The Athletic’s Cory Pronman released his annual ranking of NHL pipelines. And the New York Islanders ranked 27th overall (subscription required). Which is low, but it honestly makes a lot of sense when you consider where the Islanders are in their cycle.
Think of pipeline rankings as the inverse of cup rankings. Which is where the Isles are in their cycle. They’re challenging for cups. The prospect pool isn’t likely to be rated that high. The Isles are selling the future for a chance to win it. That’s what happens, every year in this sport.
But the fallout surrounding Pronman’s ranking isn’t where the Islanders are relative to the rest of the league, but where some of the prospects rank. For reasons?
New York Islanders fans should be glad instead of mad
The biggest issue from fans was that Aatu Räty was ranked higher than Oliver Wahlstrom, by a single spot. Which, might sound weird on the surface. Why is Räty, a prospect in Finland who was just drafted, higher than a 15 goal scorer at the NHL level?
But it’s not Räty>Wahlstrom today. It’s Räty’s ceiling, according to Pronman is higher. And even that isn’t totally accurate. Both sit in a “middle of the lineup” tier. One is a center (Räty) and the other is a winger (Wahlstrom). Centers are typically valued more than wingers. So he moves up a slot.
Sure, you can look at this as undervaluing Wahlstrom, but honestly, he’s still a middle-six winger right now. The only reason Islanders fans want him on the top line is because of a lack of better options right now.
I chose to look at the positive here. Räty, who fell to the Islanders with the 52 overall pick is projected to be a second-line center according to Pronman. I’m sorry, but having a second-line center fall into your lap is something to be happy about.
Before Räty, the Islanders center depth chart was…well it wasn’t great. Now they have a guy who could very well be a second-line center? And fans are upset?
It’s not to say that Pronman’s rankings are perfect. Of course, they aren’t, we’re talking about prospects and what they might be able to achieve. Some won’t reach the level Pronman has for them while others will exceed. It’s still a guessing game at this point.
Now, if anyone wants to bring up how Simon Holmstrom’s tier is “has a chance” while Philip Tomasino’s is likely going to be much higher, I got time for that. Remember, Tomasino was picked 24th overall in 2019 while Holmstrom when 23rd.
In his first year in the AHL, Tomasino put up 32 points in 29 games. Holmstrom had seven in 24 games in his second year.
If you want to say the Isles should have taken Tomasino instead of Holmstrom, you have a point. But I haven’t seen that point being brought up today.