5 Prospects the NY Islanders should target at Pick No. 49 in the NHL Draft

U18 Ice Hockey World Championship 2023 - Semi Final
U18 Ice Hockey World Championship 2023 - Semi Final / Eurasia Sport Images/GettyImages
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In traditional Lou Lamoriello fashion, he traded away the New York Islanders' first-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. Granted, the return was Bo Horvat, so there were hardly any complaints from Isles fans (although that changed for some during the season and playoffs).

However, organizational depth is critical to the team's long-term success.

"Our scouts feel that it's a deep draft," said Lamoriello at his end-of-the-season press conference. His son Chris, along with six other scouts, have been at the combine this week and have been conducting player interviews. Lamoriello even cited how he can watch and participate in the interviews from his office on Long Island.

The players picked on June 28-29 won't be contributing anytime soon, but with only five picks in this draft, they'll need to hit home runs. With no first-rounders, the Islanders will pick in the second round at No. 49. The Islanders selected D Calle Odelius with the 65th overall pick last season. The year prior, they drafted Aatu Raty at No. 52. In the case of Raty, a former projected top selection, his development over two years got him first into the NHL and part of a trade package that brought back Horvat in a deal with the Vancouver Canucks.

There's value in the second round. Defenseman Scott Mayfield, Robin Salo, and Samuel Bolduc were all taken in the second by the Islanders, and all have made it in the NHL, with Mayfield being part of the organization for over 10 years. With that, let's take a look at five options that may be among the best available when the Isles turn is up.

William Whitelaw

Committed to the University of Wisconsin, William Whitelaw is such an intriguing prospect, especially where the Islanders are picking. What the 5’9 Whitelaw brings to the table is all the intangibles that the aging Islanders desperately need. He possesses an elite competitive spirit, along with shifty speed, and a high-end shot. 

At worst, you’re getting a Casey Cizikas clone, and his ceiling is a Yanni Gourde/Jason Blake-type player. Obviously his size is not ideal, but as we’ve seen with many players before, size never tells the whole story. With a player like Whitelaw, a lot of his shortcomings will be canceled out due to his work ethic. Smaller players succeed with a motor - just look at how successful Gourde has been.

Theo Lindstein

Theo Lindstein is as smooth of a defenseman as you’ll get. A dynamic, power skater who can recover his positioning fairly quickly with an exceptional hockey IQ is a type of player any team would desire. In a draft class that doesn’t have a ton of top defensemen, Lindstein stands out as his defensive game is way ahead of many of his peers.

So why is he not a surefire first rounder? Well, look at those stats. His offensive game has a ton of potential, but the production is lacking. There’s no doubt that he can produce against players his age, but once he plays against men, he struggles to score. Regardless, Lindstein’s traits are too good to pass up. He has a wonderful first pass, a solid shot from the point, and his play away from the puck is elite.

Alex Ciernik

Alex Ciernik is one of the more dynamic players projected to go in the second round. The 5’10 winger has spent most of his career in Sweden, but has made his name internationally. Representing Slovakia, Ciernik dominated the U18 WJC, as well as the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup, combining for 39 points in 23 games.

His skating is simply a treat to watch. It looks like he floats on the ice, and can make plays that very few can. He possesses an incredible intelligence with the puck on his stick, and pairing that with his elite skating can be a deadly combination. While he does look for the pass more often than not, he does have an exceptionally quick and strong shot. What has made him slip to the second round is his defensive shortcomings. Not only does he tend to get lost in the play, his strength needs to drastically improve. By no means is he afraid to take a hit, but with a lack of strength, he’ll be bullied once teams figure him out. If he manages to focus on improving, Ciernik has an extraordinary chance to be a top-six forward in the NHL.

Anton Wahlberg

There’s a chance that Anton Wahlberg gets taken earlier than 49, but if available, should definitely be a guy the Islanders look at. He’s a two-way center with a large frame, and can shape up to be a useful power forward. In his J20 season, he averaged nearly a point per game, and earned himself a promotion to the SHL. 

One of the aspects of Wahlberg’s game that fits the Islanders’ mold is his work ethic. He has a notion for making the opposition’s life miserable, constantly moving his feet and playing a hard physical game. His shot is also a massive strength which would be welcomed on the Islanders’ abysmal power play. What he needs to work on is his skating. By no means is he a poor skater, but he lacks the quickness and coordination that can make him highly effective, but that will change as he grows into his body. There’s a lot to like from the 6 '3 forward, and Wahlberg can be an impact player at this rate.

Cam Allen

This one is a high risk, high reward type of play. Cam Allen is a 5 '11 defenseman playing for the Guelph Storm, and was recently voted as Team Canada’s U18 captain for the IIHF World Championships. He’s such an interesting case because last year he won the OHL Rookie of the Year, and then under-performed in year two. Most of that can be attested to the struggles Guelph endured with multiple coaching changes, and starting off 2-9-2 in its first 13 games as well as an injury that kept him out six games. 

Allen is a right shot defenseman, which the Islanders are in need of, as well as a mobile, power play specialist. What he does lack is his man-to-man defensive play which causes him to lose battles and find himself out of position. As we all know, defensemen take a bit longer to develop, and Allen would be a long-term project. However, the payout is immense. If Lamoriello & Co. are willing to take the plunge, Cam Allen could be worth the wait.