Like many Islander fans, we have been hearing about “the rebuild” and “the future.” Not only did our system produce John Tavares (who never played one day in our minor league “system”), but also Andrew MacDonald, Travis Hahahamonic, Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey, Franz Neilsen, and Rick DiPiawful. Garth Snow, it has been said, produces more NHL players per draft than most other GMs. Many point to his draft in 2008 as his shining achievement.
Thus, the breakdown of the 2008 NHL entry draft.
Of the 13 players selected by the Islanders in the 2008 draft, an amazing NINE have seen time in the NHL. That’s a positive, right?
As the zen master says, we shall see.
Lets look at NHL impact on teams. Of all of the Islanders draft picks that made the NHL, here are the three most accomplished: Josh Bailey, Travis Hahahamonic and Jared Spurgeon. One slight problem- Spurgeon does NOT play for the Islanders. Another problem: calling Josh Bailey’s career accomplished. Our third (!) second round pick from 2008 was a home run. It won’t be this season where he breaks out, as it’s too short, but we expect Hamonic to be the key to our defense in 2013-2014. You can make an argument for Matt Martin being added to accomplished players, but we’d argue that Martin is a depth guy that you’d find on a cup winning team. The Islanders since 2008 have been FAR from a cup winning (last in the Atlantic each year since 2008, if you were wondering), so Martin goes unnoticed, even after leading the league in hits. We wish DiPietro would lead the league in hits by puck, but no, he’s about dead last in that stat.
Lets look at the losers, since there were four easily identifiable members of this club. Our first pick in the second round, Corey Trivino. Almost did time in jail in 2012, and had a college program rewrite conduct rules over his drunken antics. He now resides in the ECHL. Apparently the Islanders will not give drunken gropers second chances. Manslaughterers are still welcome. Our first pick in the third round…more of the same. Much like with the Lindros’s, we got the wrong Toews. Jyri Niemi? Even he doesn’t know where he is today. Last seen kicking around the Rangers ECHL affiliate. And Kiril Petrov? I get the intent, as it was a projected first round talent with no intention of leaving his mom’s teat, and you had six picks already in this draft, and if it works out what a catch! But in reality? What an AWFUL round three. In fact, there was a rumor that AK Bars was going to offer Petrov a 15 year contract, but their GM discounted the rumor, saying “Who is stupid enough to give a hockey player a 15 year deal?”
Lets move on to the cup of coffee crowd. Matt Donovan played a handful of games as an Islander and looked effective, as did Aaron Ness. These guys were highly touted picks. Ness was a “first round talent” that fell in the draft because people had concerns over his height. He is a skill player, and has shown the rare ability among Islander defensemen to skate, and make a tape to tape pass. Donovan is another skilled defenseman who came out of the hockey hotbed of Oklahoma and looked very capable in limited NHL games last season. In fact, these guys were chomping at the bit so anxiously that the Islanders went out and drafted ELEVEN defensemen since, and signed three defensemen that were released by other teams during training camp. One specifically was labeled a skilled but smallish “first round talent.” Go figure.
Another cup of coffee guy is Kevin Poulin. Kevin Poulin plays a new style of goaltending- Jeckyl and Hyde. At times you couldn’t shoot a lima bean past the guy. And there are days that a garbage truck can go five hole. Patrick Roy called him the best goaltending prospect he ever saw, but Roy doesn’t know squat about drafting goaltending talent because he’s not a GM. Oh, he is? Well, not in the NHL! That’s why Snow went back to the well the next year and drafted goalies in rounds two and three.
The last short term experiment was Justin DiBenedetto. 8 games, 1 assist. He was drafted in the appropriate position- late sixth round.
The sleeper of this draft may be David Ullstrom. He seems to have the elusive “hockey sense” and heart scouts speak of. Europeans sometimes need an extra year to acclimate to North American hockey. This abbreviated season will tell us what to expect going forward from this youngblood. He puts in ten goals, and Snow got himself a player.
And so, the class of 2008 does indeed seem successful. 69% of what Snow drafted played at least 1 NHL game. But lets ponder a point here. I’m not going to look back and say “well, we should have taken this guy over that guy because his career is better now,” a typical backward looking argument. No, the question to ask here is this: in what other organization do 69% of their players make the team? Does 18 year old Josh Bailey make it in Detroit? If Dallas Stars defenseman Philip Larsen (rd 5, # 149) was taken one spot earlier, is Matt Martin (rd 5, #148) making the Stars lineup? What other NHL team gives Justin DiBenedetto an 8 game audition? Why were Ness and Donovan good enough last year, but not this year? Would trading some of these picks for established NHL players have helped along the development of the ones we kept? We have our answers, but we’d rather see yours in the comments section.
About the Author: We are two long time hockey fans who certainly have our own opinions and points of view. Feel free to share yours. Follow on twitter @joshbarely