Islanders draft: first round misses during salary cap era

William Nylander #88 of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
William Nylander #88 of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

What are the biggest misses by the New York Islanders in the first round in the cap era? Here are four times they were so close to drafting a better player.

The NHL Entry Draft is vitally important for building a championship-caliber team, specifically in the cap era where every dollar spent has to count for something. The New York Islanders haven’t always done a good job of maximizing their draft picks.

Hitting on first-round picks, where top tier NHL talent is usually found, is perhaps the most important in building a champion. Missing on picks that should be clear impact players for your club could sink a rebuild.

Since the cap was put in place in 2005-06, the Islanders have had 17 first-round picks, seven were in the top-ten of the first-round. With the power of hindsight, here are some of the players they could have picked instead that were right there for the taking.

Failed Rebuild

When I say “right there” I’m talking about players that were selected just a few picks after the Islanders stepped up to the podium. This isn’t an entire redraft. It’s a look at who the Islanders could have reasonably taken instead of the player they actually drafted.

I’m not going further back than four picks after the Islanders made their selection. I’m also keeping this to the first round because of the caliber of player that is generally available in the first round compared to other rounds in the draft.

All four players I’ll bring up were drafted in a five-year window. That period was supposed to be the Islanders rebuild. The high draft picks they made were supposed to propel the team to a new era of success. Missing on these four picks set the Islanders rebuild back years.

2010 Nino Niederreiter 5th | Jeff Skinner 7th

Given a second chance with the Islanders Nino Niederreiter could have been a nice top-six player. But just two picks later Jeff Skinner was selected by the Carolina Hurricanes.

Skinner has nearly double the production than Niederreiter does. Only Taylor Hall (1st overall) and Tyler Seguin (2nd overall) have more production than Jeff Skinner in the entire 2010 draft.

The Islanders clearly missed a way better player in 2010, even though Niederreiter is still a good NHL player.

2011 Ryan Strome 5th | Mark Scheifele 7th

Just a year later the Islanders were picking fifth overall once again. Outside of a 50 point sophomore season, Ryan Strome never hit the heights his draft status indicated he could be.

Just two picks later in 2011, Mark Scheifele was selected by the Winnipeg Jets. Scheifele has nearly double Strome’s production with only 28 more NHL games under his belt. Only three players have more production than Scheifele in the 2011 draft; Gabriel Landeskog (2nd overall), Nikita Kucherov (58th overall), and Johnny Gaudreau (104th overall).

Just think of the 1-2 down the middle with John Tavares and Mark Scheifele for the Islanders.

2012 Griffin Reinhart 4th | Morgan Rielly 5th

Sure, he was traded to Edmonton and the Islanders got Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier out of it, but Griffin Reinhart wasn’t any good. Reinhart bounced from the Isles to the Oilers and then to the Golden Knights before moving to the Kunlun Red Star in the KHL.

With the very next pick in 2012, the Toronto Maple Leafs selected Morgan Rielly fifth overall. Reilly has been a key player for the Leafs. Former Leafs GM Brian Burke said he would have drafted Rielly first overall in 2012.

Just do the quick comparison:

Griffin Reinhart – 37 NHL games, 0 goals, 2 points
Morgan Rielly – 517 NHL games, 54 goals, 270 points

Ouch. That’s three years in a row that the Isles missed on a top-five pick.

2014 Michael Dal Colle 5th | William Nylander 8th

Michale Dal Colle could still be something more than he currently is. Josh Bailey took years to consistently put up top-six production at the NHL level. But even if Dal Colle becomes the next Josh Bailey, there were better picks to make in 2014.

Taken with the eighth overall pick in 2014, the Toronto Maple Leafs selected William Nylander.

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With 221 points in 307 games, William Nylander ranks seventh in his draft class for production. Michael Dal Colle with his 17 points in 85 games ranks 47th in the entire 2014 draft class for production.

Missing on four top-five picks in five years set the New York Islanders back a long way. Hopefully, the next they’re in a rebuilding position they don’t make the same mistakes.