One characteristic of this draft that has become almost a commonplace is that the top three (or four if you include Landeskog) prospects are so close in talent that a team can draft according to need as opposed to slavishly picking the best player available.
Assuming that the Islander scouting staff share this conventional wisdom, how should Garth Snow assess the team's needs? Which position is the priority?
The two basic considerations, as I see it, are that the Islanders need an injection of talent on defense and that no one has yet emerged as a clear candidate for second line center. To my mind, this pushes Gabriel Landeskog out of the picture. It is a choice between Adam Larsson and either Sean Couturier or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
On defense, Mark Eaton, Mike Mottau, Jack Hillen, and Milan Jurcina, or any defensemen the Islanders might sign as a free agent in the near future, are really depth defensemen on a good defensive team. Calvin De Haan and Ty Wishart are both likely a season away from serious ice time. It is probably safer to assume that they would be the third pairing going forward.
Adam Larsson would be the perfect choice to fill that slot. He would certainly be the most talented blueliner to join the orange and blue since Bowtie Bill stepped up to the podium at Montreal's Mount Royal Hotel on May 15, 1973. And he and Hamonic are both right handed shots to Streit's and MacDonald's left handed shots. What could be better?
The problem at center is that the Islanders have yet to identify a clear cut choice for the all-important position of second line center. Rob Schremp has his defenders on this blog and he is not a bad player. It is, however, hard to imagine anyone seriously suggesting that Schremp could be a second line center on a contending team.
That leaves Josh Bailey, Anders Lee, and Brock Nelson. Lee and Nelson are probably both at least two years away. Josh is the real focus here. He has not yet emerged as the top two center he was drafted to be. Will he ever? How long will it take?
Garth would probably be wise to draft Larsson if he has the choice. He has Josh and Lee and Nelson both seem promising. This summer he can and probably should sign a veteran free agent center. That will take the pressure off Josh and give Lee and Nelson time to develop. On the other hand, Garth will probably never again be in a position to draft a defenseman as talented as Larsson again. If Larsson is still on the board when Garth picks, it has to be him. If not, it will be a choice between the two way center Couturier and the slick playmaking center Nugent-Hopkins.