Fingers were crossed and prayers to the hockey Gods were made, but it all came down to the luck of the draw - something the Islanders did not have land in their favor. The draft lottery was conducted last night and the Isles went in with the 5th worst record in the NHL. That gave them an 8.1% chance of moving up to grab the first overall pick. Instead, they ended up standing still with the 5th selection; not the best-case scenario, but it certainly was not the worst as there was a slim potential of them moving back to 6th.
The Islanders faithful can scratch Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall off of their list of hopeful draft picks. There is no way that either one of them will be around at number 5, and you definitely can assume that Boston and Edmonton, (the 2nd pick and 1st overall pick respectively), have every intention of drafting the two best players to come out of the class of 2010. So who does that leave for GM Garth Snow and the New York Islanders?
Answer: Plenty of valuable defenseman.
Cam Fowler is going to go, according to several pro scouts, anywhere from the 3rd pick to the 6th. He is a 6'2 defenseman weighing in at 190 pounds with a lefty shot. In 55 games with the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL, Cam has scored 8 goals and 47 assists for 55 points and 14 PIMs. He has the potential to be an offensive blue liner, but many scouts say he isn't as physical as a top paired defenseman should be. Be that as it may, this is one guy that I feel the Islanders should grab if he is still available with the 5th pick. But I am not going to get my hopes up. I expect him to go either 3rd or 4th.
Erik Gudbranson might be more likely to be available at the 5th spot. He's a righty defenseman that weighs in at 6'3 and 195 pounds. He plays for the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL, but only was able to appear in 41 games this year due to a battle with mono in the middle of the season. Still, he managed to put up 23 points (2 goals and 21 assists). Last year was his first year in the OHL; his rookie season had him in 63 games where he scored 3 goals and 19 assists for 22 points. Therefore, it seems safe to assume that he would have been able to perform much better had he not been sick. He plays a physical game and could be a nice addition on the blue line given his size. Oh yeah, and he's still growing, so he's only going to get bigger.
Brandom Gormley is another defenseman who could be around with the 5th overall pick. He is 6'1 and 175 pounds - right away you can tell that he will have to add size to his frame to be able to compete at the NHL level. In his second season with the Moncton Wildcats of the OHL, Gormley has 9 goals, 34 assits and 43 points in 58 games played. A blue liner with a good shot and bag of offensive potential; he would certainly be fun to watch as a top-4 defenseman with the New York Islanders.
If the Isles want to add more offense or have their sights on these defenseman and they end up not being available, Snow may look to Brett Connolly.
Connolly is a left wing with a righty shot playing for the Prince George Cougars of the WHL. Last year he appeared in 65 games with the Cougars and tallied 30 goals and 30 assists for an even 60 points. Many scouts were expecting him to improve this year, ranking him as one of the top 3 forwards in the draft after Hall and Seguin. However, his injury history may keep the Isles at bay. He has injured his hip more than once and was forced to miss the vast majority of the 2010 season, having only appeared in 16 games. Yet he did manage to score 10 goals and 9 assists for 19 points in that short time frame.
Personally, I feel that the Islanders are better off drafting a defenseman. The Isles and hip injuries definitely do not mix. Just take a look at Rick DiPietro. You can even look even further to developing prosect, Mikko Koskinen, Bridgeport's starting goaltender who injured his hip as well. To the contrary of Rick, Mikko has healed and seems to have immediately returned to old form. Even though Connolly may have an excellent career as a first line winger in the NHL, Snow should do himself and the franchise a favor and stay away from anymore potential problems.
Like I said, I would love to see Fowler from the slew of potential defensive prospects to be the one to put on an Islanders jersey at the draft podium in Los Angeles. If Fowler is not available, as I do not anticipate him to be, Gudbranson would be my pick then followed by Gormley.
But here comes the what ifs...
What if the Isles only have one certain player on their radar and he is chosen somewhere between the 1-4 picks. Does Snow move down like the last time he had the 5th overall pick? You only have to look back two years ago when he traded down not once, but twice to draft Josh Bailey. Bailey is slowly coming along, but many fans look and see Luke Schenn and realize how important it is to have a physical, shut down defenseman. Snow has the opportunity to grab a guy like that in Gudbranson.
What if Garth Snow sees that he might not be able to grab the guy he wants; that it's too much of a gamble to sit where he is right now? Snow might be able to find a way to make a trade so that he lands at the 3rd or 4th selections. He has added depth picks and a couple of young guys like Sean Bergenheim and (dare I say) Bruno Gervais that may be packaged in a deal to help the Isles move up. Okay, okay...maybe not Gervais...but Snow should have enough assets in picks, RFA's and current roster players to be able to move up in the draft.
I certainly do not want to see Snow move down. If he can find a way to move up later in the first round by moving his 2nd and 3rd round picks, fine. But do not trade from 5th to a lower spot. There is nothing wrong with taking the best player available with where they are right now.
So what would you like to see the Islanders do at the NHL Entry draft this coming June?
Follow me on Twitter!