The NHL 6th-round draft pick -- part of the Isles' "GIVE US ALL THE DEFENSEMEN" 2012 class -- remains Islanders property. But within the OHL he moves from the last-place IceDogs (who among other departures, lost top Isles prospect Ryan Strome to the AHL and Dougie Hamilton to the NHL) to the Saginaw Spirit, who are currently second place in the OHL's West Division.
Graham was IceDogs captain and was having a career year (6 goals, 10 assists in 24 games) in his final non-overage OHL year, but that's precisely when many Canadian junior teams cash in their best players to restart the rebuild cycle.
In exchange, Saginaw is sending Niagara its 2nd round pick in the 2014 OHL Priority Selection, a 2nd round pick in the 2015 selection that originally belonged to Plymouth and Saginaw’s 3rd round selection in 2017.
The Spirit also send a 2nd round pick in the 2018 selection to Niagara if Graham plays an overage season with Saginaw next year.
"We are very excited to have Jesse joining the Spirit as he will add to our power play, along with his ability to move the puck," Saginaw General Manager Jim Paliafito said in a written statement. "This move is a commitment we have to improve our team for this year."
How does this impact the Islanders? Well, it's great if Graham is excelling on a bad team, but with the Islanders stockpiling defensemen draft picks there will be a fight not just for jobs, but for contracts. A decision will need to be made on whether to sign Graham this summer, as otherwise his rights will lapse and he can re-enter the draft. (This scenario is similar to how they drafted forward Alan Quine, a former Red Wings pick, this past summer.)
For Graham's sake, it will be good if he can really establish himself and improve an OHL contender. For the Isles, if he can't do that, he's unlikely to challenge fellow Isles 2012 blueline picks like Griffin Reinhart (already signed), Ville Pokka (12 points in 22 games for Kärpät in Finland) or Adam Pelech (16 points in 25 games and impressing for the OHL's Erie Otters).
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