It’s draft day! The 2021 NHL draft is here and while the New York Islanders don’t have a first-round pick (again), I thought we’d join in on the opening day of the entry draft by looking back at last year’s* class.
(The 2020 draft was in October 2020 meaning it’s only been nine months since.)
Remember, last year the Islanders didn’t have a first or second-round pick. Both of those picks went to the Ottawa Senators in the Jean-Gabriel Pageau trade. Their draft day started on day two with a third-round pick.
So let’s look back at who the Islanders picked last year and how they’ve done since that selection from nine months ago.
Looking back at New York Islanders 2020 Draft Class
Third Round: Alexander Ljungkrantz (Bryans | SHL)
Ljungkrantz had a strong (and busy) season in 2020-21. The young Swede put up a good showing at the U20 level before the season was canceled with 15 points in 16 games. Sent out on loan to hometown Stromsbro (DIV 1), he scored eight goals and twelve points in 14 games.
He also “featured” in 16 games for Bryans at the SHL level last season, but really only saw the ice for half of those. The other eight games saw him dress as an extra skater but stay on the bench.
Ljungkrantz was bouncing between Stromsbro and Brynas for most of the year. Rarely getting a break. But his persistence paid off. He’s worked himself into consideration for the Swedish WJC roster in 2022. He’ll be with Team Sweden as they head to the US for the summer showcase later in July.
Fourth Round: Alex Jefferies (Merrimack | NCAA)
An injury cut his season short but before being forced to sit out the year, Jefferies had a strong year for Merrimack. The freshman forward was a top player for Merrimack, putting up ten points in 12 games.
He played in the top-six, on the power play, and on the penalty kill. Remember he was a freshman. Freshmen don’t usually get that type of deployment. And even when some of the top players on Merrimack’s squad went out with an injury he put up points.
His efforts got him a nod for the Hobey Baker, finishing in the top 50 for the top college player award.
Fifth Round: Willaim Dufour (Sea Dogs | QMJHL)
Just like Jefferies, injuries cut William Dufour’s season short. And what a season it was. In 23 games, Dufour scored 17 goals (0.74 goals per game) and 29 points (1.26 points per game). Twice during the year, Dufour went on long scoring streaks.
From November 20 to January 30 (eight games), he scored eight goals and 12 points. He had a seven-game goal streak over those eight games. He put up three helpers in the one game he didn’t score a goal during that first streak.
The from February 2 to February 17 (seven games), Dufour had another seven goals and 12 points. This time with a six-game goal streak.
Dufour was absolutely dominant last year. For 21-22, he’ll play for the Saint John Sea Dogs, who spent a number of good assets to get him. There his GM thinks he’ll be a 40 goal scorer and continue being a dominant player in his final year in the QMJHL.
Sixth Round: Matias Rajaniemi (Pelicans | Liiga)
If the theme for the last two picks was “injuries cut their 20-21 season short”, the theme for the last two picks is “surprisingly good year”.
Rajaniemi played a bottom-four role for the Lahti Pelicans from Finland’s top league. Putting up nine points in the process. He also worked his way into Finland’s World Junior Championship squad in 2021 where he featured as their seventh d-man. He’d have a minor role but still earned that bronze medal.
He’s already earned a spot in Finland’s top-four for the Summer Showcase that starts on July 24.
And look Matias is still young. He won’t turn 19 until September 11. At 18 he’s already representing his country, winning medals at marquee events, and playing top-four minutes in one of the top leagues in world hockey.
Seventh Round: Henrik Tikkanen (IPK | Mestis)
The massive goalie (6’8″ 200+ lbs) didn’t start the season well if you look at the stats. His Mestis record doesn’t stand out much, but when his parent club (KalPa) had a number of injuries in the crease they signed him to a Liiga contract.
And once he got there he was incredible. He surprised KalPa’s GM as well.
In seven games at the Liiga level, Tikkanen held a 2-2-3 record while averaging a 1.94 GAA and 0.921SV%.
He’ll play the 2021-22 year at the Liiga level and have a chance to build on that strong record, albeit in a small sample, from last year.