The first round of the NHL Draft gets underway tonight. The New York Islanders currently have the 13th overall pick and despite the mixed signals, there's always the possibility they use it to draft.
The talent pool is wide open in the first round and it is more than likely that a player picked will not be ready for the NHL this season.
Let’s look at three forward draft prospects that would be a nice fit for the Islanders, if available.
Gauthier is as close as this draft comes to a pure power forward. He has developed nicely in the US National Development Program potting 34 goals in 54 games this past season. Many general managers will covet the power-forward aspect of his game, but he is more than just size and physicality. Although many project Gauthier as a winger, he has experience playing center too.
"Gauthier has the tools that can make you easily envision him in the NHL. He has a thick 6-foot-2 frame and can skate like an NHL player. With his size and speed he can overpower opponents to force turnovers or in how he attacks the net and it makes him an asset on the PK. Gauthier can create with his skating and skill, but his main offensive weapon is his shot. He can pick corners from distance with a powerful wrist shot. I didn’t love his playmaking early on but that part of his game grew on me as the season went on especially how he made passes on the move. I see a potential very good top-six forward whether at center or the wing with a chance to pop and become a true top of the lineup type."- Corey Pronman
Gauthier has an NHL-caliber release on his shot and is deadly in front of the net. He will not shy away from the physical play and has excelled in his special teams development.
Gauthier has been up and down on draft boards. He's likely to go in the top-10, but if he somehow slips, his projection sounds like a perfect pairing for a center like Mathew Barzal. Granted that could be further down the road, it is difficult not to daydream.
Another product of the US National Development Program, Nazar has great potential as an energy winger with scoring skill. Nazar lacks the size Gauthier has been blessed with but makes up for it in his battle level and drive.
The skill set transfers very well to the NHL. Nazar is a great skater with quick acceleration that builds top speed. The compete level is through the roof, and he can play in any situation.
"Nazar brings a lot of speed and energy to his shifts. He lacks ideal NHL size, but he makes up for it with his effort. He is hard on pucks, and shows no fear in how he attacks the interior third of the offensive zone. He can make an occasional flashy deke or pass, but most of his offense comes from the high percentage areas. Nazar’s great speed helps him get to the net and turn around a lot of defenders. He projects as a third-line center with a chance to be a No. 2 center."- Corey Pronman
The worst-case scenario for Nazar is an NHL energy player on the third or fourth lines with speed and excellent penalty-killing ability.
This is an extremely safe pick with an array of skills across all facets of the game. Depending on how the top ten picks unfold, Nazar could be available if the Islanders decide to accrue assets and trade back.
Ohgren is a player that reminds me of Gabriel Landeskog with less offensive skill. He is a leader that will go into the dirty areas and has a shoot-first mentality.
A strong shot isn't the lone tool in his arsenal, Ohgren can make plays, an aspect that will determine what type of NHL player he becomes. He has point-per-game potential, but only if he improves his playmaking ability.
"Calling Ohgren a goal scorer isn’t a novel observation given his stats this season but he’s shown he can score goals in a variety of ways. He has great hands and can create offense through his skill. He generates a lot of offense around the high-percentage areas because of his strength and compete. Ohgren also has a shot that can score from range. He’s smart enough with the puck to move it well but is more of a shooter and worker than a playmaker. His skating is OK. I’ve heard from scouts who like it but I’ve never seen a player who can separate with speed. He projects as a top-nine winger."- Corey Pronman
He played extremely well in the Swedish junior league and gained some valuable experience in the SHL. He has the size and strength to compete in the NHL and time will tell if he can round out his offensive game.