Four times in the New York Islanders history they had the number one overall pick. Here’s how they panned out.
Picking first overall is both a good and a bad thing. It’s good because you’re usually getting an elite-level prospect, but at the same time, you’re in the position to take that player because you’re a God awful team.
Since the Islanders‘ inception in 1972, they’ve picked first overall four times. Only one of those players would play over 700 games for the team, but they did find a couple of gems in the draft.
Here’s how the four first overall picks in team history rank:
4. Rick DiPietro (2000)
In 2000, the New York Islanders decided to take Rick DiPietro first overall just three years after using the fourth overall pick on a goalie in Roberto Luongo. From the jump, it was flawed logic. After just 30 games in the NHL from 2000-2003 DiPietro became the full-time starter at just 22.
From the 2003-2004 season through 2007-2008 he was the starter appearing in over 50 games each season and posting an average save percentage of .908 and a high of .919. DiPietro finished top-10 in Vezina voting in the 2007 season.
Unfortunately, injuries would completely derail his career after that. Over the next five years, he would appear in just 50 games. All the while, Roberto Luongo was putting up stellar numbers in Florida and Vancouver to add insult to injury.
When healthy, he was a solid starter. Unfortunately, he’s remembered for that massive contract that he was never able to live up to.
3. Billy Harris (1972)
The Islanders’ first-ever draft pick was Billy Harris back in 1972. The winger would play a huge role on this team throughout the 1970s. He finished third in Calder voting in his rookie season putting up 28 goals and 50 points.
He replicated his 50 point season in his second year before finishing with four straight 60+ point seasons. In 1979 he “dropped” down to 54 points but don’t worry he finished top-15 in Selke voting that season.
Harris would be traded along with Dave Lewis in March of 1980 to land Butch Goring. It’s the biggest trade in franchise history as Goring is widely considered the final piece to those dynasty teams.
While unfortunately, he didn’t win any championships on Long Island, Harris should still be remembered fondly for his contributions to the early-era Islanders.
2. John Tavares (2009)
Gasp! Yes, John Tavares is clearly the second-best first overall pick in team history. For a team that was in a dark place for a long time before he got there, he was viewed by many as the savior. Tavares finished fifth in Calder voting his rookie year and was off from there.
Three times with the Islanders he put up 80+ points, and in 669 career games with the team, he had 621 points. Tavares also arguably had the biggest post-dynasty moment, when the Isles advanced for the first time in 23 years.
As Islanders fans are well aware, things did not end well for Tavares on Long Island. He’s still public enemy number one to a lot of fans, and likely ruined his Isles legacy for stringing the Islanders along just to bounce in free agency.
All that aside, his play on the ice absolutely merits the number two spot here.
Number 1: Denis Potvin (1973)
Four-time Stanley Cup winner, seven-time All-Star, 1974 Calder winner, three-time Norris winner, Hall of Famer, Denis Potvin. If there were a Mount Rushmore for the Islanders his face would absolutely be on there.
From day one, Potvin was a star putting up an impressive 17 goal 54 point season his rookie year. By age 22, his third year in the league, he won his first Norris Trophy. Through the late 70’s and early 80’s, he was the top NHL d-man.
He was obviously a huge part of those dynasty era teams before having to retire at age 34 due to a series of injuries. Still, in 1,060 career games, Potvin finished with 1,052 points. He’s seventh all-time in points for defensemen.
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Of the four first overall picks, Potvin is also the only one to have his number retired by the team. When you walk into the Coliseum, or soon to be UBS Arena in Belmont, make sure to give a quick glance of respect up to number five in the rafters.