Top pick: State of the Islanders' dilemma, April 24

What's an Islanders fan to do? If we're honest, we haven't seen a lick enough of John Tavares, Victor Hedman and now Matt Duchene (no, "those two WJC games" don't count) to truly inform our vote on which teenager would be the best choice as franchise cornerstone for the next (one hopes) decade.

And it's hard to separate the constant Canada-sourced Tavares hype of the last three years from what has been "learned" in the last season of more intense focus on 2009's draft elligible players. If it's a circus now, imagine what the next two months of chatter will bring?

So we rely on gut, the flow of info from scouts, and -- in the case of sniper vs. two-way forward vs. big D -- one's hockey philosophy. You might add to that the worry (because there is always room for more worry) that Hedman -- who as a big man is at risk for future back issues -- has already separated his shoulder at least once. Modern medicine is brilliant, but damaged goods often expose themselves in the long-term -- and we are planning long-term here. Worth thinking about.

As noted here earlier this week, B.D. Gallof has been all over this by drawing the thoughts of three different non-team-affiliated scouts who will be heard from as the draft nears. His third installment arrives today. Here's the collection, followed by some other links (Remember that no matter what these lists say, they've changed as time has passed, and if these players' seasons continued on up through June 26, they would easily change again. Such is life in a changing, uncertain world. Now go buy U.S. bonds.):

  • Today: Mike Oke from ISS Hockey, who also coached Tavares and drafted him to Oshawa. He rates the top three as Tavares-Duchene-Hedman.
    Money quote on Tavares: "Every time John Tavares has been challenged, he has risen to the occasion."
  • Grant McCagg at McKeen's Hockey: Hedman-Tavares-Duchene.
    Money quote: "There may never have been a player above 6-5 that skates better than Hedman - his package of size and skating is even more rare than Tavares' hands, which are exceptional."
  • Red Line Report's Kyle Woodlief, who had Tavares at #1 in mid-season (and Duchene at #6 back in August) but ignited the latest buzz with a shift to Hedman-Duchene-Tavares.
    Money quote: "Tavares in London and even Oshawa plays in a wide open type game. Brampton [Duchene's team] plays a defensive NHL system. It is less cut loose and he's learned it well. Duchene is rounded out the defensive and rough edges. He's grown a lot."

So those are three scout views to add the quiver. I doubt we'll know Garth Snow's view until late June. Other concerns of the moment include:

One response to Botta noted the information overload and bemused something to the effect of: "I'm glad this isn't covered like the NFL draft, or my brain would short-circuit." Amen to that. Add to that notion that there would be five times the number of half-ass opinions flowing over the airwaves. Sometimes, it's nice to follow a "niche" sport.

For the past few months, we've had a Tavares v. Hedman poll that has consistently run 80% Tavares, 20% Hedman. Perhaps it's time to refresh the vote and add Duchene to the mix. Vote with your ... whatever it is that informs your vote. Feel free to explain yourself in comments (and it's OK if you change your mind three times. We won't run a smear campaign commercial calling you a "flip-flop" for actually adapting when new information has come to light, man).

So where do I fall? Well, I've always been drawn to the franchise cornerstone D as a way to build your team. But I see the draw, the instant reward, and the marketable necessity of doing the "right" move with Tavares. I know if they go with Tavares, both the draft itself and next season will be made much more tolerable to be around Joe Islanders Fan. For sanity, I'm quietly hoping for Tavares. (If that sounds like a cop-out, fine: Piss off (nicely). I don't have an army of scouts, video, and combine and psychological testing at my disposal.)

What comforts me at night? Whatever the pick, the Islanders cannot go wrong.

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