Disclaimer: We had a really long draft preview already written. Honest. But after weeks of internal wrangling and second-guessing, not to mention the trouble of getting all three contributors to agree on something (anything?), it has been scrapped.
Obviously we would have loved for the Isles to have won the top prize in Steve Stamkos (anyone notice our 'Stamkos Watch' tidbits for the last, oh, four months?), but that just didn't happen. So we're down to the best of the rest, which, as we have determined, are still pretty darn good. There doesn't figure to be a lemon in at least the top eight picks.
Then there was the question of going for offense or defense in the first round. Admittedly, adding a d-man (and getting someone to run that woeful power play) is a team need but not the most pressing need. The '07-'08 defensive corps teetered somewhere between mediocre and fair. I guess “capable but unspectacular” would be a good description.
However, with 194 goals scored (2nd worst in the league) and the chance to draft franchise-changing scorer, we think offense takes precedence. Plugging holes in the blue line can be done in the free agent market or in later rounds of the draft. The Islanders' leading scorer had 49 points this past season, so that's code blue in our book. "Add Scoring" should be the theme of the first round for the Isles.
Lastly, please keep in mind that we are not draft experts, draft-ologists, player development executives, or anything other than fans. The following is just our opinion. Feel free to leave your own thoughts or rankings; that’s why we have a comments section. We came to the following decision via statistical analysis and second-hand reports only; we have not viewed the players in action or have knowledge of their personalities, mental makeup, work ethic, etc. When in question, we deferred to those who have seen and/or know the players’ off-ice strengths and deficiencies.
So without further ado, our pick is:
Cody Hodgson – Center (Brampton).
Basically, he puts the puck in the net. An unselfish player, as his assist totals will also attest. At 6', 185 lbs he's no pushover, either. We’ve seen Hodgson as high as #3 on some mock draft boards. Granted, lots of Internet drafts have him ranked behind Kyle Beach. He’s currently ranked #10 by central scouting. We think that’s too low. The only knock on him we've seen is his ability to get back on defense quickly. However, in the wake of the Ryan Smyth deal we feel the Islanders desperately need to restock with high-ceiling centermen. There are other prospects who nearly made the grade (see below), but when factoring skill, stats, and signability along with who will realistically be available at the 5 slot, Hodgson's our guy.
Just wide of the net:
Kyle Beach – Center (Everett). We've read about Beach's incredible first step and 'explosive' scoring ability. At 6'3", he’s a mountain in front of the goal crease. Possible knocks on him are some attitude problems and his combined 418 penalty minutes over his last two regular seasons. Also, we’ve read he has already had an on-ice spearing incident and two concussions. For a team that's suspension and injury weary, the Isles might be wise to steer clear of him.
Nikita Filatov – Winger (CSKA). Ranked as the #1 European skater. Some say he’s the sleeper of draft. He’s currently learning the game at CSKA’s training school in Russia. Unfortunately, his stats there are proving hard to find. Also, one should consider possible transfer problems. However, if you watched the World Juniors this winter (7 GP, 4G, 5A, 9 PTS), you know he’s loaded with potential.