Islanders Ready For The NHL Draft Without Picks In The First And Second Rounds

With their first and second round picks in the 2020 NHL Draft, the New York Islanders select…umm make that they traded those picks to the Ottawa Senators at the NHL trading deadline back on February 24th in exchange for forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau.  There was also a conditional 2022 third-round pick involved in the trade, but since the Islanders did not win the Stanley Cup, they will keep that selection. The Islanders are certainly happy with that trade as they immediately inked Pageau to a six-year extension and he was a major contributor to the team’s run to the Eastern Conference Final.

But with the draft set to take place virtually this Tuesday (round one) and Wednesday (rounds two through seven), the Islanders will have to wait a while, barring a trade of course, before they make a selection.  As of now, they won’t be picking in the first round on Tuesday and their first pick on Wednesday will be in the third round.

“We will be drafting in the future rounds and we can just depend on our scouting staff for them to find something for us,” said Islanders President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello who is set to preside over his third draft since becoming the Isles’ GM in 2018.

Islanders Set For A Five-Pack Of Picks: 

The Islanders currently have five selections in the draft as they will pick in round three (90th overall), round four (120th overall), round five (151st overall), round six (182nd overall) and in round seven (213th overall).  When the COVID-19 pandemic caused the NHL season to be suspended in the middle of March, it also meant that the scouts for the Islanders and the other NHL teams would not be able to do anymore in person scouting since there were no junior, high school, college or international games to go see.

But by that point, the scouts had already done a majority of their homework.

“Most of the work was done prior to the pandemic coming upon us,” said Lamoriello.  “There is a real strong viewing that has taken place and certainly there’s a lot more video that has been watched by scouts throughout the National Hockey League.”

When Lamoriello and the Islanders left for the bubble in Toronto in late July to begin the post-season, Assistant General Managers Chris Lamoriello and Steve Pellegrini oversaw the preparations for the draft.  The scouts, under the supervision of Director of Amateur Scouting Trent Klatt and Director of European Scouting Vellu Kautonen, dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s on what they had seen in person before the pandemic and what they watched on video during the pause and during the post-season.

“Our scouts have been working at it since the day that they couldn’t go back on the road and they continued to do that through the playoffs,” said Lamoriello.  “I think that we’re as well prepared as you possibly could be.”

Picks That Will Take The Islanders Back To The Future: 

While the Islanders likely won’t find any immediate help from the selections they have, these draft picks are important for the future as a championship-caliber organization has to be able to find players in not just the early rounds but throughout the draft.  If you look at how the 2019-20 Islanders were built, there are a number of players that were taken by the Islanders in rounds three through seven of drafts going back to 2008.

The Islanders took Captain Anders Lee in the 6th round (151st overall) of the 2009 draft, forward Casey Cizikas in the fourth round (92nd overall) in 2009, defenseman Adam Pelech in the third round (65th overall) in 2012, forward Matt Martin in the 5th round (148th overall) in 2008, defenseman Devon Toews in the 4th round (108th overall) in 2014, forward Otto Koivula in the 4th round (120th overall) in 2018, and forward Sebastian Aho in the 5th round (139th overall) in 2017.

It should also be noted that goalie Ilya Sorokin was a third-round pick by the Islanders (78th overall) in 2014 and is signed for the 2020-21 season after joining the Islanders in the bubble for the playoffs even though he was ineligible to play.

Also, among the players on the Islanders that were not homegrown, J.G. Pageau was a 4th round pick by the Senators in 2011, Cal Clutterbuck was taken by the Minnesota Wild in the third round of the 2008 draft, Tom Kuhnackl was a 4th round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2010, and Leo Komarov was picked by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 6th round of the 2006 draft.

So, the Islanders are set to try and find some gems in the later rounds.

“I feel that our scouts have a handle on the picks that we have available,” said Lamoriello.

Lou And The Islanders Ready For Virtual Reality: 

This year’s draft will be unlike anything we’ve seen in recent memory.  Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the NHL is going to do the same thing that the National Football League, WNBA, and Major League Baseball did and that is conduct the draft virtually and remotely.  Lamoriello and the entire staff have been meeting with the organization’s IT department on how this is going to work and the feeling is that the draft will go rather smoothly.

And the Islanders will get to sit back and watch how other teams are handling things since they won’t be picking in the first two rounds.

“I believe that it will go very fluid from just my understanding,” said Lamoriello.   We will be sort of observers.  We’ll have an opportunity to watch and see if anybody does anything out of the ordinary or if there’s anything we can learn.”

One thing we’ve learned over the years is that Lou Lamoriello isn’t afraid to make a trade and the NHL Draft has historically been a time when some big deals tend to take place.  With the Islanders coming up just two wins shy of making it to the Stanley Cup Final, the franchise is in a “win now” mode.  Not to say that the picks they have are irrelevant for the Islanders because they’re not, but the excitement level this year won’t be because of any selection they make.

The excitement could come if NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announces that Lou has swung a trade or two, especially if it brings back a player or players that can help the Islanders take the next step.

About the Author

Peter Schwartz

Peter Schwartz is a contributor covering the Islanders for NY Sports Day while also writing about general sports in the New York/New Jersey area. In addition to his column, Peter also hosts his “Schwartz On Sports” podcast as he interviews players, coaches, and other sports personalities. He is also currently a sports anchor for WFAN Radio, CBS Sports Radio, and WCBS 880 radio while also serving as the public address announcer for the New York Cosmos soccer club.

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