June 26, 2008

Islanders Draft Recap

OK, so we’re all aware of what the Islanders did on Friday night. While many fans were thinking Filatov, the scouting staff saw something different. What transpired is something that was met with all sorts of reactions to Islander fans, and mainly because no one really knew anything about Josh Bailey. You see, everyone was more concerned with the top 6 prospects because that’s where the team was slated to pick. However, Garth Snow and the Islanders have become notorious for being very tight lipped these days, so any fan who was paying attention should have known that anything was possible. Naturally, at first glance, people didn’t know what to think, myself included. Sean and I even made a post draft podcast where we jumped to conclusions that weren't really warranted because we didn't know too much about what we really had here. We've learned our lesson though. I have to admit, that after reading over a bunch of things since Friday night, I think the teams draft was a success. Here’s a breakdown of the selections.

1st round, Pick #9: Josh Bailey, Center, 6’1”, 188 lbs.
Rank: TSN- 12; CSB- 14 (NAS); ISS- 10; RLR- 15; McK- 11; THN- 14
Scouting Report:
NHL Director of Central Scouting, E.J. McGuire:
*Strengths: "Josh is the quarterback on the power-play, from down low, for the Windsor Spitfires and I think he is going to continue to be that. He is a good play-making centerman with the ability to feed his linemates when he needs to and shoot the puck when the play requires that."
*Areas to improve: "He needs to add a little bit more grit to his game, he is a tireless worker and if he can get in there and grind it out with some of the other players that he currently plays against in the OHL, that will be good experience for when he reaches the NHL."
*Outlook: "He is a skilled centerman who is going to be on your power-play, if not the first power-play, certainly part of a good second power-play unit. He is going to be a skilled play-making player in the NHL and good things are going to happen for him at the next level due to his hard work."
NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards: "Josh is a really hard working up and down guy who has great puck skill and play-making ability. He has the ability to pass through any type of traffic and is an energy guy for Windsor. He's not a fighter but he's not one to be afraid of anyone or back down and he doesn't get knocked around. The biggest component of his game that needs improvement was his competitiveness, but he stepped it up down the stretch and really showed that next level."
Windsor Spitfires head coach Bob Boughner: "Joshua is a highly skilled player who can play on both ends of the ice as well as on the penalty kill and power-play units. He has the unique ability to make players around him better."
TSN: “Regarded as a skilled playmaker, the Windsor Spitfire centre is a good, solid two-way player who is conscientious in his effort at all times although scouts would like to see a little more grit to his game.”

Some good stuff right there. Sure, every fan was expecting Filatov or Schenn at first, but like I said, once people read up on Josh they liked him more and more. A playmaking center, who makes his wingers better, defensively responsible, and is a leader. The Islanders really need centers like that in the system, not to mention on the team as well. This was the prospect the Islanders had ranked 5th on their chart after Steve Stamkos, Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian and Alex Pietrangelo. When those guys went one through four respectively, Snow and his scouts made the decision to get their man in Bailey. Since the new revamped scouting staff has been put in place, they have made some really nice selections, which is a welcome sight after what went on around here in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Now, these kids are just 18 or 19 years old, so it’s hard to judge right now who should have gone where, and it’s impossible to project where they will be at. We’ll just have to see. But based on recent track record, I trust the scouting staff.

Lost in those scouting reports is how when things get tough, Josh doesn’t back down. The Spitfires organization and the OHL suffered a huge loss when captain Mickey Renauld collapsed and passed away this passed winter. He was the team’s captain. Bailey was very close to Mickey, and took his spot as a leader on the team. Bailey played with a heavy heart, like most of the team, but it didn’t show on the ice. In 67 games, Bailey had 96 points (29-67) which included a stretch to end the year of 23 points in the final 9 games. It is difficult to perform at a high level when you suddenly lose a close friend; but it is more difficult to battle that kind of adversity at 18 years of age.

It isn’t so farfetched to think that Bailey could make the Islanders out of training camp this September. Bailey said he’s going to move to Long Island in the summer, and will be at prospect camp July 14-19. I think he has a very good shot, depending on what the team does in free agency. If it goes like last year, Bailey will be here. If not, well then he’ll go back to juniors, and possibly will be the new captain for the Spitfires.

2nd Round, Pick #36: Corey Trivino, Center, 6’1”, 170 lbs.
Rank: TSN- 36; CSB- 49 NAS; ISS- 26; RLR- 40; McK- 24; THN- 36
Scouting Report:
NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards: "He has the ability to see the ice well and to move the puck. He needs to get stronger – he's willing to battle, but isn't always winning the puck. He's got a good goal-scoring touch and he's good on face-offs with good skating ability, not necessarily high-end skating, but good."
TSN: “The Jr. A player from Ontario stepped up his play at the Under-18 tourney in April and scouts are confident he's on the right development track as he prepares to head off to Boston University next season. While there is a little talk he could sneak into the bottom end of the first round, the consensus is that he's a solid second round pick.”

This was a great pick at 36. I was excited to grab him as he was on my wish list for these later rounds. While Trivino didn’t go in the first round, the Islanders were glad to grab him at 36. Snow wanted to trade two of his 2nd rounders to get back into the first round, and it was believed that be for Trivino. It all ended up working out well as the Islanders made some great selections with their 2nd rounders this year. Trivino is a very skilled center, who is more on the playmaking side. He had 69 points (19-50) in only 39 games last year for Stouffville of the OPJHL. Trivino will turn into a solid NHL player one day, but we won’t have to worry about that for another 3-4 years down the road.

2nd Round, Pick #40: Aaron Ness, Defenseman, 5’10”, 157 lbs.
Rank: TSN- 40; CSB- 27 NAS; ISS- 29; RLR- 23; McK- 45; THN- 43
Scouting Report:
NHL Central Scouting's Jack Barzee: "Aaron is flamboyant and colorful. He is very quick, everything about him is quick – his hands are quick, his feet are quick. He is a very good skater and he is gritty and physical. He'll step right in to you without fear – he picks his spot when he does it. He's a little more polished than some of the other high school defensemen with his passing and playmaking. When I look at him he is quicker than Brian Leetch was at this age and he's as fast as John-Michael Liles was at the same age."
Roseau head coach Scott Oliver: "I think he's in the top 10 all-time (in the state). He sees the ice and moves the puck better than any player I've ever seen. He reminds me of (former NHL great) Phil Housley. I kept him on the ice as much as I could. He's a dynamic player and has got a real good gas tank. Even when he was tired, he probably wouldn't tell me. He's very passionate about the game and a real pleasure to coach."
TSN: “So good, so small. That's what the scouts say about the diminutive defenseman from Minnesota. He has speed and skill and is fast-tracking his way to the University of Minnesota. It would take a team with multiple first round picks and/or a great deal of faith in the undersized blueliner to choose him in the first round.”

This was another guy I had on my wish list. I was so happy when I saw that we were able to grab him at this spot. Small guy right now, but he’s still growing and has some excellent talent for an offensive defenseman. He doesn’t back down from being physical, despite his small size. I love everything about his game. The NHL is heading more towards speed, and Ness will fit in perfectly one day.

2nd Round, Pick #53: Travis Hamonic, Defenseman, 6’, 192 lbs.
Rank: TSN- Hon. Mention; CSB- 75 NAS; ISS- 86; RLR- 155; McK- 64
Scouting Report:
NHL Director of Central Scouting E.J. McGuire: "Travis at times is a human pinching machine, regardless of the zone, he seems to come up with the puck. He plays an energetic game and has a long legged-type skating style to go along with the willingness to play physical. He needs to improve on his playmaking ability in order to be more of a contributor in the offensive zone."

This pick seems to be a bit of a reach for the Isles at 53. However, Hamonic seems to be more of a defensive defenseman who has some offense to his game as well. He is a very intense guy who plays the game at a high level. He played last season for Moose Jaw of the WHL, where he had 5 goals and 17 assists in 61 games. We’ll have to track his progress to see if he turns into anything in 4 or 5 years.

3rd Round, Pick #66: David Toews, Center, 5’10”, 175 lbs.
Rank: CSB- 79 NAS; ISS- 27; RLR- 102; McK- 65; THN- 40
Scouting Report:
NHL Central Scouting's Jack Barzee: "Has a good shot with a quick release – moves the puck and sees the ice very well. A good skater, uses his speed to create scoring chances for himself and his linemates – has excellent hands."

Another guy who was on my wish list for after the 1st round. Toews isn’t his brother Jonathan, that Chicago Blackhawks star, but that’s all right. David is skilled, and has great hockey sense. His speed is OK for a guy his size, but it could certainly be better. He has also had some injury issues this past season, and that seems to have become a concern. However, he is a good 2-way player and for some reason still fell down pretty far, probably because of the injuries. This was an excellent pick here, and Toews will make it to the NHL one day.

3rd Round, Pick #72: Jyri Niemi, Defenseman, 6’2”, 192 lbs.
Rank: TSN- 49; CSB- 25 NAS; ISS- 65; RLR- 73; McK- 54; THN- 44
Scouting Report:
NHL Director of Central Scouting, E.J. McGuire:
*Strengths: "Jyri is adjusting well to the North American game. He has good poise and stickhandling ability from the back end. He quarterbacks the power-play, with a heavy shot from the point. He has an offensive flare to his game and is an entertaining player to watch."
*Areas to improve: "More dependability in the defensive zone will guarantee that he projects into a number three or four defenseman in the League, with the potential to be a one-two defenseman."
TSN: “Some scouts question his hockey sense and/or ability to play a team game, but he's got one of the hardest shots of any player in this year's draft. And he had 14 goals in 49 games for Saskatoon to prove it.”

You should know what I’m going to say here. The Isles thus far had done excellent with their draft, and this was par for the course. A guy who many Isles fans wanted to pick up in the second round, no one thought he was going to be there for sure. When the Isles got this pick from Chicago, they were sure to grab Niemi before he fell any further. This guy was a second rounder for sure. The whole issue with the hockey sense is a bit overblown, and should not have caused him to drop this far. But, that is the Islanders gain for now. A Finnish kid who already has good size, he only turned 18 just 10 days ago. In the prospects competition a few months back, he was 2nd in the hardest shot competition – at 97 MPH (at 17 years old? wow). He moved to North America for last season and has already been learning the North American game. I am very excited about his development.

3rd Round, Pick #73: Kirill Petrov, Right Wing, 6’3”, 198 lbs.
Rank: TSN- 43; CSB- 2 ES; ISS- 17; RLR- 8; McK- 36; THN- 100
Scouting Report:
Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb: "I'm impressed with Kirill's excellent skating and mobility as well as his work ethic playing on Russia's (Under-18) top line. He displays toughness in one-on-one situations and delivers smart passes creating a lot of scoring chances. He is also very physically strong; he was successful in one-on-one situations along the boards and in the corners."
TSN: “The Russian forward is touted as having first-round talent, but his work ethic fluctuates wildly and there is some real concern about when or if he's interested in playing in the NHL. A regular with Kazan in the Russian Super League, many scouts believe he is too comfortable, financially and otherwise, to expend a first-round pick so he could slide a long way. But if a team thought there's a realistic chance at getting him out at some point, there's no denying he's a first-round talent.”

Aside from Bailey, this was perhaps the Islanders most intriguing pickup of the draft. You can see the ratings are all over the place. That is not because he isn’t a good player. The rankings based in skill are the ones that have him high. However, the ones that are lower take his contract status in Russia into consideration. Petrov has two years remaining on a deal with Kazan. With the expiration of the IIHF transfer agreement, players can sign wherever they wish, however it seems like a buyout would have to be negotiated and a player could get compensated. I’m not completely sure on whole the whole thing works yet. Either way, Petrov did plan on staying in Russia until the combine about a month ago, when he realized just how hard he worked to become one of the top prospects in the draft. He said that he had changed his mind and plans to take his game to the NHL. It is only a matter of when now. The Islanders say they will try to bring Petrov in sooner rather than later. Now, they are trying to get him to come to the prospect camp, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them try to keep him. Petrov is a very skilled power forward, who seems to battle more often than not for position and for the puck along the boards. There has been some questions about his drive, but if anyone can get it out of his system its Ted Nolan. This is a situation worth watching for the team as it could be the steal of the draft.

4th Round, Pick #96: Matt Donovan, Defenseman, 6’, 190 lbs.
Rank: ISS- 160; RLR- 179
There isn’t much on Donovan. He has good size for a defenseman and plays an all-around game. He is little known, but some feel that he might be able to one day turn into an NHL player. He has been playing in the USHL and will go to the University of Denver in 2009.

4th Round, Pick #102: David Ullstrom, Winger, 6’3”, 198 lbs.
Rank: CSB- 17 ES; ISS- 91; RLR- 219; McK- 101;
Scouting Report:
International Scouting Service: “Classic late-bloomer! Ullstrom went undrafted in the 07 NHL Draft, however he will get serious consideration at the 08 Draft after a spectacular season in the Swedish junior league. A good skater looks effortless when skating up the ice. Battles hard - gets involved physically and is more than willing to stand up for himself and for his teammates. His defensive game is sufficient, he will need to continue to develop this area of his game.”

Nice scouting report. A Swede who is a late bloomer, and taken late in the draft? Can we think Zetterberg with this? Well, I wouldn’t go that far just yet but it is encouraging that Ullstrom put it together, even if it was a bit late. This pick seems like it was OK, in the 100’s when he was ranked anywhere from 91 to 211. The Isles have found some good European players over the last few years in guys like Figren, Joensuu and Marcinko, so maybe they got a good one in Ullstrom.

5th Round, Pick #126: Kevin Poulin, Goalie, 6’2”, 210 lbs.
Rank: CSB- 7 NAG; RLR- 78; McK- 70
Scouting Report:
Red Line Report: “Maddeningly inconsistent; a world beater one night, and an absolute wreck on other occasions. Has all the tools to be a good one. Big and technically sound. Excellent reflexes and goes post-to-post in a flash; gets great push off either foot. Tall enough to cover top corners while on his knees in the butterfly. Has the potential to steal games when he's hot. Squares up to shooters well and, with his size, doesn't leave them much to shoot at. But has shown a propensity to lose his angles this season. Anticipates plays around the crease very well. Maintains focus and finds puck through traffic. Shakey with the glove hand - has a tendency not to catch cleanly. Lacks mental toughness when things are not going his way. Ended season on a down note with a horrific playoff performance.”

OK, no star goalie here, but something the Islanders did need in the system. Poulin had 1st round status at the beginning of the year, but a bad season cause him to drop to 4th in mid term rankings and then to 7th in the final rankings. This kid is a bit of a project, but with some work he could be a backup in the league down the road it seems.

5th Round, Pick #148: Matthew Martin
Rank: Not ranked anywhere
Martin was a teammate and line mate of Stamkos’ in Sarnia last season. He was more of an enforcer. He had 25 goals in 67 games. He’s a guy who sticks up for his teammates. It seems the Islanders hope that he can turn into a David Clarkson, Brian McGratton type of player. We shall see.

6th Round, Pick #156: Jared Spurgeon, Defenseman, 5’8”, 175lbs.
Rank: CSS- 198 NAS
Very small guy. Obviously an offensive defenseman. However, he does play with Spokane up in the WHL, and they preach some really good defense up there. It's said he positions himself well, but he obviously won’t lay down a huge hit. Looking at it right now, a long shot to make the NHL.

6th round, Pick #175: Justin DiBenedetto, Center, 5’11”, 194 lbs.
Rank: Not ranked anywhere
The other Stamkos line mate. DiBenedetto put up 93 points in 58 games last year, but you really have to factor in how much of that is from Stamkos. He went undrafted last year, and was selected as the Islanders final selection in this year’s draft. He is already 20, so they may be able to give him a shot already in the ECHL or the AHL. I won’t have hopes to high.

So there you have it, maybe a bit long winded but 13 picks is a lot, and the most amount of picks in the draft. The Islanders got some excellent players in the later rounds, guys who the fans knew about because they were at one time considered 1st round talents, some of which still were depending on the publication. The Isles would not have been able to select all these players if not for trading down twice and stockpiling the picks. They were also able to make a risky pick with Petrov, one that looks like it may pay off. It will take a few years before we can really see how this draft went, but in the early going it looks like it went better than we all thought at first.

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