The Islanders finished the 2008-09 season with the league’s worst record. The prize for their futility, selecting first overall in the 2009 NHL Draft. There were a few options for general manager Garth Snow to choose from, center Matt Duchene, defenseman Victor Hedman and center John Tavares.
Snow did not show his hand until walked up to the podium and made his selection. It’s been seven years since that draft. Lets break it down.
John Tavares (first overall)
The Islanders had the first overall pick for the first time since 2000 when they selected goaltender Rick DiPietro. Snow was in the third season of his rebuild and had to nail this pick. Tavares scored in his very first game in the NHL.
Tavares has been everything that New York imagined he would be. While his regular-season numbers were down this season, the two-time Hart Trophy nominee still managed to net 30+goals for the third time in his career. The captain carried the team on his back and advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1993. Tavares had 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 11 playoffs games this year.
“They obviously believed in me to try to turn things around. I take a lot of pride in being a part of that and I want to prove that and get back to where the Islanders once were.”
Snow made the right choice selected Tavares, though he has failed in getting front-line players to play along side him.
Calvin de Haan (12th overall)
Snow traded defenseman Chris Campoli and forward Mike Comrie to the Ottawa Senators for a first-round pick at the 2009 trade deadline. The Senators’ pick was from the Sharks. San Jose made the playoffs and the Isles selected 26th overall. Snow moved from 26 to 16 by trading the following: overall picks 26, 37, 62 and 92. The Isles brought back pick 77 in the deal.
Snow was not finished. They moved up to the 12th pick by trading the 16th pick and their newly acquired 77th pick to the Minnesota Wild. (Minnesota selected Nick Leddy). The Islanders selected Calvin de Haan. He would have likely been available at 16. The defenseman had to deal a rash of injuries following his selection. He missed the entire 2012-13 season. Snow’s 2009 trade fest to get de Haan was looking like a bust. de Haan bounced back and played 51 games in 2013-14 and his games played has increased since then. He finished fourth in the league with 198 blocked shots this season. It looks like Snow’s gamble has finally paid off.
Mikko Koskinen (31st overall)
Day two of the draft opened with Snow needing to replenish the organization’s goaltending pool. He had to replenish a lot in the organization. Snow drafted the Swedish goalie over players like Ryan O’Reilly and Jakob Silfverberg. It was a leap for Snow. Koskinen was not the highest-rated goalie available. He played four games with the Isles in 2010-11, posting a 2-1 record with a .873 save percentage. Koskinen returned to Europe during the lockout and never looked back. He has played the last four seasons in the KHL.
Anders Nilsson (62nd overall)
Snow reacquired this pick as the beginning for the third round played out just like the beginning of the second. Snow selected another goalie, passing over players like Tyson Barrie and Reilly Smith. Nilsson played 23 games over two seasons for the Islanders, going 9-9-2, with a .898 save percentage and 3.05 GAA. Snow acquired Jaroslav Halak and Chad Johnson in the summer of 2014. Nilsson knew that he had little chance to make the Islanders. He opted not to return to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL. Nilsson, like Koskinen, signed in Europe. Snow traded his rights to the Chicago Blackhawks as part of the Leddy trade. Nilsson has bounced around since the trade, playing with the Edmonton Oilers and St Louis Blues.
Casey Cizikas (92nd overall)
Snow reacquired the pick and selected the Toronto native. Cizikas made headlines a couple of years before being drafted when he was charged with manslaughter during a rugby match. He played two more seasons in the OHL before making his professional debut in Bridgeport. He joined the Isles for 15 games in the 2011-12 season. Cizikas played 45 games in the lockout-shortened season of 2012-13 and has not looked back. Cizikas has spent the last two seasons with Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck forming the best fourth line in hockey. He had a career season in 2015-16 scoring 30 points. Cizikas is a restricted free agent this offseason.
Anton Klementyev (122nd overall)
There certainly was a lot of drama between the Islanders and the Russian defenseman. Klementyev was the second of the 2009 class to make his NHL debut, albeit just for one game. Klementyev became a pawn in Snow’s ploy to bring 2008 third-round pick Kirill Petrov to America. It did not work then. Petrov finally signed with the Isles last offseason, failed to make the team, and went back to Russia following a couple of months in Bridgeport. Klementyev played three seasons in Bridgeport. When the team tried to send him to the ECHL for conditioning, the Russian refused. The Isles suspended him. He since has been waived and has not played anywhere else.
Anders Lee (152nd overall)
The Islanders got a steal in the sixth round with the Notre Dame standout. The Minnesota native fell this late in the draft due to a couple of reasons, Lee was undecided whether he would attend the University of Minnesota to play hockey and football and he was playing in the USHL after being drafted. Lee could have left college and signed with any team of his choosing. Lee decided on signing with the team that drafted him. He scored his first NHL goal on his first shot. A numbers game had Lee start the 2014-15 season in Bridgeport. After a few weeks he made his season debut with the Islanders and scored 25 goals. Lee looks to bounce back from a down 2015-16.
The Islanders have six players on their curent roster that were selected in 2009. The four drafted by the team, Nick Leddy and Jean-Francois Berube, who was claimed off of waivers from the Los Angeles Kings last October.