New York Islanders: What the Isles can’t control this Draft is most important

New York Islanders. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
New York Islanders. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

The New York Islanders will select 23rd in the NHL Draft on June 21st in Vancouver. While the objective is to make every draft pick equate to talent, it is what the Islanders do not control this draft that is the most important.

By an extraordinary regular season and a mini-playoff run, the New York Islanders do not have a lottery pick in this year’s NHL Draft. Their pick is at 23rd overall and not even in the top 20. Don’t misquote me because this is not sour grapes. In every sense of the word, this Islanders season was extraordinary, and the Draft was the last thing on my mind for the bulk of the year, a refreshing change of pace.

However, for as nice as it is to have a general manager like Lou Lamoriello who has an impressive eye for seeing talent, and a head coach like Barry Trotz who is brilliant at coaching talent, it is mostly what the Islanders do not control that will impact them for the long run.

Yes, the Islanders still have their first round pick, and one pick only after having two last season, and what they do with that pick can change the course of the franchise forever. But, that doesn’t mean it’s that important.

To start, every single team in the Metropolitan Division besides the Hurricanes, Capitals, and Blue Jackets, who don’t pick in the first round at all (thankfully) select before the Islanders do. The Capitals beat the Islanders for the Division title, and the Hurricanes beat them in the playoffs, so all is well that ends well.

However, the Penguins, Flyers, Devils, and Rangers will be making selections before the Islanders do. That is a rare change of pace for the blue and orange, which are usually up in the lottery somewhere.

It is not even just that, plenty of other playoff teams deal with the same dilemma, the problem lies in the fact that Devils and Rangers select #1 and #2 overall. This means the player who will probably be a generational talent in Jack Hughes, and a player who has all the potential to be in Kaapo Kakko will be within the Division for years to come.

The Islanders have that 23rd pick, and one in the second, but then do not pick again until the fifth. So, while some of the reasons behind that are promising, like trading away Travis Hamonic for one of their first round picks last year, this is not the Draft that Islanders fan will look at the next few years as one that changed the course for them.

Naturally, the days leading up to the Draft got more interesting for the Isles as their arch-rival Rangers landed Jacob Trouba from the Jets. The Islanders probably had the ammo the get Trouba (like the 23rd pick), but they don’t have a pressing need for a young defenseman who will soon be expensive, it was just tantalizing to think about getting him. Plus, the Isles already have valuable defensemen and some young ones of their own to worry about. But still, that trade made the Rangers instantly better, and that is not ideal for the Isles.

So, this could mean many things. I’m just speculating here, but I think it would make sense if we saw the Islanders either a) make some draft day trades to move back up into rounds 3-4 to have better, higher quality picks to match what their divisional foes have or b) trade whatever picks they do have for assets that help them now.

Regarding the last statement, think about it. The Devils and Rangers instantly get better with their top two selections. However, they are still rebuilding teams who have some ways to go. They will be better in 2019-2020, but not quite contenders. This draft expedites their respective rebuilds.

So, what the Islanders could do is go for it, try to win it all as soon as this year. Within a few years, the Islanders window for contention could become cloudy if everything goes splendid for their rivals and they too are contending.

I would say that right now the Isles are at least the third best team in the division behind Washington and Carolina, and that is if nothing changes. They could get even better than they were last year when they finished second, we will have to see.

But, when they are on the clock that fateful Friday night in British Colombia, their legacy might have already been sealed, their agenda might have already been decided. All of those things are based on what they cannot control, what their opponents do. That is why their pick is essential, and what they do with it matters, it is all they have.

But what is also crucial to the Isles’ future is how well the Devils and Rangers do, who the Flyers and Penguins select before them as well. While being “a better” team is all subjective, the Isles know from first hand that they were not supposed to be one of the “better” teams last year and instead finished in the top eight, but having more challenging opponents to face always, teams with a lot of talent, definitively makes their path to success more complicated, it forces their hands to do more with less, essentially.

Yes, the Draft is not the most important thing for the Isles this offseason anyway, it never was. The most important thing for them to do is build on last year’s success, and that is by re-signing talent and spending money to bring in exactly what they need.

That is part of my point, and this upcoming draft is more important to the Islanders because of what the Islanders can’t control, not what they can.

I know the saying goes “lions don’t lose sleep over the opinion of a sheep,” but the Islanders are not lions and their divisional opponents, who have all been better than them over the last 20 years or so, are also not sheep. It is vital for the Islanders to care about what their opponents do until proven otherwise. The larger sample size tells us that they should. This is all about the big picture anyway. And none of this is to say they need to rely on ill-fate or the poor luck of others to win or lose, they still control their destiny and play the games, but a little bit of favorable luck wouldn’t hurt.

Next. Analyzing Andrew Ladd's complicated legacy. dark

The Draft is going to be a big one for the Islanders no matter what anyway, even if they are coming off one of the most encouraging seasons in recent memory.