Clearly, Garth Snow and the New York Islanders were uncomfortable with the depth that they had on defense. So much so, they didn't even consider drafting a forward or a goalie.
The Islanders took defensemen with all 6 of their picks on Saturday at day two of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. That's right - every single pick the team made this weekend was a defenseman.
Defensive depth, particularly when it came to higher end defensemen, is something that the Islanders have lacked for quite a while. 2009 first round pick Calvin de Haan was the Islander top prospect on the back end prior to the weekend, and there is some concern there due to the injuries that he's amassed so far in the junior and pro ranks.
Aside from Friday's pick, Griffin Reinhart, after de Haan the Islanders had Matt Donovan and Aaron Ness as their most NHL ready prospects on defense. Mark Katic, who was another call-up candidate, already left the team to sign a deal in Germany.
Earlier in the summer Snow spoke of trading some of the assets he's acquired through the rebuild in order to improve the team right now.
Could we perhaps figure out here what pieces Snow may be trading? It is entirely possible that a guy like Andrey Pedan could be moved in the right deal. Heck, maybe even de Haan if the Isles feel that Matt Donovan has surpassed him as a prospect.
Reinhart should not be in the NHL next season, but two seasons from now that seems like a strong possibility. So the Islanders have some things they can move around now.
That's not to say I completely agree with the Islanders only taking defensemen in the draft, but I understand their philosophy in taking the best player available each round, and for the most part the defensemen they took were talented enough to be in that infamous 'BPA' group each time at the podium.
The ones to keep your eyes on for sure are Ville Pokka (2nd round, 34th overall) and Adam Pelech (3rd round, 65th overall). The Isles made out good on both of these picks.
Pokka starred at the World Junior Championship this winter playing on an injury riddled Team Finland, and stepped up in a big way as a replacement. The hockey world got a good sense for his two-way ability at that point, and when I learned that he was able to be drafted in 2012 he was a guy I wanted. What stood out to me the most was his positioning. He always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, and wasn't afraid to use his 6'0" frame when needed. He's already at about 195 pounds, so as some of that fills in he'll be a more complete defenseman.
Pelech was an anchor for Team Canada at Worlds, and was one of their alternate captains. In big spots, particularly on the penalty kill, Pelech was there. Another steady presence with a nice frame as an 18 year old, his offensive ceiling isn't very high. But he's more intense when it comes to positioning and playing the body. One thing I noticed with him in the winter is the speed and ease he uses to make a decision. Most of the time he plays a situation perfectly, be it picking his spots on a check or waiting just the right amount of time before making a head-man pass. I've liked what I've seen from Pelech during his junior career so far, and I'm curious to see what he evolves into.
The Islanders final pick, Jake Bischoff I find interesting. Not because he's some world class talent that fell all the way to the 7th round, but just for what he is now. He's a smallish, very raw defenseman who put up big offensive numbers in high school and even had a cup of coffee in the USHL. The U has been kind to the Islanders and various NHL teams over the last five years or so, so I'm keeping one eye on him as well for what he may be able to develop into. We've seen some late round and very raw defensive picks come into the league and produce well, such as former Islanders 6th round selection Jared Spurgeon, and Bischoff is a candidate in my eyes to be a late round find.
The one pick the Isles made that seems to have people scratching their heads was the 4th round selection of Loic Leduc. He's got a 6'5" frame, and that seems to be all anyone knows about him. I know some of the most obscure prospects out there, but honestly never heard of him prior to Saturday. When you can't even find material on a guy, then you just have to hope. It's likely a project pick that Trent Klatt and company made, hoping they can turn his size into something useful down the road.
The other two defensemen picked were Doyle Somerby (5th round) and Jesse Graham (6th round). Somerby is another big kid who is a long term project. He knew going into the draft that whatever team took him would be willing to give him time and really work with him, and the Islanders seem willing to do that. He'll try and improve his style at Boston University. Graham is a smallish puck moving defenseman who spent last year as a teammate of 2011 Isles draftees Ryan Strome and Mitchell Theoret on the Niagara Ice Dogs in the OHL. The Islanders liked what they saw here and think enough of him as an offensive defenseman. With Ness as a candidate to be moved, Katic gone and the Islanders having a good stock of big stay at home guys now, we'll see if Graham can hit his stride having been drafted.
Now we'll see what direction the Islanders are headed in after this unusual draft. Reading the tea leaves one could ultimately decipher that a trade just might be in the cards using some of their defensive prospects. They still have holes to fill on the blueline at the NHL level, as well as the 2nd line center hole. Time will tell if there's a connection here.