A post by Derek Zona at Copper & Blue on second-day draft success from 2004-2009 got me thinking: A lot of Islanders fans -- yours truly included -- tend to think the Isles under Garth Snow have done well with later draft picks. Since he took over only for the 2007 draft onward, it's a little early to tell: Will we be right?
(And yes, we surf this topic this while granting that beyond the first round is the area where a GM will most lean on his scouts...but then managing scouts is part of the job too. Also: The impression may be blurred by a sense that Snow has had good luck signing other teams' late-round picks.)
Zona used the threshold of 200 games played in the NHL, and the Isles by that standard did well (top third of the league) in his data scoop from 2004-2009, producing four players who qualify: Matt Martin, Andrew MacDonald, Blake Comeau and Chris Campoli.
Of course, only one of those was drafted under Snow, only two of them remain with the team, and only three are still in the NHL. It's arguable that one of the reasons for their longevity is the fact they were on a poor NHL team for much of that time frame. Their current status as signed players probably refutes that though.
But anyway, back to the board and the picks made under Snow. Who's likely to hit 200 games and beyond?
2007: Not a chance here. Mark Katic, Jason Gregoire, Blake Kessel ... only Katic has seen NHL action, while Gregoire and Kessel have washed out even from the organizations they college "loopholed" to.
2008: The famous restart button year, the launch of the rebuild. Nine of the 13 players selected have seen NHL action, including Martin, and Travis Hamonic and Jared Spurgeon are on their way to 200. Matt Donovan, Kevin Poulin and Aaron Ness have a long way to go but might have outside shots.
From the rest of the league's 2008 2nd-round-or-later picks, only Jason Demers, Zack Smith and Derek Stepan have reached 200 games per hockey-reference, but 2nd-rounders Roman Josi and Slava Voynov are very good bets to get there, as is 3rd-rounder Adam Henrique and 5th-rounder Matt Calvert.
2009: For the Isles, Casey Cizikas seems destined to get there (60 games so far), and
Calvin de Haan would probably be on his way save for shoulder injuries (duh, de Haan was a 1st-rounder, so he's not eligible for this). Anders Lee debuted last spring and scored by the grace of Ondrej Pavelec, so he's a maybe -- but his jury hasn't even been selected yet.
Around the league, 2nd-rounders Matt Clifford and Ryan O'Reilly are already there, while Jacob Silvferberg appears on his way, as does Chicago's 5th-round pick Marcus Kruger.
Which brings us to the era where it is far, far too early to tell.
2010: Brock Nelson doesn't count on this list since he was drafted at the end of the first round, leaving only Kirill Kabanov with a shot from the Isles' 2010 2nd-round-and-beyond picks. (Tony Dehart and Cody Rosen are ... yeah. Jason Clark is on an ELC but has an uphill climb.)
Around the league, Carolina's 2nd-rounder Justin Faulk (104 games) is on his way.
2011: No one from the Isles' 2011 draft haul has played in the NHL yet, but there are several names beyond Ryan Strome that hold promise. And really, that's where we are at this point in the evaluative process: As with Cizikas and Lee in 2009, from 2010-2013 the Isles took some solid picks in the later rounds, the types who you could see producing one or two who pan out thanks to specialized frames or skills.
From 2004-09 (six drafts), four 2nd-round-or-later names reaching 200 games as of today was a good haul. For Snow in the six drafts from 2008-13? It could be more, probably should be more, and most likely will be more.
One of the things you realize when you sift through the full draft classes in this way is that the teams that have multiple NHLers from late in the draft really do benefit from real NHLers acquired so cheaply.
The other thing, which probably raises the bar for Snow's tenure versus the 2004-09 period Zona looked at, is that the league has trended younger in the cap era, so relying on draft picks rather than loading up on "veteran presence" at $3 million a pop should mean more players reaching 200 GP at an earlier age.
The biggest caution in all of this, which is always worth remembering each time you check back on draft progress: Every draft pick has some reason or argument for potentially being a "late round gem," so our optimistic looks at the Islanders' system is still just unproven hope. (And indeed, the majority of the names mentioned above from around the league are 2nd-rounders, hardly diamonds in the rough.) The proof, of course, only comes when draft pick potential becomes an NHL career.