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NHL Draft Grades 2018: Straight A’s for the Islanders

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Everybody seems to, on balance, love the Islanders’ draft haul.

2018 NHL Draft - Portraits
Not their top pick from the weekend but definitely the coolest name: Blade Jenkins.
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

In 2021, when we are enjoying a lockout new arena and the latest great posteason run with Barzal and Tavares (right?), how will we look back at the 2018 NHL draft and the Islanders picks’ impact on that season?

Nobody knows. Nobody ever knows. But for posterity’s sake it’s fun to look back at What They Said Then, even if people are (necessarily, because editors) rushing out a weekend judgment on the latest league cattle call with 18-year-old players.

So right now, in late June 2018, when everyone is focused on which team executives are meeting with John Tavares’ representatives in L.A., we can say that one part of the Islanders’ future definitively got better this weekend.

(Or so everyone thinks.)

Granted, draft grades are largely influenced by 1) how many picks a team had, 2) how much a team stuck to the conventional wisdom, and 3) how much that team benefited from other teams going against conventional wisdom.

In the Islanders’ case, everything worked out just great. It helped that they had four picks in the top 12 of each round. Here’s a sampling of the reviews.

‘The Best Prospect Haul’

Over at The Sporting News, Steve Kournianos gave the Islanders an “A”, one of just four teams receiving the highest grade:

Does Lou Lamoriello know what he’s doing, or what? The guy’s been on the job for less than a month, and he struts out of Dallas with the best prospect haul of any of his 30 contemporaries. The Islanders were gifted both winger Oliver Wahlstrom (11th) and mobile defender Noah Dobson (12th), both of whom were expected not to last beyond the top 10 picks. Defenseman Bode Wilde (41st) is a thoroughbred with Scott Niedermayer’s quickness and aggressiveness, and Russian center Ruslan Iskhakov (43rd) is a deadly puck wizard who will make goalie look foolish in shootouts. Drafting Jakub Skarek (72nd) could turn out to be a third-round steal if the young netminder lives up to the billing of being the best Czech goalie prospect since Dominik Hasek. And a trio of American-born skaters in Jacob Pivonka (103rd), Blade Jenkins (134th) and defenseman Christian Krygier (196th) will add more speed and strength to New York’s prospect pool. Islanders’ fans will look back on Lou’s first draft with approval both today and five years down the road.

Scott Wheeler at The Athletic devised a scheme to grade how teams actually picked vs. where he had the players ranked on his own board. That formula left the Islanders at the very top of his list.

He also described the Isles’ haul like this:

I wouldn’t have swung on Ruslan Ishakov in the second round, and I have concerns about whether he will ever be a successful player on pro ice in North America, but the Islanders didn’t miss on Wahlstrom or Noah Dobson in the first round (they will both have a major impact on the future of the franchise). Bode Wilde, character and inconsistency concerns aside, was a worthwhile swing at No. 41 just based on the raw upside that exists in his game. Blade Jenkins might turn into something out of the fifth round. And I believe they got the best goalie in the draft in Jakub Skarek. I don’t love Jacob Pivonka at 103 though. He’s a thick-built centre who got caught down the depth chart in the United States national program and will have some time to sort things out at Notre Dame but I just don’t think he has the puck skills to be an NHL player.

‘Massive Injection of Talent...Fundamentally Changed Farm’

Also at The Athletic, Corey Pronman graded all 31 teams and made a specific post outlining how significant the Islanders’ haul was. He went into his rationale on each player, but overall his summary goes like this:

The Islanders’​ Day​ 1​ was big for​ them, as​ they added​ two high-end talents​ in Oliver​ Wahlstrom​ and​​ Noah Dobson, with Wahlstrom, in particular, being a massive add to their system. In getting Bode Wilde and Ruslan Iskhakov on Day 2 right away, they got four of my top 20 prospects in the class. That’s a massive injection of talent and fundamentally changed the state of their farm system from being mediocre to one of the league’s strongest. Jakub Skarek was fine at No. 72, a little high for me but he was one of the top goalie prospects. The rest of their picks were a mixture of underwhelming to a shot in dark, but really, this was a great weekend for their future.

With a good restocking, the Islanders now have one of the top farm systems again. What they do with it, of course, is up to Lou and the new gang in charge.

ESPN.com also put the Islanders at the head of the class:

ESPN’s Chris Peters gave the New York Islanders an “A” for their remarkable draft class of 2018. That includes the good fortune of having the potentially dynamic scorer Oliver Wahlstrom dropping to No. 11 and then snagging defenseman Noah Dobson at No. 12.

It extends to defenseman Bode Wilde (No. 41) and center Ruslan Iskhakov (No. 43) on Day 2.

Rotoworld made essentially the same case in giving the Islanders an A+.

Much like the Red Wings, the New York Islanders got tremendous value with two picks in the opening round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Wahlstrom and Dobson both could have gone higher and the Isles didn’t hesitate to snatch them up when they were available through the first 10 picks. Wahlstrom offers big-time goal scoring ability, while Dobson has the all-around talent to be the second-best blueliner to come out of this draft class behind Rasmus Dahlin.

In the second round, New York selected Bode Wilde, who could have gone on Day 1 of the NHL Draft. Getting him at pick No. 41 is a great value pick for the Islanders. Wilde has the skill set to be an all-around, top-three defender.

There’s a bit of an echo chamber aspect to some of these, but basically things went like this: Thanks to the Travis Hamonic trade, the Islanders had an extra pick in each of the first two rounds that was right in the vicinity of their own pick. And thanks to some other teams reaching a bit up the board, the Islanders had some prime prospects fall in their laps at spots below where they were projected to go.

Rather than get cute, they took those players. On average, that usually works out.