It’s almost like a reflex when you ask hockey fans about the best way to build a winner “It’s the draft!” Drafting allow you to develop players or trade for established ones. Since the Isles have had no playoffs since 07-08, they’ve been in rebuild mode. We’re going to look at this draft rebuild with our usual critical eyes, establishing the 2008 draft and forward as rebuild time. Lets look at these masterpieces, shall we?
What players from the ’08 draft made the NHL? When?
Josh Bailey – rd 1 – debuted in 2008.
Aaron Ness- rd 2- debuted in 2011 at age of 21 for 9 games.
Travis Hamonic – rd 2 – debuted in 2010 at 20.
Matt Donnovan – rd 4 – debuted at 21 for 3 games.
David Ullstrom – rd 4 – debuted at 22.
Kevin Poulin – rd 5 – debuted at 20 for 10 games.
Matt Martin – rd 5 – debuted at 20 for 5 games, full timer at 21.
Jared Spurgeon – rd 6- debuted at 21 for the Minnesota Wild.
Justin DiBenedetto – rd 6- debuted at 22 for 8 games. Out of NHL.
What players made the NHL from 09 draft?
John Tavares – rd 1- debuted at 19. Thank you.
Calvin de Haan – rd 1 – debuted at 20 for 1 game. Injuries. We know.
Mikko Koskinen – rd 2 – debuted at 22 for 4 games. Euro players debut later in general.
Anders Nilsson – rd 3 – debuted at 21 for 4 games.
Casey Cizikas – rd 4- debuted at 21 for 15 games.
Anton Klementyev – rd 5 – debuted around his 20th birthday for a game, then vanished.
Andres Lee – rd 6 – 23 years old and in college. This isn’t an NHL debut, but damn, 23 in college?
What players made team from ’10 draft?
Nino Niederreiter – rd 1 – debuted at 18, and thanks to great professional coaching, was awful by 20.
What players made NHL from ’11 draft?
What players made the NHL from the ’12 draft?
What to make of all of this? Here is our “expert” analysis:
First round lottery picks are expected to step into the lineup. That’s not uncommon for a lot of teams. Usually it’s a route usually taken by bad teams, but also winnings teams like Boston who brought in Tyler Seguin, or Anaheim with Cam Fowler, or Carolina with Jeff Skinner, or New Jersey with Adam Larsson, or Philadelphia with Sean Couturier, or Boston again with Dougie Hamilton. The Isles are a bad team. Why did this practice stop with Nino Niederreiter? Why didn’t Ryan Strome walk into the lineup like four of the prior six first round Islanders picks, and all four lottery picks? EVERYONE in the top ten picks from 2008 and 2009 have played or are playing in the NHL. The tenth overall in 2010 hasn’t debuted yet, which likely isn’t good for Dylan McIlrath. The Islanders biggest glaring need is a second line center. Since the Islanders do not make trades for NHL talent, and the arena is to blame for a lack of any free agent acquisitions, it only makes sense that Ryan Strome stops destroying the OHL and shows up here to play. Of the top 10 players drafted in 2011, only one isn’t playing in the NHL. Ryan Strome. Center. Why? Spoiler alert- the answer comes later. If you’re building through the draft, Strome should be here.
Let’s take it one step further. After second line center, what’s the Islanders second largest glaring need? Stay at home top pairing defenseman. Who was #4 overall in the 2012 NHL draft? Griffin Reinhart. Top pairing defenseman.
“BUT IT’S TOO EARLY! YOU’RE RUSHING HIM! YOU’LL RUIN HIM!”
Yeah, yeah. 2012 draft picks: #1 Nail Yakupov. Playing in Edmonton. #2 Ryan Murray. Penciled into starting top pairing in Columbus before being injured in juniors. #3 Alex Galchenyuk. Playing in Montreal. #4 Griffin Reinhart. +19 in the WHL. Islanders defense? Finley, Martinek, Hickey- all obviously better options. WHAT? Afterthought- #12 Mikhail Grigorenko fell into Buffalo’s lap and is on their roster, and even allowed them to trade Derek Roy to Dallas. Imagine a draft pick on Long Island allowing you to trade away an established player? Imagine the Islanders had established players? If you’re building through the draft, a 6’4″ dman is paired with a veteran to learn some ropes.
On a team where your top line had two wings under contract in Matt Moulson and P.A. Parenteau, coming off of a summer where Snow gave two 5 year contracts to guys expected to be second line wingers in Kyle Okposo and Michael Grabner, why was a lottery pick – a spot in which you try to draft game changing talent- on this team, anyway? The sensible thing would have been to wait a season, let the Parenteau situation (1 year deal) play out, and THEN put Nino on a line where he may struggle but still have successes to keep morale high. If you’re building through the draft, you need to put guys in positions to succeed with the right line mates, not the leftovers. Why didn’t that happen? We’ll tell you later.
If you’re going to make the case that Frans Neilsen is your second line center, then why are you passing on using Brock Nelson as your third line center? He fits the Islanders criteria of entry age and time served in the AHL. It’s not like the team went out and signed or traded for an NHL caliber player to fill that role. If you’re building through the draft, why take a career AHL’er training camp cast off from Toronto (yuck) to fill that job in Keith Aucoin. Why isn’t Snow promoting one of his own?
If you are building through the draft, why is Aaron Ness sitting behind Thomas Hickey? If we all recall, Ness fell a round in the draft because scouts had worries about his size. Hickey was a reach at #4 overall, because of his size. The L.A. Kings were trying to make something out of nothing, whereas the Islanders were trying to get something for nothing in their draft strategies. Why was LA’s nothing better than our something? Their NHL play at this point- Hickey: 8 games, no points, -5. Ness: 9 games, no points, even.
The same logic applies to Joe Finley, a former first round draft pick, versus Matt Donovan, a guy that some were surprised about his still being available in the 4th round. NHL records: Joe Finley: 10 games, 1 assist, -5. Matt Donovan: 3 games, -3. If you’re building through the draft, how can these waiver guys be considered upgrades? In what sense? Those who watched Donovan play at the end of last season saw a guy who moved quickly, was very involved, and needed seasoning at the NHL level, as his AHL all star status this season tells us he has nothing more to learn at that level. Anyone watching Finley play this season thought one thing: road cone.
What do you think is going on in Garth Snow’s mind? Is he learning from the Nino Niederreiter affair regarding first round players? Is he supplementing talent through all means available?
No. Snow has no intentions of building through the draft, or any other foundation.
Snow’s actions fall into one category- self preservation. Want proof? Here’s three pieces of evidence.
One- Garth Snow can’t draft to save his life, and he knows it.
“WHAT? Look at the 2008 draft? 90 players from that draft made the NHL! 9 were Snow picks! That’s 10% of the whole draft class for Snow!”
Yup. 10 percent. How many play or played for the Islanders? 8. Other teams? 1. So that means of all of the NHL players drafted by Snow, only 1 player was coveted by another team. And he was a 6th round pick, normally a pick without expectations. Who covets Josh Bailey, that years first rounder and all around nice guy? Nobody. Snow couldn’t give Bailey away- we know this, because Snow couldn’t give Blake Comeau away after a 20+ goal season, and Bailey hasn’t even sniffed that number. 8 players. How many are making impacts in the NHL? One. Matt Martin. When you look back at that draft TODAY, Matt Martin was our best pickup. Not Ullstrom’s 6 goals in 41 games, not wasting a lottery pick on Bailey, but 5th round pick Matt Martin. That’s a good GM?
“What about 2009? JT! 6 NHL players?”
Well, we could draft a consensus #1 overall, too. Heck, we even made that pick happen using hockey magic (a story for another day). What about that year’s OTHER first round pick? To compare, how did Neil Smith do with the 2006 draft? Kyle Okposo, Andrew MacDonald, Jesse Joensuu, Shane Sims, Rhett Rakhsani- 5 NHL players. What two players from the same draft- 2008 or 2009- are better than Okposo and MacDonald? Fact is, bad teams have lots of holes, and so lots of drafted guys walk into lineups. How many kids go to the Rangers straight from the draft? Hardly any- although JT Miller was drafted 10 picks after Ryan Strome and managed to debut before him. Jeez, Snow even brought Joensuu back. Talk about a lack of faith in your own draft picks- no one could unseat the stellar work of Jesse Joensuu?
Since the Islanders have a Snow-led history of promoting 20 year olds, where is ANYBODY from the 2010, 2011, or 2012 draft classes? Of the 45 NHL players from those three draft years, NOT ONE is an Islander. Nino was, but not now. Guess the draft ace got shutout!
As noted, Snow likes players being around 20 to make their debuts. If they aren’t taking regular shifts at 20, eyebrows should be raised. Ullstrom and other Euros are exceptions to an extent because the Euro league players usually need a year of adjustment to the North American game. Similarly, players like Donovan and Ness both went to college, which usually slows NHL development. However, in the case of Donovan and Ness, this season is their third AHL stint- as Snow plucks similar players from the waiver wire. This is an indicator. Snow drafts poorly, and uses the waiver wire to help hide the poor choices he made.
The best pick Snow ever made, hands down, was John Tavares, who was in the NHL at 19. Thus far, the second best pick has been Travis Hamonic- NHL at 20. Snow has had 7 first round picks in 5 years, 7 second round picks in 5 years, and 8 third round picks, and from that he’s managed to find these gems: a consensus all star, a solid second pairing Dman, and nothing else. If I were him, I wouldn’t promote what I drafted, either.
If he could draft, why the overreliance on the waiver wire? And those waiver guys aren’t Snow’s picks- they’re guys Capuano, Thompson, and Pellerin recommended to Garth. Yikes. Nice bird dogging, Snow.
We’d like to think that after his first few drafts, his philosophy evolved regarding developmental appropriateness. And it has. Sadly, for the worse. From exposed too soon to overprotected- the man is unable to judge individual talent, so he hides behind a waiver wire and the unfulfilled promise of a rebuild.
More in part two. And we know you can’t wait!
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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