The 2008-09 season was something to forget for both the Islanders an their loyal fan base. The silver lining from that terrible season was that the Islanders would be picking at the top of each round in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
With a chance to turn the franchise around, Garth Snow and his trusted staff started the draft safe and then followed up each ensuing pick by swinging for the fences. Five years later we take a look to see how the 2009 draft class has panned out for the organization so far.
1. John Tavares, C (1st Overall)
The no-brainer pick of the 2009 draft didn't seem so definite in the few weeks leading up to the draft. With the names of Tavares, Matt Duchene, and Victor Hedman all listed as possible candidates to go first overall, Islanders fans are happy the Garth Snow didn't pull a Garth Snow and pick outside the box.
Tavares has turned out to be what all teams hope a fist overall selection will be, a franchise player. If not for a serious injury in this past year's Olympics, Tavares would have lead the Islanders in scoring every season he's been with the team.
In fact, over the past three seasons, only seven players in the NHL have scored more points than Tavares' 194. Even more impressive is that over that three year period, only four NHL players have posted a better point per game average than Tavares' 1.026.
The Islanders captain, superstar...well their everything, Garth Snow made the correct choice by making the safe choice when choosing John Tavares.
2. Calvin de Haan, D (12th Overall)
After securing Tavares, Garth Snow decided to start rolling the dice with his remaining selections in the 2009 draft. The first such instance was when he traded up not once, but twice, to land in the 12th spot to draft Calvin de Haan.
The selection at the time had a lot of Islanders fans scratching their heads. Most had viewed de Haan as a late first round, even early second round pick. Rumors that the Sabres had de Haan on their radar forced Snow's hand though.
The questioning of the de Haan selection wouldn't stop on draft day, as a rash of injuries plagued the defenseman in his first few seasons following the draft. In his first full professional season, de Haan was named to the AHL All-Star team, despite missing a quarter of the season due to injuries.
Another injury kept him out almost the entire 2012-13 season and had some of us writing de Haan off. But to a lot of fans' surprise, de Haan managed to put in a healthy 2013-14 season, the majority spent with the Islanders.
In 51 games, de Haan proved to be one of the steadier Islanders defenseman, with his possession numbers being near the top of the pack. The future now looks bright for the young defenseman, and barring another injury, de Haan's selection is looking like the correct one by Garth Snow.
3. Mikko Koskinen, G (31st Overall)
With all Friday night and Saturday morning to deliberate on who to choose, Garth Snow decided to try and bolster the Islanders depleted goalie depth by choosing Mikko Koskinen with the first pick in the second round.
With players like Ryan O`Reilly, Jakob Silfverberg, and Alex Chiasson still on the board, the selection of Koskinen was disappointing from the second it was announced. What made it more disappointing was that the big Finnish goaltender wasn't even the highest rated goalie available. That honor went to Swedish goalie Robin Lehner, who went fifteen picks later to the Senators.
While Lehner has began to make his way in the NHL (a .918 Save % in 61 career games), Koskinen had a disappointing stint in North America. After an .896 Save % over 51 games played for 3 different professional teams, Koskinen found his way back to Finland to play in SM-liiga.
Koskinen was successful back in his home country and turned that into a two-year contract with Sibir Novosibirsk of the KHL. Koskinen's .939 Save % in his first season in Russia ranked him fifth in the league, and have some people thinking a return to the NHL is a possibility.
But until Koskinen can prove he can handle hockey in North America, his selection as the 31st player in the 2009 draft has to be looked at as a poor one.
4. Anders Nilsson, G (62nd Overall)
If reaching for a goalie with your second round pick is disappointing, than the fact that Garth Snow decided he was going to go goaltending again with the first pick in the third round was downright deflating.
Once you get this far in the draft, looking at what players could have been selected instead is useless, since most players at this stage are a gamble. But rolling the dice on a goaltender after already rolling the dice on a goaltender seemed silly at the time. And it seems even sillier now.
To Nilsson's credit, he looked better than Koskinen in his time with both Bridgeport and the Islanders. On the other side of the coin though, it didn't take much for anyone to outshine Koskinen.
Nilsson found himself behind Kevin Poulin for much of his time in the Islanders organization. After a promising 2011-12, Nilsson looked like he was going to be the Islanders goalie prospect who established himself with the best chance of being an NHLer. But a Vitamin B12 deficiency ended up derailing his 2012-13 season, and his numbers suffered.
Most thought after recovering, Nilsson would regain his 2011-12 form last season. Unfortunately, Nilsson looked more like his 2012-13 self and lost a lot of the shine he had once had.
After the season, Nilsson said he would not return to Bridgeport, and with a job on the Island looking very slim, the Swedish goalie opted to sign with AK Bars of the KHL. So if you're keeping score at home, that's two 2009 drafted goalies in Russia, and zero with the New York Islanders.
5. Casey Cizikas, C (92nd Overall)
When Cizikas was drafted with the first pick in the fourth round in 2009, all that was really known of him was that he had mediocre numbers in the OHL and that he had been charged with manslaughter after an unfortunate accident during a rugby game.
Cizikas continued to improve in the OHL following the draft and had an outstanding pro debut with the Sound Tigers in 2011-12, collecting 45 points in 52 AHL games. His production earned him a 15 games stint with the Islanders, and he hasn't looked back since.
Cizikas had a good rookie season, including 2 goals and 2 assists in the first round of the playoffs against the Penguins. His numbers slipped this past season, producing practically the same amount of points as 2012-13, but in almost twice as many games.
Cizikas admitted he was disappointed with how he played in 2013-14, as were many fans, but we have to remember that Cizikas has still only played 140 NHL games, less than two full seasons.
The center still has some room to improve, but even if he turns out to never be more than a good fourth line center, his selection in the fourth round in 2009 will still be a successful one.
6. Anton Klementyev, D (122nd Overall)
The Russian defenseman was drafted with the first pick in the fifth round. And for a guy who played only one NHL game, Klementyev had an interesting ride with the team that drafted him.
Klementyev first became a pawn in a ploy by Garth Snow to try and get Kirrill Petrov out of his KHL obligation. The defenseman was then struck by personal tragedy when his former KHL team, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, was involved in a horrific plane crash.
Klementyev refused assignment to Idaho of the ECHL in 2011-12 when Islanders management wanted to get him playing time, instead of being in and out of Bridgeport's lineup. The Islanders ended up suspending him after he didn't show up.
Since then the Islanders placed Klementyev on unconditional waivers and he has not been heard from since.
7. Anders Lee, C (152nd Overall)
The Islanders final selection of the 2009 draft still has a chance to be one of the better ones. Anders Lee was selected with the first pick of the sixth round, and has impressed ever since.
While some questioned his skating, Lee's ability to score was evident, having big seasons in both the USHL and with Notre Dame before turning pro.
It was that season in the USHL that became the biggest question mark in drafting Lee, as a CBA loophole allowed Lee to become an unrestricted free agent if he wanted to. In the end, Lee decided to sign with the Isles and so far so good for both sides.
In 78 professional games, Lee has scored 32 goals, including 10 in 24 NHL games. While the jury is still out on Lee, he does have a chance of being one of the better late round picks that the Islanders have made.
. . .
Five years later, the 2009 draft is looking like a successful one for the Islanders. Even if it only provides us with Tavares, this draft will always be looked upon as an important one in team history.
The questions surrounding the goaltending picks will always remain. But with players like de Haan, Cizikas, and Lee still having a chance at being serious contributors for years to come, Snow and the Isles have to be given passing marks for they way they drafted in 2009.