New York Islanders prospect Jesse Graham comes in at number 24, in Eyes on Isles top 25 under 25. The offensive defenceman had good upside but seems to be a victim of strength in numbers.
Jesse Graham was selected by the New York Islanders in the 6th round of the 2012 NHL entry draft. Plucked out of the OHL’s Niagara Ice Dogs after a productive 41 point season.
The 22-year-old bounced between the Islanders AHL affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers, and the ECHL last season, but he’s going to get a shot to prove himself this year.
It’s not that kid isn’t talented. It’s that he finds himself in a position of strength within the organization. The Islanders have a number of young defencemen within their ranks. The likes of Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, and Scott Mayfield have featured heavily for Bridgeport last season.
The likes of Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, and Scott Mayfield have featured heavily for Bridgeport last season. Placing Graham lower in the organizational defensive depth chart.
Graham isn’t one of those large hulking defenseman prowling the blueline looking to nix any attempt at gaining zone entry. Or one that destroys opposition players along the boards.
His slight, 5’11” 175lbs frame lends more to the speedy puck moving type of player. And speed is something Graham has in spades.
Hockeysfuture.com assessment of Graham details nicely how Graham harnesses this speed: “Graham is an offensively-inclined defenseman whose speed gives him an advantage on the opposition — both in his defensive zone and in the transition. He can create space with his feet and open up lanes in transition”
Want an example of just how speedy this kid is? Just look at this replay of Graham saving an empty net goal, and directly leading to a goal at the other end of the ice.
You could argue that the puck was starting to slow down, but Graham made up a ton of ice in order to catch up to the puck.
Slots Opening Up
With the aforementioned Pulock, an almost guarantee to get a roster spot with the Islanders for 2016-17 space starts to open up in the depth chart. Everyone down the order moves up a spot.
Graham won’t feature for the Islanders this season. Barring any sort of calamitous injury bug on the blueline. But playing in Bridgeport is almost a certainty.
Competition is still going to be riff for a spot on the Sound Tigers blue line. But Graham should be able to set himself apart from the crowd with his speed and offensive upside.
This low in our ranking you see players that are on the fringes of the prospect pool. Players that, while very talented are still competing for places in the team and even to stay relevant in the organization.
Such is Graham’s predicament.
This is going to be a decisive year for Graham as he enters the final year of his contract with the Islanders. Having a good year in Bridgeport will go a long way to the Isles retaining his services for the future.