Cam Fowler would like to object, but either way, it looks as though the Top 4 players in the 2011 draft are set. And while we may not know the order, the Islanders have to assume that they will not be able to choose from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson, Gabriel Landeskog, or Sean Couturier. If they do get a shot and any of those four, this post is completely null and void. But assuming they are gone by pick 5, the Islanders face themselves with a serious question- what position do they need more, a forward or a defenseman?
I love Jonathan Huberdeau. From what I've seen of him he is an exciting, offensive dynamo. He's the kind of player any fan would come out to the Coliseum to see. So with many apologies to Jonathan, I'm going to try and explain why defense is the way to go for the Isles.
I was completely pro forward up until 2 days ago. The thought of Jonathan Huberdeau replacing P.A. Parenteau in 2012 in the Isles Top 9 forwards and adding to an already potential-filled young nucleus, made my mouth water. But as I looked at that spot more, the one spot that seems to be open for the next 3-4 years, it looked more like a spot for a 26-27 year old proven NHL scorer that we would acquire via free agency or trade. The real need in the future will be at the blueline, where right now there may be a log jam, but who are we kidding? It's a log jam of mediocre NHL defenseman.
Behind Mark Streit, Andrew MacDonald, and Travis Hamonic, who do we have right now at the NHL level? It's a bunch of guys signed to one or two year deals that at best are 5th or 6th NHL defenseman. Hopefully in a year or two Calvin deHaan will be ready to step into our lineup as a Top 4 d-men, but also in a couple years an aging Mark Streit's contract will be ending, and he may very well be stepping out of that role. I'll hold a wait-and-see attitude towards Matt Donovan, or to a lesser extent Aaron Ness and Ty Wishart, that they could one day become a Top 4 d-man. Wouldn't it be nice to have a maturing Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Murphy, or Duncan Siemens to step into that role when the times comes?
The timing is perfect. With so many (I believe 13) defenseman with NHL contracts, the Islanders would have no need to rush their drafted d-man. He would have time to finish out his junior career and also gain much needed experience and maturity at the AHL level. And then when the team starts cutting ties with the veteran d-men under contract now, they would have a polished, ready-to-go young defenseman waiting to step in.
We've seen the future of the Islanders arrive on the front line but have only seen a few pieces in the defense with MacDonald and Hamonic. It would be nice to know that there's a stud defensive prospect on the way to join the likes of deHaan to help complete our future nucleus.