Islanders' first-round draft pick Oliver Wahlstrom poses with  with team representatives after being selected as the 11th overall pick.

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Graziano: Trades Don't Fall Islanders Way, But Draft Does

Team Lands A Few Players Said To Be Steals

Andy Graziano
June 25, 2018 - 10:45 am
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Fans of the New York Islanders aren’t used to winning all that much. One playoff series victory in the just-completed 12-year tenure of general manager Garth Snow proves that statement. Throw in ownership and arena follies, and let’s be honest: They weren’t a team talked about much in a positive light on NHL Network.

After this weekend’s NHL entry draft, things have changed. The Islanders have enjoyed some fortunate bounces this offseason -- hiring team president Lou Lamoriello and coach Barry Trotz, who captured the Stanley Cup earlier this month with the Washington Capitals -- and then had a heck of a showing in Dallas.

Lamoriello was working the phones trying to acquire the goaltender and defenseman he still needs, but he was patient, waiting out the first 10 selections before deciding what to do, given who was available to him at the time. The only goaltender who ended up being dealt was Washington’s Philipp Grubauer, who wants to play a larger role, to Colorado, along with Brooks Orpik (since bought out), for a second-round pick. Lamoriello correctly didn’t want to assume Orpik’s deal and was not overpaying a first-round pick for Grubauer.

So he and his scouting staff did what they should have done: selected two players at picks Nos. 11 and 12 who everybody on the draft floor conceded were steals. They followed that up by grabbing another top-20 talent (arguably top 15) in the second round Saturday when they selected defenseman Bode Wilde. To cap off the second round, an exciting prospect from the Kontinental Hockey League with exceptional talent, forward Ruslan Iskhakov, was added to the prospect pool.

All in, the Islanders drafted four forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender, with at least two of those forwards considered to have top-flight talent. In case you had not noticed, the shelves in Bridgeport were getting pretty bare at the forward position, with only Joshua Ho-Sang, who is still an enigma, and the struggling Michael Dal Colle as the two worth keeping an eye on.

The outstanding EliteProspects.com had this to say about each the Islanders' top three selections. 

1. Oliver Wahlstrom (F, 6-1, 207 pounds): "A sensational scoring threat, Oliver Wahlstrom is a fierce competitor that preys on weak play. He exploits gaps in the neutral zone; his positioning allows him to carry the puck forward immediately or shift up and into stride off of an outlet pass. All-in-all, Oliver Wahlstrom is an instinct-driven hockey player gifted with the size, skating, skill, and smarts that coaches yearn for."

2. Noah Dobson (D, 6-3, 176 pounds): "A talented two-way defenseman that can play in all situations and stay productive. Uses his edges well and is, for the most part, a very smooth skater; however, as he gets stronger and adjusts to a more up-tempo style of hockey, he will need to work on his speed in gap-closing. All-in-all, a well-rounded, reliable, and consistent defenseman that can log a lot of ice time and provide his team with a stable presence on the back end."

3. Bode Wilde (D, 6-4, 198 pounds): "Bode Wilde is a talented and competitive defender that plays a tenacious 200-foot game. His balance and acceleration in-stride is noteworthy and he is never caught in no-man's land, or doing nothing. He is proactive and hard-nosed in pursuit if puck control, and he reads queues in all three zones naturally and quickly. All-in-all, Wilde is a smart, competitive, and sizey two-way D-man that can provide a team with numbers on the board and stability on the ice."

The Isles' other picks: 

4. Ruslan Iskhakov (F, 5-8, 152 pounds): Not rated but said to have explosive offensive talent and flash with pro-level vision.

5. Jakub Skarek (G, 6-3, 192 pounds)

6. Jacob Pivonka (C, 6-0, 201 pounds)

7. Blade Jenkins (C, 6-1, 201 pounds)

8. Christian Krygier (D, 6 -2, 192 pounds)

Lamoriello’s first draft, by all accounts, was a huge success. Things went the Islanders' way for once, and players who should not have been available to them ended up falling into their lap.

That’s not to say his job is done, however. There are other pressing matters to get to now, like improving the on-ice product in the here and now. New York is in desperate need of upgrades on defense and in goal, and there is the much-talked-about contract situation of captain John Tavares, which will conclude one way or another at the end of this week.

It ended up being a weekend when there were plenty of trades talked about, and nothing actually happening outside of the selections made. Erik Karlsson was said to be on his way to Vegas yet ended up going nowhere for the time being. Max Pacioretty was said to be a King, then a Shark, but both fell apart at the last minute. Pacioretty ended up hiring a new agent. The Islanders never got their goaltender and defenseman. Outside of Dougie Hamilton moving to Carolina on Day 2, it was a yawner, trade wise.

With general managers back in their respective cities (except for Lamoriello, who is in Los Angeles wooing Tavares), expect discussions to begin anew this week as the free-agent interview period begins and teams can start hosting prospective members of their organizations in anticipation of July 1. In other words, the summer is far from over and how the 2018-19 Islanders shape up is still on Chapter 1.

Follow Andy on Twitter at @AndyGraz_WFAN