The New York Islanders farm system was recently ranked as the fifth best in the NHL. With players like Oliver Wahlstrom and Noah Dobson, it’s easy to see how they earned that ranking.
For the second year in a row, the Athletic’s Corey Pronman has ranked the New York Islanders farm system in the top five (subscription required). Last year the Islanders ranked fourth, while the 2018 farm system finishes fifth overall.
The future looks bright for the New York Islanders as they look to restructure the franchise after twelve years of the Garth Snow era.
But to be fair, the Islanders have had strong farm systems in the past. Lou Lamoriello is going to have to figure out how the Islanders can transition those talented prospects into NHL talent. Something the previous regime wasn’t able to do succesfully.
Deep List of Talent
The Islanders fifth overall ranking was heavily influenced by their return from the 2018 draft. Oliver Wahlstrom is (rightfully) seen as a “high-end NHL prospect” by Pronman. It’s easy to see why. The Boston College player is an absolute goal machine.
Wahlstrom shouldn’t have fallen to the Isles at number eleven, but thanks to the Montreal Canadiens and Arizona Coyotes (amongst other teams) taking centers Wahlstrom was available for the Isles. It was an easy pick for Lou’s first draft pick as Islanders GM.
Through 95 games in the 2017-18 season, Oliver Wahlstrom scored 77 goals. Again, he’s an absolute goal machine.
But while Wahlstrom is the Islanders top prospect the Islanders have a list of hyper-talented youngsters at various stages of their career. Some are ready today (Josh Ho-Sang, Kieffer Bellows, Devon Toews, Ilya Sorokin) while others are just a year or so away (Noah Dobson, Sebastian Aho, Mitchell Vande Sompel).
The strength of the Islanders system isn’t that they have a single top-tier prospect (they do), but that they have a number of great to good prospects. Meaning the Islanders could be adding wave after wave of talented youth into the roster for years to come.
But it’s the New York Islanders. They don’t necessarily develop players well. Josh Ho-Sang could be in the NHL right now, but both he and the franchise haven’t been able to come to terms on a trajectory that works for both of them.
That’s an issue. I understand that NHL teams don’t want to be dictated to, nor do they have to. They control a player’s ability to enter the NHL. Their strategy with Ho-Sang has been to dangle a carrot with an NHL logo in front of Ho-Sang’s face and hope that he conforms.
We all know that hasn’t worked. And it’s not the first time either.
The New York Islanders took the same approach with their fifth overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft Nino Niederreiter. It ended up with the Isles trading Nino, who is now a 60 point player in the NHL, for Cal Clutterbuck and a third (used on Eamon McAdams).
Now that Lou has one of the better farm systems at his disposal he’s going to have to reform the Islanders ideology and approach to development. Maximizing a prospect pool and turning as many of these talented kids into NHL players is key to becoming a contender.
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The future looks bright for the New York Islanders. They have an embarrassment of riches down on the ‘farm’. They just need to make sure they can develop them to take the next step in their career.