Islanders: What happened to 1st round picks they traded away?

OTTAWA, ON - NOVEMBER 27: Erik Brannstrom #26 of the Ottawa Senators skates in a game against the Boston Bruins at Canadian Tire Centre on November 27, 2019 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
OTTAWA, ON - NOVEMBER 27: Erik Brannstrom #26 of the Ottawa Senators skates in a game against the Boston Bruins at Canadian Tire Centre on November 27, 2019 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images) /

The New York Islanders haven’t made a habit of trading their first-round pick, but when they have, what became of that pick?

The New York Islanders don’t have their first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft after trading it to the Ottawa Senators for Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Which got me thinking, what happened to other first-rounders that the Islanders traded away?

Since 1972, the Islanders have traded away four first-round picks.

When I say traded-away I don’t mean times that the Isles traded their first-round picks to trade up or down in the draft. Like when they moved up from 26th to 12th in 2009 to pick Calvin de Haan.

(Side note: In 2009, the Isles moved from 26th to 16th to 12th. The 26th overall pick was used to draft Kyle Palmieri and the 12th overall was used to draft Nick Leddy.)

I’m strictly talking about the times the Islanders sent their first-round pick away for immediate help, just like with the Pageau trade.

Traded Away

June 23, 2001 – Alexei Yashin

Believe it or not, but the first time the Islanders traded away a first-round pick was in 2001. Then GM Mike Milbury sent Bill Muckalt, Zdeno Chara, and the second overall pick in the 2001 draft to the Ottawa Senators for veteran center Alexei Yashin.

Ottawa used that second overall pick to draft Jason Spezza. Spezza has played 17 seasons in the NHL with 341 goals and 940 points in 1,123 games.

Yashin was a good player for the Islanders scoring 290 points in 346 games. But what the Islanders gave up was greater with Chara becoming a Hall of Fame defenseman and with Spezza become a top-tier talent in the league.

February 27, 2007 – Ryan Smyth

At the 2007 trade deadline, the Islanders sent Robert Nilsson, Ryan O’Marra, and a first-round pick in 2007 to the Edmonton Oilers for Ryan Smyth.

Smyth clearly didn’t want to leave Edmonton. He famously teared up at the airport on the way to the Island.

Smyth was good in the regular season with 15 points in 18 games. He wasn’t terrible in the playoffs either, with four points in five games. But Smyth wouldn’t take the Islanders extension offer and bolted for the Colorado Avalanche as a free agent.

With the Isles falling out of the playoffs in the first round, the first-round pick that was traded to Edmonton would be the 15th overall in 2007. The Oilers would use it to select Alex Plante. The defenseman would play ten NHL games between 2009 and 2011 for the Oilers.

We may not have been able to extend Smyth, but it’s not like Edmonton got anything from that first-round pick.

October 27, 2013 – Thomas Vanek

For years, the New York Islanders were looking to give John Tavares an elite winger to line up with. For years Tavares had to find ways to make it work with lower-tier players. And to Tavares’s credit, he often made it work.

In 2014, the Islanders through they had found that winger they were looking for in Thomas Vanek. Garth Snow sent Matt Moulson, a top 10-protected 2014 first-round pick, and a 2015 second-round pick to the Buffalo Sabres.

Vanek would score 44 points in 47 games. But the pending free agent refused to sign with the Islanders. Even after the Islanders reportedly offered him close to seven-year $50 million deal. The Isles would have to trade him at the deadline, getting Sebastien Colberg and a conditional second-round pick in 2014 from the Montreal Canadiens.

Even with Tavares, Okposo, and Vanek combining for 193 points, the Isles sunk to the bottom of the Metropolitan Division and near the bottom of the Eastern Conference in 2013-14. Meaning they’d pick in the top ten at the 2014 draft. The Isles could retain the pick they sent to Buffalo and give them a first in 2015 instead.

Eventually, that 2015 first-round pick would get to Ottawa who would select Colin White 21st overall. White has played 165 NHL games and had 41 points in 2018-19. He’s still young and has time to become something. But so far he’s a middle-six player at best.

June 21, 2017- Vegas Expansion Draft

At the Vegas expansion draft, the Islanders left a bunch of players exposed. Quality players like Josh Bailey, Brock Nelson, and Calvin de Haan. To keep Vegas’s hands off of them, Garth Snow traded Mikhail Grabovski, Jake Bischoff, a 2017 first-round pick, and a 2019 second-round pick to the expansion team.

Vegas used the pick to take defenseman Erik Brannstrom. Brannstrom stuck with Vegas for a year, playing in the AHL for the Chicago Wolves before being traded to Ottawa for Mark Stone.

Brannstrom played 31 games for the Senators this past season scoring four points. At 20 years of age, there’s still a lot of time for him to turn into something.

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The Islanders have rarely traded away their first-round pick, unfortunately when they have they haven’t always struck gold. Both Smyth and Vanek left the Isles high-and-dry. Fortunately, the picks they gave up never amounted to anything.