The draft is at 7pm which can be seen (hopefully) on Versus. Isles draft party doors open at 5:30pm. Two Blog Box members are in Ottawa on-hand. A gaggle of others, including yours truly will be on-hand at the Coliseum tonight. I have not decided if I will be live-blogging or just soaking it all in via camcorder and recorder, and then just doing a wrap-up later tonight or tomorrow AM. It will depend on what is going on, and how things fall out.
But until then, let's get into things . . .
"I think anyone who passes on Schenn after the fourth pick is making a huge mistake."
To current Isles fans who recall the Nilsson/Parise debacle, there might be no worse haunting words, well besides: "We'd like to introduce our new GM, our goalie, Garth Snow!"
Back in that draft, the Isles shot for a player they needed, despite that he would take years to develop in Nilsson, convinced they had the next Naslund. McGuire, reporting from the draft, lost his mind, citing the huge mistake the Isles were making in not going after Zach Parise. Those words have driven many Isles fans to drink since. For Nilsson did not make it past Nolan's sour mug, and was traded off into the Edmonton sunset for Ryan Smyth. Smyth followed him soon after, off to the Colorado air. Parise has turned into a star and done exactly what McGuire said he would: Making teams that did not pick him regret it. And regret it they do.
Here again, during McGuire's mock draft, those words are said again, and aimed directly at the Islanders. But is he right? Should we doubt?
During the days of Mike Milbury, we took all sorts of wacky routes. Some traded: Spezza. Some going with safe picks...so called can't miss: Nokelainen and O'Mara. And of course, who can forget the old, we have so many 1st round picks, we will be great: Pyatt, Connolly, Kudroc, and Mezei!
But here's the difference: Filatov is no Nilsson. Kid brings his A-game each time he plays. He brings his youth, explosiveness and quite frankly, star power, to Long Island. To a team that is starving for it. The Islanders have a huge business issue with a young team that might not make a dent next season, except in their own progress, and that might drive the business part of the Isles, which has only become stronger in the last year, to push a valuable credo through the committee and reverberate in Garth's head: WE NEED A STAR.
Argue if the Isles business should be that influential, but there is no doubt they have a point. You know, I know it. This team needs new heroes. Kyle Okposo, is clearly one. But Nikita Filatov would clearly be another. This kid oozes excitement. And we need that. It's been so long.
But, there is a point to be made here on defense as well. Pietangelo and Schenn are considered top D, of course behind Drew Doughty and my fave Zach Bogosian. And god knows, we need D. We need that top guy for years to come. After all, would the Isles have been winning 4 cups, or even one without Dennis Potvin? Would of the Rangers won without Leetch? NJ without Stevens? The top dman never gets all the accolades, but let me tell you, remove them, and there wouldn't be a cup. Look at Detroit just this year with Niklas Lidstrom. Defense wins cups. Defense turns around team fortunes. Defense is the backbone of success. Defensive backbone, despite the good pieces they have on Long Island, is what is missing. They miss that one piece to tie it all together. Despite those young kids they also have in their system. There is not one top #1 with a bullet among them.
So there is a strong argument to be made. And McGuire's remark hits a vulnerable spot not just because of the past, where his counterpart, Mad Mike blew chunks in decisionmaking. But also in terms of what it portends for our future due to our inherent needs.
We need a lot of pieces. We need that dynamic guy on offense. That dynamic guy on defense. We need leaders.
The Wilson Factor
Speaking of leaders, I see Newsday is finally savvy to my calling on Colin Wilson, which I reported the Isles interest in him weeks ago. Isles are interested. How much, well that is the question. They have intensely scrutinized Wilson while only talking to Cody Hodgson, another highly regarded center, at the Combine. So, it means they are looking closely at two things about Wilson over other centers:
1: Might be NHL ready right now. He is in prime physical shape, and seems to be mentally mature
2: He is a leader. And it exudes from him.
The question is, how does the Islanders get him, when he's slated to go further down the line. Well, this might be why Toronto keeps making offers, even if the Isles aren't buying. Rumors are abound that TO covets Filatov, and would like to switch spots with the Isles from #7 to #5. But what can they offer for the Isles to make that kind of switch? Yes, the Canadian Media immediately supposed it could be McCabe, who is always rumored in being interested in coming "home". But that might be TO's hopeful offer to remove McCabe off their books. McCabe gets a more appropriate amount in his front-loaded contract, but his cap hit is brutal. Obviously, the offer, if true, is simply not enough. And McCabe's agent has been scrambling to protect his client's reputation in Toronto by doing the usual denial.
So, can Toronto make an offer the Isles cannot refuse? Well, that's the question. Can they supply a dynamic forward or Dman so that the Isles can sit back and collect Wilson, Pietrangelo or Schenn at 7?
Or will the Isles listen to other offers, like someone like Nashville, who has the 9th and 15th pick? They are rumored to be fielding a few offers. But who can sweeten the pot so that the Isles can gain?
One thing that should comfort Isles fans is that the Isles scouts have really done their homework. They have had all the top guys over to visit Long Island. They really want: "the right fit". And it means they are very serious about the future. Even if tales about Yashin irk and shudder the Isles nation. Despite that, Snow has oft been quoted, from trade deadline and thereafter, that the future and kids are paramount. So players like Luke Schenn, Alex Pietrangelo, Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian, Colin Wilson, and Nikita Filatov are highly scrutinized here (among many others like Boedker).
Above all, the Isles have 10 picks, and as Ryan Jankowski, Assistant GM/Director of Amateur Scouting for the Isles has said, don't just look at the first round. They really are looking to uncover gems deeper in this draft. And let me tell you, the Isles need some precious stones.
So, who knows if Isles fans will be happy, horrified, shocked or just unsure at the 1st round antics that might ensue, but be assured that the Isles effectiveness of their scouting is the most important thing here, and that won't be evident for perhaps years to come.
When Neil Smith came aboard, he just let Ryan and the rest of scouting dictate that draft, which led to Okposo. So whatever the sordid past of drafts, this current scouting structure has good vision. Garth Snow, for the first time, has a draft to make his own. Sure he had last summer, but they had no 1st round pick, trading it for Smyth. So here today, Snow will make a mark in a talent-rich draft.
My draft dark horse is Luca Sbisa, D. I think if the Isles move backwards to grab Wilson in a trade thats worthwhile, they move up to the late 1st round to grab this under-the-radar gem. I know...I've been calling this for over a month. But, at least I'm consistent. If the Isles move back, it is because they have Sbisa and others targeted as good dmen later.
What's your pick at the 5 spot? Who is your draft dark horse?
Tonight...all this conjecture and analysis...all will be washed away tonight by reality