Lou Lamoriello was expected to knock this draft out of the park by making one or possibly two franchise-altering trades.
Instead, he rounded the bases in a whole different way.
Lamoriello and the rest of his colleagues had to be feeling giddy after plucking two top-ten talents without having a pick inside the first ten teams. It seemed no trade was worthy enough for Lamoriello to deal one of his back-to-back picks at 11 and 12. That left only one decision to make: select Oliver Wahlstrom and Noah Dobson.
“I don’t think we can be more delighted,” Lamoriello said. “You have to feel extremely good. Both are exceptional players. I don’t think you don’t ever not make a trade if it’s going to make your team better. Obviously, that didn’t happen. But when you see a player like these players there, you feel very good because they’re outstanding prospects.”
Wahlstrom, 18, is a right winger for U.S. National Development Team last year that recorded 22 goals and 45 points and considered by many the best pure goal-scorer in this draft. He also helped USA win gold at the World Juniors in Slovakia in 2017.
In Wahlstrom, the Isles added not only another elite goal scorer — to their system with fellow USNTDP alum Kieffer Bellows –but they also provide a good start to re-stocking themselves at the winger position, which has been thin the past few years. Wahlstrom is headed to Boston College in the fall, but for him to be projected to go as high as seven, and then fall to the team’s lap at 11, shows the Isles got a steal of a pick and someone who could be in the NHL in the not too distant future.
If you think you've never seen a Oliver Wahlstrom highlight, you have. pic.twitter.com/B9AqXFiBEi
— IslesBlog (@IslesBlog) June 23, 2018
ETA on Oliver Wahlstrom being in the NHL: 2019-20.
After stealing Wahlstrom at 11, the party didn’t stop there. The Isles snagged another young man they didn’t think would be available — Noah Dobson.
Dobson, 18, played the past two seasons for Acadie-Bathurst Titan developing into one of the best defensive prospects in this year’s draft class and helping lead his Acadie-Bathurst to a President’s Cup title.
The Summerville, PEI native finished the regular season with 69 points, earning him nominations for the Emile Bouchard Trophy (QMJHL Best Defensemen), Michael Bossy Trophy and Kevin Lowe Trophy. At 6’3, 178 pounds, Dobson instantly jumps up on the Islanders defensive chart and could battle for a roster spot come September. Dobson is the perfect two-way blueliner that the Isles have lacked in their system the in recent years. And once he adds on more muscle, he can be a solid top-four option for years to come on Long Island.
ETA on Noah Dobson being in the NHL: 2020-21.
As the second round got underway Saturday, many big names were still out there. And with two picks — subsequently two apart from each other — the Isles continued their banner draft.
With pick number 41, they selected defensemen Bode Wilde. Wilde is another product of the U.S. National Development Program.
The 18-year old recorded 41 points in 69 games for the USA National U-18 team in 2017-18.
Wilde was projected to go in the top 20 last night but somehow fell to the Islanders graces. Considered the best d-man on the board and a top-15 talent, Wilde is described as a talented and competitive skater who plays a tenacious 200-foot game. Picking Wilde — despite him falling and talk of off-ice issues — was another slam dunk for the organization along with Noah Dobson in round one. Another big kid at 6’4, the Isles definitely did their due diligence in adding size and physicality to their blueline for the future.
ETA on Bode Wilde being in the NHL: 2021-22.
Two picks after Wilde, the Islanders decided to go overseas, selecting Ruslan Iskhakov from CSKA at 43.
Iskhakov, also a member of the Russia U-18 team notched 21 points in 24 games.
Despite his small stature at 5’8, Iskhakov is immensely talented and will be heading to UCONN this coming fall. He’s got some flair to his game with some good hands and ability to skate. Corey Pronman of The Athletic said that Iskhakov was going to be one of the steals on day two, and the Islanders got him. Another center added to a group in the next couple of years featuring Mat Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, Casey Cizikas, and hopefully John Tavares, will only make the organization even deeper down the middle.
ETA on Ruslan Iskhakov being in the NHL: 2021-22.
Entering round three, the Islanders did something with pick 72 that they haven’t done since the 2014 draft: take a goaltender. They did just that taking Czech Republic native Jakub Skarek.
Skarek became just the third goaltender taken in the draft through the first three rounds — 39th overall pick Olof Lindbolm (Rangers) and 62nd overall pick Oliver Rodrigue (Oilers).
The 6’3, 191-pound Czech is described as a butterfly goaltender with a solid set of skills. Skarek has played for three seasons for HC Dukla Jihlava and has been featured more than once for the Czechs on the international stage. From his time in Dukla Jihlava, some scouts believe he’s best the best goaltender in this draft class. With Skarek added to the mix with Ilya Sorokin, Linus Soderstrom, Eamon McAdam and Christopher Gibson, the Isles are deep in between the pipes for a while. Question is, which one of them will stake claim to the starting role in the not so distant future?
ETA on Jakub Skarek being in the NHL: 2019-20.
In rounds four and five, the Isles went with two forwards, Jacob Pivonka and Blade Jenkins.
Pivonka, became the third player from the U.S. development program taken by New York in the draft.
Set to attend the University of Notre Dame in a few months, Pivonka this year played for the U.S. National Under-18 team totaling 20 points in 59 games. His father, Michal Pivonka, played for the Washington Capitals from 1986 to 1999. Pivonka is said to be a very smart forward and fine player overall. Scouts think he might not have a ton of upside, but the Isles got a player with good quality in the middle to late rounds.
As for Jenkins — the 134th overall pick and the prospect with the coolest name in the draft — he was a standout for the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL.
Jenkins, was ranked the number 26 skater among Americans in the draft and has a very large frame at 6’4, 194 pounds. Still only 17, the Jackson, MI native was impressive in his first season in Saginaw scoring 20 goals and adding 20 assists in 68 games. Jenkins per some scouts is a forward through and through. He’s got a lot to work on from a defensive perspective if he wants to be an NHLer down the road. One other positive about this young man is his shot and elusiveness.
ETA on Jacob Pivonka and Blade Jenkins being in the NHL: 2021-22.
Rounding out the Islanders draft with pick number 196 is defensemen Christian Krygier.
Kryiger, another big defensive prospect, played in the United States Hockey League this past year for the Lincoln Stars. For Lincoln, Krygier played in 48 games and registered eight points. He will be taking his talents to Michigan State as freshman in the fall with his twin brother Cole — selected just five picks after him to Florida. Seventh rounders who play in the NHL usually come out of nowhere, so remember Krygier’s name if he finds his way to the Isles in the next three to five years.
ETA on Christian Krygier being in the NHL: 2023-24.
Overall, this draft by Lamoriello and the Isles might go down as one of their best in recent memory.
“I don’t think we can be more pleased with the way things turned out, said an enthused Lamoriello after the draft concluded. I thought the day was excellent.”
Stealing two top-ten talents, and nabbing a third in round two in the process, is a coo to Lamoriello and the scouting staff’s work from this year. Adding forward depth to the organization which they’ve been lacking and some size and skill is a big win. Now a monstrous week follows with captain John Tavares’ decision looming.
There still work to be done, but the draft was a home run for the new look New York Islanders.