around, but he has enjoyed a solid career with the Philadelphia Flyers. The past two seasons, he has been one of the most underrated players in the NHL scoring 64 goals. He also plays a strong two-way game.
Couturier is a guy that the new head coach of the Flyers, Alain Vigneault, can trust to go against the top line of the opposition. He also is a great penalty killer and strong in the shootouts.
Kucherov getting picked late in the second round may be one of the biggest steals in NHL history by the Lightning. The reigning Hart Trophy winner has taken his game to a level where few players have ever gone.
Now just imagine for a second Tavares had Kucherov on his wing for all those years. The Russian not only scored 41 goals a season ago, but had 87 assists for his second straight 100-plus point season. The Lightning have become one of the top teams year in and year out and No. 86 is a big reason why.
2012 NHL Draft
In 2012, the Islanders made their final draft day blunder when they selected Griffin Reinhart fourth overall. While this draft had one of the biggest busts in Nail Yakapuv who was selected first overall, Reinhart’s Islanders career was not much better. He appeared in just eight games for them before they traded him. However, this trade helped the Islanders select perhaps their greatest first-round pick since Tavares in Mat Barzal.
The Islanders clearly were looking for a defenseman in 2012. Eight of the first 10 picks were blueliners and Morgan Rielly may have been the best of those picks. Hall of Fame defensemen Dennis Potvin from the Islanders said it takes about 300 games before a defenseman can really establish himself in the league. It doesn’t seem to have taken Rielly that long.
He is coming off his best season in the NHL as a potential Norris Trophy winner. Rielly scored 20 goals this past season with 52 assists with an even more impressive plus-24 plus/minus. He had never had a positive plus-minus rating until 2018-19 and has grown into one of the top defensemen in the league.
Sticking with defensemen, Jacob Trouba was selected ninth overall by the Winnipeg Jets. He isn’t a player who is going to pile up points as he has never had over 50 in a season, but is a great defensive defenseman. He is a guy you can count on to play 25-plus minutes a night and is a physical presence.
At just 25 years old, the New York Rangers are very fortunate to have signed Trouba as they look to be on the other side of their rebuild.
It is what could have been. Every NHL team has their regrets for not picking someone, but just imagining what could have been is always fun. The Islanders hope some of their new first-round picks can contribute as the franchise seems to have turned the corner.