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2018 NHL Draft: New York Islanders preview

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The Isles have two first-round picks, some decisions to make, and some options ahead.

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2009 NHL Entry Draft, Rounds 2-7
Here comes the new blood.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

There is so much surrounding the New York Islanders this week — the Barry Trotz speculation, followed by Mathew Barzal’s rookie of the year award, followed by the actual hiring of Trotz, the question of how it all impacts John Tavares under Lou Lamoriello’s new direction — but some huge decisions loom at the NHL draft this weekend.

Chief among them are whether the Islanders hold on to their first two picks, at 11 and 12 overall. Lamoriello is reportedly looking to do anything needed to improve the team — you know, what Garth Snow and every still employed GM in the league would say — but whether either or both of those picks can fetch a significant player for next season’s roster is an open question. Still, having two picks back-to-back offers flexibility to both select a player they want there and trade the other one for...something.

There appears to be a lot of depth in the first round of the draft, so unless someone coveted in the top eight starts falling it’s hard to see a team wanting to make major moves to grab one of the Isles’ top two picks. Maybe a team that lacks a pick in the top 20 and is looking to rebalance its cap and assets would offer a real player though. And maybe the Isles, while wanting to compete now, will also see value in trading down to stockpile more selections.

As for helping the NHL roster, the Islanders pretty desperately need a new NHL goalie, and it’s feasible to fetch one of those with one of their picks, but otherwise the chance to add two future NHLers by keeping those two picks is enticing. Outside of a proven goalie, I’d rather keep them and supplement the 2018-19 roster through other trades and free agency.

What picks do the Islanders have?

Going into the draft, the Isles picks line up like this:

  • 1st round: 11, 12 (via Flames in Travis Hamonic trade)
  • 2nd round: 41, 43 (via Flames in Travis Hamonic trade)
  • 3rd round: 72
  • 4th round: 103
  • 5th round: 134
  • 6th round: 196

Will the Islanders trade a pick?

See above. In the SB Nation NHL mock draft, we made the case for dealing one of those picks for Philipp Grubauer, the Washington Capitals goalie who looks number-one worthy but is blocked by Braden Holtby and looking for a starting gig. Facing cap decisions and with a good prospect waiting in the wings, the Capitals said they would try to oblige the restricted free agent.

We delved into the rationale a bit in that post, but suffice to say Lamoriello has done this before, dealing the 9th overall pick for Corey Schneider to provide the Devils an heir to Martin Brodeur. That one worked out well. But Grubauer doesn’t have quite Schneider’s track record. So it’s a gamble.

Who has been picked at 11 and 12 in recent years?

To frame expectations if the Isles keep their picks — and to give you an indication of what these picks are worth — it might be helpful to look at who’s been selected in this spot in the recent past.

We’ll ignore the last two years since those players are still in the pipeline, but that in itself is a good reminder that whoever is selected at 11 or 12 is highly unlikely to be on an NHL roster as a regular over the next two or even three seasons.

  • 2015: Lawson Crouse (11, Florida, 83 NHL games so far); Denis Gurianov (12, Dallas, 1 GP) [Note: three hilarious Boston picks later, the Islanders got some Mathew Barzal kid]
  • 2014: Kevin Fiala (11, Nashville, 140 GP); Brendan Perlini (12, Arizona, 131 GP)
  • 2013: Samuel Morin (11, Philadelphia, 3 GP); Max Domi (12, Arizona, 222 GP)
  • 2012: Filip Forsberg (11, Washington, 331 GP); Mikhail Grigorenko (12, Buffalo, 217)
  • 2011: Duncan Siemens (11, Colorado, 20 GP); Ryan Murphy (12, Carolina, 172 GP)

So obviously it’s expected to get an eventual NHL regular in these spots, one who should be eventually at least in the middle of the lineup. And it’s not impossible to get a star (Forsberg...heck, let’s even note Barzal). But everything has to work out right. And it will still take a few years.

Who are the Islanders likely to pick in the first round?

Not Rasmus Dahlin. The potential superstar defenseman has been the top-rated prospect all year long and there is no doubt the lottery-winning Buffalo Sabres will take him at number one. (Almost as certain, Andrei Svechnikov is expected to go #2 to the Hurricanes.)

After Dahlin though, there are still a lot of good defenseman projected for this year’s first round. If the Isles keep both picks, expect one of them to be used on a defenseman.

But which one? Over at nhl.com the three draft followers conducted a mock draft that had the same group of 10 players going in different orders in the top 10, leaving them to assign Sault Ste. Marie center Barrett Hayton to the Islanders at 11, and either defenseman Bode Wilde or Ty Smith at 12. (We selected Smith at 12 in our mock draft, which is pretty much a guarantee that it won’t happen.)

But all it takes is one of the first 10 teams to choose someone out of that range to present different options for the Islanders (for example, there has been some scuttlebutt suggesting the Oilers have their eyes on Smith; that may not be true, but it seems there’s always one scenario like that).

Lamoriello has left Garth Snow’s scouting staff intact, at least for this draft. So their approach will carry some weight. But there’s no doubt he already has his own views on the first-round prospects, particularly since he was actively employed as GM with the Maple Leafs until the shuffle last month.

In addition to the aforementioned prospects, other players on the radar in the 11-12 area of the first round include:

  • Joseph Veleno, a center with Drummondville in the QMJHL
  • Joel Farabee, a winger in the U.S. National Team Development Program
  • Vitali Kravtsov, a winger with Chelyabinsk in the KHL
  • Rasmus Kupari, a center out of Finland (Karpat)
  • Rasmus Sandin, a blueliner coming off a great rookie season with Sault Ste. Marie
  • Serron Noel — the NHL.com guys each have him being selected in the teens, though other lists vary widely and have the big, rangy, but “raw” winger far later in the first round. We selected him at 31 in the mock draft (a pick we acquired as part of the mock-trade for Grubauer)

There are a million draft rankings out there. Bob McKenzie always compiles his list based on a polling of scouts (rather than how he rates the prospects himself), so it’s as good as any.

Who might be traded?

The Islanders...are looking for players. Doubtful they trade players for picks. Though sometimes the draft is occasion for “hockey” trades of players, too. (So...Brock Nelson maybe?)

Around the league? Erik Karlsson is on the block, but the Senators might wait until after July 1 so they can make him a contract offer just to say they did. ... The Bruins are supposedly thinking of trading David Krejci or David Backes (part of the Ladd/Okposo free agency binge where teams knowingly signed contracts they’d later regret). ... Artemi Panarin isn’t ready to sign an extension in Columbus but they have a year to sort that out so they’d demand a major ransom in any trade. ... Dougie Hamilton seems to be available. ... Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk are reportedly on the block in Carolina, where they just want to break things. ... the Oilers are willing to move their 10th overall pick for D help. ... The Blues would be happy for anyone to take the contract of Patrik Berglund, “the Swedish Brock Nelson.”

What’s the NHL Draft order?

Yeah, that’s too long to list here. Here are the top 10 before the Isles pick at 11 and 12:

  1. Sabres
  2. Hurricanes
  3. Canadiens
  4. Senators
  5. Coyotes
  6. Red Wings
  7. Canucks
  8. Blackhawks
  9. Rangers
  10. Oilers

See the full order for all seven rounds at nhl.com.

Where is all of this happening?

On the arena floor in Dallas, Texas, home of the Stars. The first round is Friday night with all the pomp and circumstance for each of the first 31 picks, beginning at 7:30 p.m. EDT (TV on NBC Sports and TSN or TVA). Then the second through seventh rounds take place at a rapid pace beginning at 11 a.m. EDT Saturday morning (TV on NHL Network (U.S.) and TSN or TVA).

The Islanders will have their annual draft party at Nassau Coliseum Friday night, with entertainment and loot for sale inside and out.

We’ll have an open discussion thread here for you to chat up the events, with fresh posts if/when something big happens.