Ryan Strome and rest of the Islanders’ 2011 draft class represent the message this franchise is trying to get across to its fan base and Long Island taxpayers: The future is not now, or next year, but it is coming and it is bright.
GM Garth Snow and his scouting department added eight new faces to the Islanders organization, headlined by the pick of Strome at No. 5 overall. He’s the gem, the guy they hope will team with cornerstone John Tavares to give the Islanders as potent a 1-2 punch down the middle as the Penguins, Bruins, Canucks, Kings and Lightning have.
But Strome is not ready now. He’ll head back to the OHL for seasoning and weight training as the Isles await his arrival, wherever they may be when he does hit the stage. But it’s something Chris Botta wrote at the end of his Day 2 wrapup that stuck with me:
“All of today’s draftees, if they develop well enough to make it, are at least three years away from contributing regularly in the NHL and probably more.”
Everyone knows the Islanders are fighting for their Nassau County lives. And Snow could have easily traded the No. 5 pick (and others) for Jeff Carter or Mike Richards, but he continued to use foresight and chose to assemble long-term assets rather than short-term fireworks. For that, he is to be commended.
When the Islanders signed youngsters Kyle Okposo and Michael Grabner to long-term deals earlier in the offseason, it was a sign to the fan base that Snow is trying. He is trying to make this team better, but to do that he needs time. He cannot attract the big-name free agents to augment the young talent with the team’s current facilities. Nor can he strap the franchise with a cap-killing long-term contract in a trade with a new CBA (and likely salary cap rollback) looming just after the 2011-12 season.
So Snow set out in Friday’s first round and Saturday’s further selections to add to an Islanders’ talent base that has already grown under his watch. With Strome and others, he showed that there is a plan here, but Islanders fans will have to wait for it.