Sunday, May 23, 2010

Prospect Possibilities Without Science

The NY Islanders are guaranteed to stick to their plan of building through the draft and developing their young players. It’s been a mantra now for a long time and it’s not going to change. We’ve already begun to reap the rewards of this plan and there should be more benefits in the foreseeable future. (Maybe a play-off berth next season? Maybe.) While remaining at the bottom of the standings is disappointing, it has once again given the NY Islanders a top five draft ranking. Actually, the fifth draft ranking with the Oilers, Bruins (Thanks so much Burkie), Panthers and Blue Jackets ahead of them heading to the podium on June 25th in LA.

The Draft Class of 2010 holds some impressive talent, even though the concept of the draft itself is certainly nothing more than a crap shoot. According to the latest rankings, there are five defensemen, one center, one RW and one LW in the top 9 possible draft picks.

Certainly the battle will be for that number one spot and whether it will go to Tyler or Taylor, Taylor or Tyler. Wouldn’t it be really funny if the Oilers head to the podium and make a mistake with the name of the first over all pick? “With the first over all draft pick, the Edmonton Oilers are proud to select Tyl- NO! TAYlor Hall.” Okay, funny to me with a sick sense of humor.

But whether it’s the Center or Left Winger going first overall, my concern is the choice of Garth Snow and the NY Islanders. In my last interview with Mr. Snow, he seemed pretty confident that they would keep that fifth pick and not attempt to trade up or down. (Sorry Brian. Go talk to Tampa.) Also in that interview, we discussed the need for improved defense, so why not go with a defenseman?

Luckily for the Islanders, there are four excellent prospects all clustered together at the 4 - 7 ranking. So I took a little time this Sunday morning and did a little research. Here is my totally non-technical assessment of these prospects.

Cam Fowler: 6’1” (or 6’2” depending on what site you look at) 190 lbs born 12/5/1991. Cam’s profile says he was born in Windsor, ON, Canada but lives in Michigan and has won a Gold medal with Team USA at the 2010 WJC Championship. I can’t tell if that means he has dual citizenship or not. I can tell you that according to a Fanhouse article, Cam said “NO” to playing for Notre Dame after a two year commitment and opted to play in the Canadian juniors instead. He has outstanding puck handling talent and has won accolades everywhere. But my feeling is whether he is available at five or not, I’d prefer the Isles take a pass.

Brandon Gormley: 6’ 2” 185 lbs born: 2/18/1992 Small town PEI kid who is VERY independent and left home at the tender age of 14 to go play Bantam for Notre Dame. His friend and mentor is Brad Richards and Richard’s sister was his babysitter. (I said it was a small town.) In a very recent prospect report, Gormley was classified as a “safe” pick who “lacks flair and flash, but he does all the important stuff well.” Not exactly a glowing review, but one that at least indicates consistency. He’s a pretty good interview too for an 18-year-old.

Mark Pysyk: 6’ 1” 174 lbs born 1/11/1992 Another Canadian kid with exceptional skating abilities who is quick and mobile and works well on the PP or PK. This kid has the right character the Isles look for having played a handful of games for the Edmonton Oil Kings on a broken foot. He finished his season as the team’s highest scoring blue liner with 7 goals and 17 assists in only 48 games. Without the injury, who knows what he would have done. On the personal side -- the kid reminds me of Josh Bailey. Same quiet mannerism. Same conversational tones.

Erik Gudbranson: 6’4” 195 lbs born 1/7/1992 I saved the best for last. THIS -- This is the kid I want to hear Garth Snow announce at the podium on June 25th. (Okay, like that means anything to them, but I had to say it.) To me, Erik seems like a perfect fit for the Isles. He was the Captain of his Canadian junior team at only 16-years-old. He is a strong skater with good speed for a big kid and can quarterback the PP “to perfection.” (So I’ve read.) But as a kid, his is still a little inconsistent and occasionally out of position. He‘ll learn! He‘ll grow -- just like the rest of the young NY Islanders. But it‘s the kid‘s character that has me convinced he’s the best fit.

Erik‘s younger brother Denis has overcome blood born cancer twice in his young life and has made a huge impact on Erik‘s outlook on life. This is a young player who realizes what is important and what is valuable. Besides, he looks like he could be Rick DiPietro‘s little brother. He is strong and confident with good skills. If he’s available at five, he would be my choice to join the young Islanders and the wonderful crop of players we are watching develop.

Well, that’s my $2 worth on this year’s entry draft. But just remember -- I’m the one that wanted Victor Hedman LAST year. See how far THAT got me.

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