The New York Islanders had a considerably interesting 2019 NHL Entry Draft. The Islanders had five picks in the draft and didn’t select the much-needed position of center until their third overall pick in the fifth round.
The New York Islanders selected only two centers in this year’s draft, even though they are incredibly thin at this position. These two picks were Reece Newkirk of the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL and Felix Bibeau of the Rouyn-Norando Huskies of the QMJHL.
Overall, I personally like the Reece Newkirk pick more. Newkirk is only 18 years old and has been improving his game every year.
Last season, for the Winterhawks, Newkirk played in 58 games and only scored 11 points (eight goals, three assists). This season, Newkirk took a huge step forward. Playing in 68 games for the Winterhawks, Newkirk scored 59 points (23 goals, 36 assists).
In one season, Newkirk improved his points per game average from 0.19 to 0.87. That’s a huge improvement and almost a point per game.
Although Newkirk is not very big at five-foot-eleven and 170 pounds, he has time to develop and gain some muscle until he is called up to the NHL.
Selected at 147th overall in the fifth round by the New York Islanders, Newkirk could be the steal of the draft.
Newkirk was ranked in the top-100 by NHL Central Scouting (#81 of North American Skaters), Elite Prospects (#59), The Hockey Writers (#90), and Scott Wheeler of The Athletic (#70). Also, Newkirk was ranked as #131 by The Draft Analyst.
Looking at these rankings, it’s easy to see the Islanders may have stolen Newkirk at 147.
Regarding player type, Newkirk is exactly what Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello and head coach Barry Trotz want.
Newkirk is considered a scrappy and gritty player that can also finish and has good vision, the perfect player in the eyes of Trotz and Lou.
Overall, I think this pick deserves a grade of a B.
Newkirk was ranked within the top-135 of prospects by five major hockey analysts and the Isles selected him 147th. That’s good value for a pick and I can see Newkirk becoming a top-nine forward for the Isles.
This pick would’ve received a better grade if Newkirk could play in the NHL right at this moment. However, Newkirk will most likely need a couple of years in the Q and the AHL to develop more before being called up to the NHL.
This isn’t the best thing for the Isles as they are severely thin at center and could use another one right now.
However, I am looking forward to seeing Newkirk play for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the AHL and hopefully for the New York Islanders in the near future.