In Hockey Independent's draft survey of Islanders bloggers (majority bet: Gudbranson), just about every punter couldn't speculate on the Islanders' plans without bringing up the last time the Islanders held the #5 overall pick. That was of course when they then had the #7, followed quickly by the #9, followed quickly by one Josh Bailey.
Unfortunately, that was hardly the only time we've been in this position. In honor of Draft Week, let's look back at all the fifth-overall selections in Islanders history:
The aforementioned gutsy double-trade down. Writing for a now-defunct site (archives: kaput), I was stunned by this but hardly discouraged. I can honestly say I wasn't worried: The Islanders needed to stock the cupboard with more picks, and the drop off from the "big three" offensive defensemen to stay-at-home Luke Schenn was big enough that I was fine passing on him for whomever Garth Snow and company had their eye on. Nikita Filatov was always a size and KHL risk. Today that selection of character two-way center (wait...or is it left wing?) Bailey still looks solid. The extra picks the Islanders collected look poised to pay off in a variety of permutations.
|2008-10 - Josh Bailey||141||23||37||60||-9||34|
It will always be overshadowed by The Big Move by Mike "Voldemort" Milbury to draft Rick DiPietro and eject Roberto Luongo, but this was also the year the Islanders picked Raffi Torres at #5. Between DP and Torres were Dany Heatley, Marian Gaborik and Roteslav Klesla. Behind Torres was Scott Hartnell and mostly a pile of rubbish until later in the first, where the Volchenkovs, Boyes's, and Ott's come out.
Torres, like virtually every Voldemort draft selection, would become an ex-Islander before anyone knew what his real potential would be.
|2001-2010 - Raffi Torres||432||98||84
The year of four Islanders first-rounders, with Tim Connolly going first at #5 overall. Somehow Voldemort saw enough in Connolly to draft him yet immediately became disappointed with him. He happily dumped him after two seasons. A decade later, he was still bitter, calling Connolly "a dink" on a Bruins broadcast.
Except for the Sedins, 1999 was an awful, awful draft year, so Voldemort actually did well with what he had. Between and after Connolly at #5 and Taylor Pyatt at #8 was ... rubbish. In the first two rounds, no one outside of the Sedins has played more NHL games than Connolly and Pyatt.
|1999-2010 - Tim Connolly||559||105||248||353||-31||240|
It's as if Voldemort made a specialty out of grabbing two high picks and using one to take the highest-selected goaltender ever. Before there was DiPietro, there was Roberto Luongo at #4 overall. One pick later, Voldemort took Eric Brewer, a big defenseman with enticing tools. He's currently captain of the Blues, though you'll find few Blues fans who are happy with that situation.
|1998-2010 - Eric Brewer||682||56||138||194||-108||537|
Minus one hundred and eight. Man, he's been on some bad teams.
I sometimes wonder what would have happened if Voldemort stuck with Brewer instead of entering his instant attack mode, saying he's sniffing glue and shipping him off like, well, like virtually every pick he ever made. After 89 games, Brewer went to Edmonton with Josh Green and a 2nd for Roman Hamrlik and had a mild career renaissance. This was when Glen Sather was still in Edmonton, crying each week about what he could do with a bigger budget. (HA!) So getting Hamrlik was nice, but hardly an achievement considering the Oilers always Pocklington'd their good players away.
Boo-yah! Darius Kasparaitis at #5. What a pick. An instant help, part of that beloved 1993 playoff team that ... is still the last Islanders squad to win a playoff series. Kaspar was awesome, even if he let his rookie year go to his head a bit.
|1992-2007 - Darius Kasparaitis||863||27||136||163||39||1379|
Did I mention Kasparaitis, who was drafted by The Architect and logged 863 NHL games, was awesome? Naturally Milbury traded him. (With Andreas Johansson, for Bryan Smolinski.)
That's it, actually. There were no Islanders selections at #5 overall before Kasparaitis. But in 1990 and 1991, the Isles drafted Scott Scissons at #6 and Scott Lachance at #4, respectively. It doesn't seem right to do a draft retrospective without mentioning the two Scotts, one who played 2 NHL games, the other who played 819. (Can you believe Lachance played 819 NHL games?! Me neither.)
In that vicinity is Brad Dalgarno at #6 in 1986 (321 NHL games, shortened by injury), Pat LaFontaine at #3 (1983), and Clark Gillies at #4 (1974). That five-spot sure looks like a fulcrum in the typical draft's talent depth, eh?
So, dear reader, maybe this Friday there is another Kasparaitis under our pillow (Gudbranson?). Maybe there's a Connolly (a Russian?). Maybe there's a gutsy trade down (Nino?). Whatever happens, how cool would it be if the kid they select is better than every other Islander fifth-overall pick to come before him?