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Musings: Long-term value of bringing 2011 draft prospects to Long Island

Doug Weight played for six NHL clubs, decided to settle in the community around his last one.

We don't highlight interesting reader comments here enough (we're working on it though!). And sometimes the ones that happen in FanShots get overlooked by those who just stick to the center of the page. So here's a recent one from Hockey1919 that's good fodder for discussion:

Does the Islanders bringing top draft-eligible prospects to Long Island for a pre-draft visit have a long-term value beyond just getting to know the player better? I'll let Hockey1919's comment from this FanShot explain:

If the Islanders are smart they invite all of the top ten prospects to Long Island. Even those in the top three slots that they have no chance of drafting. This is the only chance they will get to show these kids what Long Island is really like without tampering and before they hear a lot of negative [B.S.] from guys around the league that have only ever seen the Marriott and the parking lot.

All of these guys will eventually be free agents and no reason not to plant the seed now that Long Island isn’t a bad place to live or play. An early impression, before the players feel their time is too valuable to make the trip could pay big dividends down the road. The only chance to sway these guys may be a contract offer in a 1 day window in July seven years from now and if it comes down to a few dollars their impression of Long Island as a teenager could make a difference.

It's probably not realistic to expect all 10 top prospects can make it -- their time is in demand from the other lottery clubs, and some of them simply won't be around when the Islanders pick (unless they trade up, of course).

But I do like the concept, and the PR guy in me loves the thinking toward long term, uh, "brand equity," to use the jargon parlance of our times. As is often discussed, people and players who only know Long Island and the Islanders to be a nondescript, old building in the middle of a big parking lot next to a Marriott are missing out on what the area is really about -- or if you prefer, on what Long Island has to offer a young person with lots of disposable income.

Players who are shuttled to the hotel and rink as part of a road trip can have no idea what kind of living situation the area offers for an Islander (to say nothing of the access to one of the world's greatest cities). But players who know better -- or players who learn better, as so many of the young Islanders have -- are de facto ambassadors for the area and the club that calls it home.

I have some friends who grew up on Long Island and sing its praises -- without caring one whit about the Islanders. And I know some Isles fans from elsewhere who are prey to the "parking lot" perception often forwarded by national hockey media.

The more you can join those two forces, the better for the franchise's current reputation and, in the long term, its ability to attract players and acquire targets who don't pull a Nabokov. Right?