Ask most Islander fans who the team drafted this year, and they will tell you, “Michael Dal Colle and Joshua Ho-Sang.” Which is correct, but those two players weren’t our entire draft. The Islanders have had their share of late-round steals in the past. Zdeno Chára, Stefan Persson, and Vladimir Malakhov were all taken by the Islanders in the third round or later. Other organizations have used late picks to take the likes of Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, and Dominik Hašek. Jonathan Quick. Joe Pavelski. Henrik Lundqvist, as much as we love to hate him. The list goes on and on.
It’s time to give some love to the other guys, the players who weren’t high on Central Scouting’s radar from the beginning. So without further ado, I will profile the 5 players we drafted on the second day.
Goalies are hard to predict. Even the best mock drafts never get it right. This year alone, you saw Mason McDonald get picked ahead of top-ranked Thatcher Demko, and it took four rounds and eight other goalies to get highly-regarded Ville Husso off the board. Sorokin was the fifth-ranked European goalie, but three other European netminders, including two ranked behind him, got drafted first.
His first draft-eligible year was last year, which is worrisome, getting noticed so late. But, at only 18, he was able to wrestle the starting spot away from former AHL goalie Niko Hovinen. Our third-round draft pick was 5-12 with a 2.90 GAA and a .911 save percentage, which is good considering how bad his team, Metallurg Novokuznetsk, was this year.
Sorokin, 6’2” and 167 pounds, has great athleticism and skating ability but needs work on his positioning and aggressiveness. But that’s okay. I don’t expect third-rounders to be perfect players. The biggest hurdle, when the time comes, will be getting him out of Russia. Look at Mikko Koskinen, who left for Finland in 2011 and signed a longterm deal last year in the KHL.
However, I’m not giving up hope. A goalie from Metallurg Novokuznetsk had a goal of playing in the NHL. He left Russia, spent some time on the bench, and waited for his shot. He got his shot, and took advantage of it. His name? Sergei Bobrovsky.
Adding to the unpredictability of goalies, Linus Söderström (no relation to former Islander netminder Tommy) was the third-ranked European goalie according to Central Scouting. He was taken in the fourth round, two rounds after eighth-ranked Vítek Vaneček but only one pick after top-ranked Husso.
I am a goaltender, and I scout a whole bunch of different hockey leagues, but I have no access to European junior leagues, so I can’t analyze his play for myself. So here is what I can tell you about him.
Fewer than two months older than me but ten inches taller (6’5”, 196), he impressed scouts at the IIHF Under-18 championship by leading the Swedes to a fourth-place finish. He also was the starter for Djurgården Stockholm’s junior team this season, finishing the year with a 2.61 GAA and a .915 save percentage.
With Djurgården’s senior team being promoted to the Swedish Hockey League this coming season, expect to see Söderström in some games with the big club in the next two years. His NHL debut is still a long way away.
For those who care, Toews is not related to Jonathan or David, and his first name is accented on the last syllable. He just finished his first season at Quinnipiac, and I have to say, I was scratching my head when his name was announced, especially with Luc Snuggerud and Gavin Bayreuther still on the table.
Toews’s size isn’t as bad as people say (6’1”, 181), but it worries me how he’s been passed over twice and fell off this year’s final rankings after being listed in the midterms. The Abbotsford, B.C. native scored one goal and had sixteen assists last season for the Bobcats, who had a disappointing tournament run coming off their second place finish last year. He will be expected to take on a leadership role in his sophomore year, which makes me cringe, especially as someone with roots near Quinnipiac’s main campus.
He’s a solid defensive defenseman, but there’s nothing about his game that really wows me. He doesn’t have a good shot. He’s not great on the backcheck. He won’t be your powerplay quarterback. He’s not a great shot blocker. He’s not very physical. He’s not much of anything besides a good positional defenseman. Granted, I said the same about Kevin Czuczman, who has really impressed me now, but I just can’t see this guy on the Islanders in the future.
Take Toews’s story, switch around a few minor details, and change his position to center, and you get Kyle Schempp. Garth Snow obviously must have been watching the NCAA tournament, and thought, “Hey, if these teams can get in and not my Maine Black Bears, these teams must have pretty good players.” As such, he made his second low-risk, low-reward selection of his draft which had me scratching my head. I wanted Reid Duke, who ended up going to the Wild.
Finishing his freshman year at Ferris State, the Saginaw, Mich. native scored 10 goals and had 15 assists, finishing at a +10. He wasn’t listed on any prospect lists but his strong conference and NCAA tournaments was apparently enough to convince Garth to take him.
To be honest, watching him a couple years ago playing with the Sioux Falls Stampede in the USHL, I was surprised Schempp, as offensive-minded a player as there ever was, chose a program like Ferris State, which is known for their defense. Passed over two years in the draft for good reason, I can see he’s trying to be the next Chris Kunitz––an offensive juggernaut who had to improve his defense to see first-line minutes with the Bulldogs, and ended up inflating his own numbers by being paired with the best player in hockey.
But it’s unlikely he comes straight out of college and is immediately put on a line with John Tavares. In fact, I don’t see this guy making the NHL at all. But I guess, since it was late in the draft and you only have one minute to decide who you’re going to pick, Garth just chose the first player that popped into his mind.
Garth made up for his last two selections by getting back at the Winnipeg Jets for drafting Brenden Kichton last year. Lukas Sutter, the son of Rich and nephew of former Islanders Duane and Brent, was a second-round pick of the Jets two years ago but couldn’t come to terms with the club. I am really high on this guy and I hoped the Islanders would take him from the moment the Jets announced he would re-enter the draft.
He reminds me of Brandon Dubinsky, does everything well, but nothing exceptional. His stats have dipped since his trade to Red Deer from Saskatoon last year (23 points but 76 penalty minutes in 45 games), but I’ve watched this guy play. He can change the course of a game with a single hit, blocked shot, penalty, et cetera. The St. Louis native (yes, I know the WHL’s website says Lethbridge, Alta., but he represents the U.S. in international competition) will not score much, but is the type of player Islanders fans will love, sacrificing his body, screening the goalie, and yes, leading chants from the penalty box à la Daniel Bryan. Yes, I know that doesn’t fly at the NHL level.
A good thing about Sutter is we get to see what he’s capable of in the pros immediately. He has aged out of juniors, so, assuming he signs an entry-level deal and recovers from his shoulder surgery in time for the season, expect to see him if you make a trip to Bridgeport or Stockton this season.
Of these players, the one I expect to be most successful is Sutter. I understand we have players like him in the organization, but he has a full four years under the NHL microscope, and was taken in the second round by Winnipeg for a reason. He’s the only one on this list (granted, I’ve never seen Söderström play) who has really made me say, “Damn. This guy can play the game of hockey.” But I will watch all of these players in hopes that one of them will be a great steal in the draft like Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg.
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