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NHL Mock Draft*: Islanders select Erik Gudbranson

Which hot prospect will be left at #5 for the Islanders?
Which hot prospect will be left at #5 for the Islanders?

*Hint: "Mock" means it's not real. Like The Onion, and 65% of L.A. proper.

Garth Snow and staff step to the podium: "First, the New York Islanders would like to thank the wonderful city of Los Angeles, which provides the world with such ... um ... uh, 'entertainment,' from Casablanca to the endless pool of attention whores who populate Bravo plastic surgery shows and other 'reality' half-hours to tell us about the soulless lives of shallow people. Thanks to your ingenuity, one day archaeologists will look back upon our century and think, 'Now this, THIS was a culture!' ... And they will say this because you have two NHL teams, which helps bandage over so many cultural voids.

"But seriously, you gave us Appetite for Destruction, so ... mad props. If I had a dollar for every time I sang 'Paradise City' at karaoke...dreamy reflections of a duet with Ron Hextall ... Anyway, to business: With the 5th overall pick, the New York Islanders select, from the Kingston Frontenacs, Erik Gudbranson."  Applause, hugs. Exeunt.

As the SB Nation hockey mock NHL draft saw Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin go to Edmonton and Boston, Cam Fowler go to Florida's Litter Box Cats, and Brandon Gormley go to Columbus, we were left with two enticing candidates at #5: Gudbranson and that big but underexposed scorer Brett Connolly.

Connolly is tempting -- he provides size at the scoring position that the Islanders do not possess. But the Islanders have spent their last three top-10 picks on forwards (Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey, John Tavares), and while it's hoped that last year's #12 pick Calvin de Haan provides an elite piece for the blueline, Gudbranson fills a void for big, mean, talented defensemen, and by all accounts he has the character to match. Oh, and on this debate, there's the other much-cited reservation about Connolly: Last year's hip injury. Let's just say this organization has had bad luck with players with hip issues.

Whether Gudbranson is still there for the real Islanders on June 25 is a guess, of course; it's possible Florida or Columbus takes a shine to him. But as our resident draft fanatic BCISLEMAN wrote earlier this month -- in a post where, along with our long-running poll, it seems a lot of us favor Erik the Gud -- you can make a case that the Panthers and Blue Jackets will be targeting Cam Fowler and Brett Connolly (or Gormley, for the puck-possession argument), respectively.

In any case, we do know one of the projected elite talents will still be there at #5. If the draft proceeds as our mock draft has gone so far, my money's on Gudbranson.

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Note: Our network-wide mock draft will continue, three picks per day, up to Draft Day. Each team blog will have their own rationale when their pick comes up.

Gudbranson Links

Feature from 2008 on being there for his family during his brother's treatment:

Interview from 2009:

First OHL goal:

Fighting Phil McRae, a Blues prospect two years his senior: