New York Hockey: NHL draft

DiPietro biggest draft bust since 1990?

December, 27, 2011
The title holder for the NHL's biggest draft bust has been an oft-debated topic, with names like Alexandre Daigle or Kyle Turris frequently leading the discussion. But a recent examination of every draft since 1990 by ESPN's NHL Draft Blog (Insider) turned up a familiar name at No. 1: perpetually injured Islanders' goalie Rick DiPietro.

The list, based on a how much value a player has returned compared to the average expected value of the draft pick, puts DiPietro at No. 1 ahead of Patrik Stefan, and the aforementioned Daigle. And author Alvin Chang claims this is Exhibit A in why franchises shouldn't spend a high draft pick on a goalie:

First off, goalies are incredibly hard to project, no matter how far along or how good they are. Second, the No. 1 pick is so valuable that risking it on a goalie is just silly -- especially since the chances of landing a franchise forward are pretty decent in most drafts. Third, an above-average goalie can be acquired at a much better price almost every year on the free agent market.

Figure in DiPietro's injury woes and this is the kind of swing-and-a-miss you see in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, where ends up corkscrewing himself into the ground. Given the expected production from a No. 1 overall pick, it's no wonder the Islanders have had so much trouble trying to dig themselves out of the mud. Fortunately it seems the Islanders have fared much better in recent drafts, betting on John Tavares with their next No. 1 pick, and acquiring forwards Nino Niederreiter and Ryan Strome with other lottery picks. Both Niederreiter and Strome have turned heads at the junior hockey level and figure prominently in the Isles' development efforts going forward.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers draft Miller

June, 24, 2011
All the Rangers' picks | NHL draft coverage

NAME: Jonathan Miller
AGE: 18
HEIGHT: 6-foot-1
WEIGHT: 198 pounds

What It Means: The Rangers have a great goaltender. They have four solid defenseman. The foundation is there. But let's be honest, their depth/skill up front needs to be improved. The Blueshirts seemed to address that by drafting Miller, who had 13 points at the World Championships. He is currently committed to attending North Dakota. So we'll have to see what happens there.

*Scout’s Take: Intensity and determination to go along with a solid base of skating and skill makes Miller exciting to watch. At international tournaments, he showed he can produce among his peers and although there is upside to his offensive game, he is an attractive forechecking forward who will add secondary scoring.

*Courtesy of's NHL Draft guru Gare Joseph.

Rapid Reaction: Isles take Ryan Strome

June, 24, 2011
All the Islanders' picks | NHL draft coverage

NAME: Ryan Strome
AGE: 18
HEIGHT: 6-foot
WEIGHT: 183 pounds

WHAT IT MEANS: The Islanders already have John Tavares as their top-line center. So the addition of Strome gives the Isles a sold one-two punch up the middle. The Onatrio native had 106 points in 65 games for Niagara last season, and led the OHL in points per game. Here's a question: Would the Islanders decide to move either Tavares or Strome to the wing so they could play on the same forward unit?

*SCOUT'S TAKE: Strome's hockey IQ is through the roof and he sees the game at a high level, making players around him better. He is a quiet leader who has produced at the junior level and the type of player who will be better with higher quality players around him. Strome is smart about using his size to his advantage, with blocked shots and back checking speaking wisely to his character.

*Courtesy of ESPN Insider's NHL draft guru Gare Joyce.

Rapid Reaction: Devils draft Adam Larsson

June, 24, 2011
All the Devils' picks | NHL draft coverage

NAME: Adam Larsson
POSITION: Defenseman
FORMER TEAM: Skelleftea (Sweden)
AGE: 18
HEIGHT: 6-foot-3
WEIGHT: 200 pounds

WHAT IT MEANS: Twenty years ago, the Devils drafted a defenseman by the name of Scott Niedermayer with the No. 3 pick. They hope they've found a future Niedermayer in Larsson at No. 4. Considered the best defenseman in the draft, Larsson could've been the No. 1 overall pick. He has the potential to be a top-pair defenseman who can quarterback the power play. Henrik Tallinder, Anton Volchenkov, Colin White and Mark Fayne are nice players, but Larsson has the potential to be something special. The Devils normally let players develop through their farm system, but Larsson may be able to play right away.

*SCOUT'S TAKE: Larsson has all the tools and the tool box to go with it. He makes an excellent first pass and has only touched the surface of his offensive game. Larsson shows a combination of size, skill, skating and grit that will make him invaluable as a top-four defenseman. While playing with Skelleftea against the top two teams in the Swedish Elite League, he not only showed his complete game of skating and skills, but also had me leaving the rink feeling his grit for the game was real.

*Courtesy of ESPN Insider's NHL draft guru Gare Joyce.

Devils 'win' NHL draft lotto, Isles pick fifth

April, 12, 2011
Well, it turns out the Devils’ late-season tear up the standings didn’t hurt their draft position much at all. New Jersey “won” the NHL’s draft lottery Tuesday night, moving up from the No. 8 pick to the No. 4 pick, leapfrogging the New York Islanders in the process.

Under the league’s rules teams can only move up a maximum up five draft spots and fall just one slot. Thus, the Islanders, the odds-on favorite to pick fourth, will fall back to the No. 5 spot. And, depending on who you ask, that could end up being a very big difference.

To this point in the talent evaluation process, NHL scouts have consistently ear marked four prospects as the cream of the crop: C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, LW Gabriel Landeskog, D Adam Larsson and C Sean Couturier. Those four have been thought of very highly and often fall into the can’t-miss category with few-to-no questions about their future development. After those four, there are still a number of highly talented players, but also a number of question marks.

For example, Saint John C Jonathan Huberdeau has been gaining momentum throughout the season and in fact blew past Sean Couturier and up to No. 3 in the most recent prospect rankings of North American skaters issued by the NHL Central Scouting Service. However, Huberdeau’s team is utterly and completely stacked with talent while Couturier’s squad is far from flush. So is Huberdeau a standalone talent or a product of the players around him?

While Huberdeau could certainly be the real deal, some scouts aren’t buying the Couturier falloff, so if he were to fall to No. 4 or 5, the Devils or Islanders could have a very nice steal.

Here's another positive for both clubs. Both the Devils and the Islanders could use a boost to their blueline. And there should be a number of top D prospects available by the time both teams pick. Ds Dougie Hamilton and Nathan Beaulieu rank No. 4 and 5 in the CSS North American rankings, though some scouts polled by the NHL Draft Blog have some reservations (Insider) and earlier this season Draft Blog writer Alvin Chang questioned the wisdom (Insider) of taking a top defenseman high in the draft.

Just some food for thought before the June 24 draft date in St. Paul, Minnesota.

To win, or not to win?

March, 10, 2011
The Islanders are playing some very solid hockey these days, a fact many attribute to head coach Jack Capuano and his simplified game style registering with this young team. In his blog the other day, ESPN’s E.J. Hradek stated he believes Capuano has done enough to merit the coaching gig on a permanent basis.

If that’s the case, then the Islanders are starting to take shape for the 2011-12 season ... and their current winning ways might be setting them back.

First, let's agree that the only thing that's holding the Islanders back from the Eastern Conference playoffs right now is talent. Recently, and for whatever reason, the Isles have only been able to acquire truly elite talent through the draft. The last truly established point producer they were able to bring in through free agency was probably Mark Streit. Whether it's antiquated facilities, the preference of players to join recent playoff teams or the unwillingness of ownership to spend money, the Islanders simply aren't getting talent rich by inking free agents. That makes the draft doubly important.

This season’s NHL draft is believed to be about four-deep with future all-stars -- centers Sean Couturier and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, defenseman Adam Larsson and winger Gabriel Landeskog. All four project to be future greats according to scouts and rate as the top four prospects according to ESPN’s rankings of the Top 50 prospects of 2011, published Tuesday.

Only trouble for the Islanders there is that, with Colorado and Florida in a free fall, the upswinging Isles may end up picking fifth. So it’s time for that classic question: Do you hope to lose to get a better draft pick? Or do you go Herm Edwards and play to win the game? Feel free to comment below.

Devils' hopes continue to dwindle

December, 13, 2010
The Devils are still on the skids, as their losing streak reached five games over the weekend with a 4-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. The team will try to regroup by Wednesday when the Phoenix Coyotes will come to town, followed by another home date with the Nashville Predators on Friday. In the meantime, here’s some surveillance from the New Jersey media landscape.

Morning Links
  • Albany’s game on the boardwalk of Atlantic City was postponed due to bad ice, writes Tom Gulitti. Alexander Vasyunov and Matt Corrente may have been sent to Albany for that game, but there was no official announcement, according to Gulitti.
  • Sitting 17 points out of the final playoff spot in the East, hope is rapidly fading for the Devils’ postseason chances, with Gulitti suggesting that John MacLean’s time as head coach could soon come to an end.
  • Dave Hutchison writes that MacLean appears safe, at least for the moment.
  • Chris Botta writes for FanHouse that by standing pat, the Devils may get to draft a star come June. I doubt that's the kind of consolation prize Devils fans are looking for right now. Besides, there are a few solid prospects at the top of this draft, but no clear franchise players like a Crosby, Ovechkin or Stamkos. And given the Devils’ no-trade clauses, I don’t know if standing pat is a choice, so much as their only option.

Locals surprise in first round of 2010 draft

June, 26, 2010
It seemed to fall just right for the Rangers and Glen Sather. Their need is an offensive player on the blue line and Cam Fowler dropped right in their lap. Fowler seemed perfect for the Blueshirts; he was a point-per-game player for the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL and has been compared to former Rangers star Brian Leetch.

However the Rangers shocked the Staples Center crowd in Los Angeles and many in the NHL community by taking 6-foot-5 Dylan McIlrath. He fits the bill as a defensemen but not as a scorer. But there is one thing that he can do: Hit! His nickname is the "Undertaker." It's not a bad pick, since the division is filled with rough and ready players who love it hit. You just wonder if years from now we'll talk about Fowler, who went to the Ducks, as the better player.

The Islanders selected right wing Nino Niederreiter from Portland of the WHA. The Switzerland-born player scored 36 goals last season, with eight in the playoffs. He may not be a sexy pick but a solid one. He'll get help from his new teammate Mark Streit, who is also Swiss.

The Isles are starting to collect good young players like, John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey. That's what happens when you have selected in the top 10 three of the last four years.

The Islanders were not done. They traded there 35th and 58th picks to the Blackhawks for the last pick in the first round and selected Brock Nelson, a 6-3 center who was the 11th American-born player drafted in the first round, a new NHL record. Nelson is the nephew of Dave Christian, who played on the 1980 gold medal hockey team and spent 15 years in the NHL.

The Devils did not have a first round pick. They sent that to the Thrashers for Ilya Kovalchuk. Will N.J. regret that decision? We'll see after July 1.

The biggest story to me in the first round didn't involve the locals. It's Jaden Schwartz. He's a play-making center from Tri-City of the USHL. His sister Mandi goes in Yale and has cancer; she needs a bone morrow transplant. But she was able to see her brother get draftwed by the Blues with the 14th pick, much higher then anyone thought.