NHL Draft: 5 Biggest Islanders Busts in Last 25 Years

Andy Graziano
May 14, 2020 - 3:17 pm
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Comments from commissioner Gary Bettman seem to indicate that the National Hockey League has no plans to cancel the remainder of the 2019-20 season due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Whether you believe this is the right decision or not — or even feasible at this point — is not going to stand in the way of $500 billion, I suppose.

With that being said, the league also is making noise for considering an early June amateur entry draft, before the paused season is resumed and completed. An early word is the order will be determined by points percentage and player trades will not be allowed for the virtual session. The other sticking point is how to accurately, and fairly, account for teams that traded for conditional picks. You could foresee a scenario where teams are allowed to rework those deals to something that fits within the parameters of the new setup.

For the New York Islanders, the draft has been mostly a massive swing and a miss on multiple occasions, especially in the first round, Mathew Barzal notwithstanding (thanks again, Boston, although Jake DeBrusk is a fine player). Below, we take a look at the top five first-round busts for the organization of the past 25 years. I fully respect that scouting is complex, and for the most part a crapshoot, and I am not, nor will ever be, an NHL scout, but it’s the players passed on that might have you shaking your head. The next question would likely be….is it the scouting? Or the development?

As a reminder, this list is subjective and will be disputed, I’m sure, by some. Feel free to respectfully send me your selections via Twitter.

5. Raffi Torres (2000, 5th overall): After infamously selecting Rick DiPietro with the first selection in 2000, the Islanders believed Torres’ impressive OHL numbers would translate to NHL success. They didn’t. He only ended up playing 31 games with the team, never scoring a goal and adding only six assists. When the fifth overall selection averages 7:31 of ice time and gets moved after such a brief stint? Yeesh. Passed over to draft Torres? Scott Hartnell, Brooks Orpik, Niklas Kronwall and Justin Williams.

4. Mike Rupp (1998, 9th overall): You heard me. Mike Rupp was the ninth overall selection. He has the Islanders to thank for that distinction, never playing a game for the team and re-entering the draft the following season to get selected by the New Jersey Devils. Rupp’s numbers in the OHL included 54 goals in his final 111 games, but that translated into only 54 in 609 games in the NHL. Passed over to draft Rupp? Alex Tanguay, Simon Gagne and Scott Gomez.

3. Robert Nilsson (2003, 15th overall): Once you get outside the top 10, the draft becomes even more of a crapshoot. But, in 2003, the Islanders failed miserably here. Nilsson wasn’t even a big scorer in the Swedish Elite League and managed only 37 goals in 252 NHL games. He played only 53 games for the team, but what makes this so painful is who New York passed on to select him. Ready? Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, Brent Burns, Ryan Kesler, Brad Richards, Corey Perry, Loui Eriksson and Patrice Bergeron. Woof.

2. Michael Dal Colle (2014, 5th overall): It hurts a little to put Dal Colle here, as I believe the Islanders have let him down immensely in development terms. He became a reliable third or fourth line player last season, but New York has hampered his offensive instincts and confidence. An incredible OHL career has translated into only seven goals in 85 NHL games. Dal Colle lands here mostly due to whom the Islanders passed on: William Nylander, Nikolaj Ehlers, Dylan Larkin and David Pastrnak.

1. Griffin Reinhart (2012, 4th overall): Reinhart was an incredible bust at the NHL level. The ‘shutdown’ defenseman has played only 37 NHL games in six years and now finds himself in the KHL. The only good thing that came out of drafting Reinhart is Peter Chiarelli, who accepted him from Garth Snow in exchange for the 16th and 33rd picks in the 2015 draft. New York then famously selected Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier with that lucky haul. The Islanders passed on Filip Forsberg, Morgan Reilly, Jacob Trouba and Thomas Hertl. While they are certainly glad to have their cornerstone center, that’s more on Chiarelli than their draft selection here and earns our number one spot.

Honorable mentions: Ryan O’Marra (2005, 15th), Petteri Nokelainen (2004, 16th), Taylor Pyatt (1999, 8th)