With renewed interest in the NHL draft because of the Draft Lottery last night, it got me thinking about what the New York Islanders should do come the 2021 draft. And honestly, I hope they don’t go rogue with some of their early picks.
I know the Islanders have drafted well between 2015 and 2018, but that hasn’t necessarily been the case over the last two seasons. A few of their bigger decisions have been met with a lot of skepticism. And rightfully so, because it just seemed like they went rogue on some of their selections.
My only ask is that doesn’t happen this year.
New York Islanders can’t go rogue at 2021 draft
When I talk about “bigger decisions” being met with criticism I’m specifically referencing drafting Simon Holmstrom 23rd overall in 2019 and then Alexander Ljungkrantz in the third round (90th overall pick) in 2020.
My issue isn’t that these are bad picks, but the Islanders clearly reached to select both players. And both were the top picks made by the Isles over the last two drafts.
Simon Holmstrom was not expected to go in the first round. MyNHLDraft.com compiled 16 different first-round mock drafts that year, from people like Bob McKenzie, Corey Pronman, Scott Wheeler, Holmstrom showed up on four lists. Only once was it higher than 26th overall.
It was a reach to get Holmstrom, and while there’s still time for him to play to his first-round pick potential we are going into Holmstrom’s third year with the organization and we still don’t see that top-end skill predicted by his draft position.
A year later, the Islanders first pick at the draft wasn’t until the third round, and they took Alexander Ljungkrantz. Again, this isn’t about the player per se. Ljungkrantz is a good player who has skill but by all accounts, he could have been available later in the draft. Why jump to grab him in the third round?
Both are well away from competing at the NHL level. I know that certainly isn’t an issue right now, specifically for Ljungkrantz who was just drafted in 2020, but for a 2019 first-rounder like Holmstrom to still be nowhere near the NHL is a cause for concern for the Islanders prospects pool.
Considering guys like Philip Tomasino and Connor McMichael were draft in the two picks after Holmstrom, it makes you think if reaching to bring in Holmstrom was worth it. Tomasino had 32 points in 29 AHL games in 20-21 while McMichael put up 27 in 33 games. Holmstrom had seven in 24 games.
The Isles pool is relatively weak compared to the rest of the NHL and with an aging core that will soon need reinforcements, going rogue on the draft floor might not help them continue to be successful in the years to come.
This year they enter the draft with the Colorado Avalanche’s second round pick. Lou Lamoriello shouldn’t use this pick to reach for a player. If they feel they’ll be better served taking someone later in the draft, trade down, increase the number of picks you’re making rather than wasting an early pick.