Reaching? Garth Snow Continues to Draft Against the Grain

Mike Stobe

Garth Snow has shown that draft day is all about getting the player his team thinks is best, not necessarily who other people say is best.

As Islanders fans, we have now had the pleasure (or pain for some) of witnessing Garth Snow conduct seven NHL drafts. Throughout those drafts, Snow has shown that he is willing to ignore the way the draft plays out in front of him to keep his sights set on specific targets.

Whether it is a gift or a flaw, Snow seems to go into a draft dead set on drafting a certain player. And while some people applaud his approach of trusting his scouting department, or his own gut, others tend to see Snow as consistently reaching for players in the draft.

Reaching is a relevant term when it comes to drafting. It's determined a club reached based on the overall rankings of the players. These rankings are always changing and, depending on the source, always different.

So what is a reach in one man's eyes is the correct drafting positions in another's. So if you're uncomfortable saying Snow has a propensity to "reach" for first round draft picks, you can't argue that he doesn't see eye to eye with the rankings systems.

(For the comparison's below, we're mostly using the NHL Central Scouting Service rankings.)

In his first draft in which he had a first-round pick, Snow had his sites set on 14th-ranked North American skater Josh Bailey. Sitting at #5 overall, at least Snow had the smarts to not draft Bailey in that position, instead moving down to 7th, and then 9th, to still reach for the young forward.

In 2009, Snow and the Islanders found themselves with the 1st overall pick. Faced with a no-brainer decision (no matter what anyone else spun around draft time), Snow took John Tavares with the pick.

The Islanders found themselves in good position later in the draft to have a shot at 25th-ranked North American skater Calvin de Haan with the 26th pick. But Snow got the itch to reach and traded up not once, but twice, to the 12th position to draft...25th ranked North American skater Calvin de Haan.

The next year the Islanders found themselves back in the 5th overall position and drafted 12th-ranked North American skater Nino Niederreiter, who they traded yesterday after three years of uneven development. Snow did make what now looks like a smart first-round move in 2010, trading up to grab 25th overall ranked Brock Nelson at #30, the one time Snow had drafted a player in the first round not named Tavares lower than his CSS ranking indicated.

In 2011, the Islanders again had the 5th overall pick, and Snow again went against the grain, drafting 8th-ranked North American skater (9th-ranked by ISS) Ryan Strome. While that's not really a reach, when Strome was drafted only the top three North American skaters had come off the board.

2012 was more of the same for Snow. Finding himself in the second highest drafting position of his GM tenurer, Snow took 10th-ranked North American skater, defenseman Griffin Reinhart, with the #4 pick. While Reinhart was still a Top 10 ranked player, Snow passed on one to three higher ranking defensemen (depending on which ranking you use) to land Reinhart.

Finding himself in the middle of the first round this year, Snow was left with a host of possibilities when the Islanders turn came to draft. With the #6-11 ranked North American skaters still on the board, Snow went out and drafted defenseman Ryan Pulock out of Brandon, rated 12th by CSS.

Pulock's stock dropped in the months leading up to the draft, after finding himself as high as the 6th-rated North American when the mid-term CSS rankings came out. TSN's dynamic ranking duo of Bob McKenzie and Craig Button had Pulock ranked 23rd and 30th, respectively.

To be fair, Pulock was drafted right around where he was ranked by both the CSS and the ISS (14), and the actual selections in picks 1-14 tracked closely with how ISS had them ranked. But by passing up higher-ranked players, Snow continued his drafting trend of passing up what other boards say to get his man.

This isn't a Snow exclusive move, as many general managers value prospects differently than the various ranking services and so-called experts, and each board is different. But after six years, Snow has proven it to be a pattern.

It will be at least five years before we know if Snow's methods are those of genius or of madness. But we can all give Garth Snow one thing...the man is consistent.

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