When it comes to being a successful organization the first step is drafting correctly. Years of bad drafts can set a team back years. There is no better example than the New York Islanders. After winning their first series in 23 seasons they are the poster-child for bad decisions at the NHL draft. The amount of wasted first round selections tell the story of why the Isles have not been among the league’s elite over the last two decades. We start our look back in 1994 the first season of not winning a playoff series and we will conclude in 2012 (any pick after that has not really had enough time to prove themselves). I will go back and redraft each first round and pick the guy who would have been a better selection. I will look at the following ten selections and decide who would have been a better selection (going any further back would be unfair to the draft process).
1994- With the ninth overall pick the Islanders selected Brett Lindros. Instead the Islanders should have taken Mattias Ohlund who went 13th.
This may be unfair due to the injury issues suffered by Lindros, but since he only scored two goals in just over 50 games it’s safe to say this was not a good selection. While Ohlund was a quality NHL defenseman that played over 900 games in the NHL, most of them with the Vancouver Canucks. Ohlund was also an all-star in 1999. Nobody will ever complain about missing out on Mattias Ohlund but Brett Lindros was a clear miss.
1995- With the second overall pick the Islanders selected Wade Redden. Instead the Islanders should have taken Jerome Iginla who went 11th.
This was an interesting draft since Redden did not play a game for the Islanders and was traded to Ottawa for Bryan Berard who was the first overall pick in 1995. Berard was developing into a very good defenseman, winning the Calder Trophy until the Islanders traded him in the ill-fated Felix Potvin deal. After suffering an eye injury his career would never be the same, which makes this a tricky judgement. As good as Berard could have been though, passing on Jerome Iginla will be one of the biggest Islander misses of all time.
1996- With the third overall pick the Islanders selected JP Dumont.
This was actually a pretty good selection. When compared to everyone else selected in the first round only two players accumulated more points during their careers than Dumont (Danny Briere who went 24th Daniaus Zubrus who went 15th). The issue here was Dumont was never signed to a contract with the Islanders. Due to the contract dispute the Islanders traded him for Dmitri Nabokov. This is an example of drafting the right player but not following through. On a positive note they did take Zdeno Chara in the third round.
1997 With the fourth overall pick the Islanders selected Roberto Luongo and with the fifth selection took Eric Brewer. Instead the Islanders should have taken Luongo and Marian Hossa who went 12th.
This was actually a good draft for the Islanders, while it would be nice to have a 500 goal scorer in Hossa, Brewer was a solid defenseman for years in the NHL. The issue again was the Isles giving up on him and trading him before he truly developed. The drafting of Roberto Luongo in hindsight looks like a great selection, trading him though was not the greatest move. Bobby Lou could still be the Islanders goalie today.
1998 With the ninth overall pick the Islanders selected Mike Rupp. Instead the Islanders should have taken Alex Tanguay.
This is another example of the Islanders absolutely wasting a top ten pick by not even signing the selection. Mike Rupp ended up returning to Erie in the OHL and was drafted 76th overall by the Devils in 2000. It was easy to see why the Islanders were not a successful franchise in the late nineties.
1999- The Islanders had four selections Tim Connolly 5th, Taylor Pyatt 7th, Branislav Mezei 10th and Kristian Kudroc 28th. Instead the Isles should have selected Tim Connolly 5th, Taylor Pyatt 7th, Barrett Jackman 18th, and Alexi Seminov 33rd.
While it does not look like they made many mistakes, this is one of the most disappointing drafts of my memory. The Islanders came into the day with 3 top ten picks. I like many others were hoping to end up with the Sedin twins. Since they had made it obvious they wanted to play for the same team, however naïve I was at the time, I believed that the Islanders would be in the best position to capitalize on this once in a lifetime opportunity. This however was not the case and Brian Burke made Milbury look like a fool (who didn’t). This was a draft with only two big time players and the Isles failed hard here. The Islanders did find Radek Martinek in the eighth round.
2000- With first overall selection the Islanders selected Rick DiPietro and with the fifth selection took Raffi Torres. Instead they should have selected Marian Gaborik third and Scott Hartnell sixth.
This was another disaster draft where the Islanders traded Roberto Luongo to Florida along with Olli Jokenin for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha, a deal where Milbury gave up the best two players in a four player deal. In addition, with the recent need for a goalie the Isles took DiPietro instead of a sniper like Marian Gaborik. This was a chance to really get the Islanders going before the sale to Charles Wang but not understanding the draft process came back to bit the Isles again.
2001-We have a trade. The Islanders trade the second overall selection along with Zdeno Chara to Ottawa for Alexi Yashin. Instead they should have kept the pick to take Jason Spezza.
Wow was this a fun deal at the time (even then we were wondering why they had to include Chara) but in retrospect, this is yet another Islander disaster. They traded a future Norris Trophy winning defenseman along with a two time NHL all-star for a washed up Alexi Yashin. Yashin was the poster child for what was wrong with the Islanders after a moderately successful (at least for this decade) run.
2002- With the 22nd overall pick the Islanders selected Sean Bergenheim. Instead they should have taken Alexander Steen who went 24th.
Bergenheim was always a decent player with the Islanders but never one to be excited about. The better selection would have been Alex Steen who is settling in as a really good player for the St. Louis Blues. While Bergenheim is now out of the league. They actually ended up with one of the best players in that draft when they selected Frans Nielson with the 87th pick.
2003- With the 15th overall pick the Islanders selected Robert Nilsson. Instead they should have taken Zach Parise who went 17th.
This may have been the most important terrible pick the Islanders made during this stretch. Nilsson played one season for the Islanders until he was traded in the Ryan Smyth deal. Zach Parise was a fantastic player for the Devils before moving onto Minnesota. Drafting the son of former Islander JP Parise would have been a turning point for this organization instead they reached for Nilsson, who never made an impact.
2004- With the 16th overall pick the Islanders selected Petteri Nokelainen. Instead they should have taken Cory Schneider who went 26th.
Safe to say this Nokelainen pick was not a good one. He played 15 games for the Islanders blew out his knee and got traded for a second round pick. Instead they would have been better off drafting Cory Schneider who has proven to be one of the top goalies in the league today. Interesting how in this scenario, the Islanders who never should have traded Luongo, would end up with both Luongo and Schneider.
2005- With the 15th overall pick the Islanders selected Ryan O’Mara. Instead they should have taken Tukka Rask who went 21st.
O’Mara was the second first round pick to go to Edmonton in the Ryan Smythe trade. While it seemed like a hefty price, in retrospect giving up O’Mara and Nilsson was not a big deal. O’Mara only played 33 games in the NHL. Luckily this was the last year of truly terrible picks. There is no way the Isles would have drafted goalies in the first round back to back years but Tukka Rask would have been a great pick here for the Isles since they have yet to find a true number one goalie.
2006- With the seventh overall pick the Islanders selected Kyle Okposo.
This was Neil Smith’s only selection for the Islanders and it was a good one. There was plenty of years where this may not have been the case but Okposo has developed into one of the best players on the Islanders. Any time you select a player of Okposo’s ability it has to be considered a successful selection.
2007- We have a trade. The Islanders traded this pick in the deal that brought over Ryan Smythe.
Garth Snow paid a heavy price to bring in Ryan Smythe as a rental to help make a playoff push in 2007. While some may say it worked out since they made the playoffs they traded two former first round picks along with the 15th pick. None of those picks amounting to anything in the NHL but if the Islanders held the pick they could have taken Max Pacioretty
2008- With the ninth overall pick the Islanders selected Josh Bailey. Instead they should have taken Erik Karlsson who went 15th.
The Islanders originally had the fifth pick in a draft with what was believed to have four big players. They traded down twice to accumulate multiple picks. The first trade involved the Leafs trading up for Luke Schenn, and the second Nashville traded up for Colin Wilson. The Isles eventually settled on Josh Bailey. This was a great use of assets by Garth Snow since neither Schenn or Wilson have become stars in the NHL. On the other side, not taking Erik Karlsson is a huge miss. Who would not trade Josh Bailey straight up for Erik Karlsson (other then Ottawa). The Isles did take Travis Hamonic in the second round and Matt Martin in the fifth.
2009- With the first overall pick the Islanders selected John Tavares, and with the 12th pick the Islanders took Calvin de Haan. Instead they should have taken Nick Leddy who went 15th.
This in retrospect was a no brainer. Tavares has revitalized the franchise and is one of the few true franchise players in this league. Think it’s safe to say the Isles are happy with this pick. The Islanders also had the 15th pick and traded up for Calvin de Haan. The better course of action would have been to keep the pick and take Nick Leddy. This is one where everything worked out in the end. The Isles also took Casey Cizikas at the top of the fourth round and Anders Lee at the top of the sixth.
2010- With the fifth overall pick the Islanders selected Nino Niederreiter. Instead they should have taken Cam Fowler who went 12th.
This is not an example of a terrible pick so much as terrible development. Nino had a wasted year playing on a fourth line with guys like Jay Pandolfo and Marty Reasoner. After being sent to the AHL, Snow was bullied by Niederreiter’s agent into a trade. Luckily the Isles were able to get Cal Clutterbuck to salvage this disaster. Instead a steady defenseman like Cam Fowler would have been a better pick. Unfortunately, Vladimir Tarasenko was selected 11 picks later and therefore ineligible for this exercise.
2011- With the fifth overall pick the Islanders selected Ryan Strome. Instead they should have taken Dougie Hamilton who went ninth.
With this pick, we enter the zone where things can still change. After a disappointing season, the question is whether Strome will develop into a top six player in the NHL. While Hamilton has proven his ability as a top four defenseman in the league. The jury is still out on this pick though and Strome has the ability to change the narrative on the 2011 draft.
2012-With the fourth overall pick the Islanders selected Griffin Reinhart. Instead they should have selected Filip Forsberg who went 11th.
The Islanders drafted for need here and took Reinhart. After being unsuccessful in their attempts to get Ryan Murray they took the next best defenseman they could. Instead they should have gone for the best scorer remaining in Forsberg. After an all-star season last year and scoring thirty this year, Forsberg would be a great solution to the current scoring problems the Islanders have.
With 2013 first round pick Ryan Pullock only having 15 games of NHL experience and nobody after him have more than two full seasons this is where we conclude the redrafting. It’s safe to say why the Islanders have struggled so much in these 20 plus seasons. With multiple wasted first round picks it becomes very difficult to build a successful team. They have had plenty of opportunities but between not developing the right players and not picking the right players you get 23 seasons without winning a playoff series. There is a chance this trend has turned around and the Isles will start to develop players to help with a long run at winning a Stanley Cup.