When the NY Islanders selected Isaiah George in the fourth round of the NHL Entry Draft, the front office made a conscious decision to bolster the defensive corps within their farm system. Along with their first draft selection, Calle Odelius, the Islanders finally have something to look forward to along the blue line.
George was one of the most athletic prospects in the entire 2022 draft, measuring a 35-inch vertical leap at the combine. NHL Central Scouting had George ranked as the 15th best defenseman among North Americans. He received a second to third-round grade from most scouts but managed to slide to the early fourth-round.
George is an excellent skater, described as having a “nearly form perfect mechanical stride” by Elite Prospects. Similar to Odelius, George excels in the neutral zone, closing down gaps quickly.
Last season George played his first full season in the OHL with the London Knights. He was among the top defenders for the Knights, which finished third in the Western Conference. In the Knights' first preseason bout against the Sarnia Sting, George manned the Knights' top defense pairing helping lead them to a 3-1 victory.
"George's game is where high-end measurables and tools align with advanced reads to take over hockey games. At his best, the Knights defenseman is an effortless puck-carrier, darting past forecheckers with agility and power to create exits and entries, often on the same rush"- Elite Prospects
Though he didn’t put up great numbers in the OHL, there is more offense to his game than the stats show. In 67 games he only managed six goals and 17 assists. He has shown comfortability with the puck on his stick along the blue line moving the puck from the wall to the center of the ice.
George is currently spending time at Islanders rookie camp, making first impressions on the coaching staff before heading back to London. Before the start of camp, George already started making himself comfortable around fellow Islander defensemen, spending time working out with Adam Pelech during the off-season.
Described as a two-way defenseman, George feels he is suited to succeed in any circumstance he finds himself in. "I feel like I can play in all types of situations and times in the game," said George. "Someone that is relied upon a lot."
Before being mentioned in the upper echelon of NHL defensemen, George still needs some adequate development. Like all prospects, it is common to compare them to current NHL players. George himself feels his style of play is comparable to some big-time names: "Players I compare myself to, I mean, I really like Miro Heiskanen and his style, his game. Guys like Gustav Forsling as well."
If he becomes anywhere near the talent of either Heiskanen or Forsling, 31 GM's not named Lou Lamoriello will be shaking their heads for allowing George to slip to the fourth round.
George will be a project in his development, but has the tools to become a top-4 defenseman. When it comes to size, speed, and strength, George has the whole package. With only one season under his belt in the junior ranks, he needs to gain experience and fine-tune his skills.
If his offensive game doesn’t improve, he can still make it in the NHL as a bottom-pair shutdown defenseman. In a few years, he has the potential to be a steal for the Islanders. When the Knights begin their season on September 30, George will be given every opportunity to excel. If he could turn some heads this season, we could see him move up the ranks among Islanders prospects fairly quickly.