Picking More Than a Winner


Drafting Tavares May Do More for Islanders Off the Ice "Earning" the right to select first in the National Hockey League Draft may not be something to be proud of but it does set a ...

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Drafting Tavares May Do More for Islanders Off the Ice

"Earning" the right to select first in the National Hockey League Draft may not be something to be proud of but it does set a team up to have their pick of the litter. The New York Islanders will have the first selection on June 26 because they finished with the worst record in the league and a lot more than just finding the most talented player hangs in the balance.

The Isles are at a crossroad and obtaining a franchise player may go a long way in not only bringing up attendance, but also possibly saving the team from picking up and moving to Kansas City or another place looking to add hockey to their town.

When the Pittsburgh Penguins grabbed Sidney Crosby with the overall number one pick in the 2005 NHL Draft, the then-18-year-old became an immediate superstar and made a huge impact on that franchise. He set two new team records that season with 63 assists and 102 points. Although they missed the playoffs that year, the Pens have won 47, 47 and 45 games in each of the last three seasons. They lost in the Stanley Cup Finals last year and are trailing in this year's Cup series, two games to one, at press time.

Talk of relocation was prevalent in Pittsburgh as late as the 2006-07 season before the ownership group, led by former star Mario Lemieux, reached an agreement to have a new arena built contingent on the team staying. The Pens signed a 30-year lease and have never looked back.

Could something like this happen to the Islanders? There may be no clear-cut 'can't miss' prospect like Crosby available this year, but the general consensus has been that center John Tavares is the best player available in the draft. The 6', 183-pounder center met with the Islanders' brass when they brought him to Long Island and put to rest any notion that he would not sign with the team.

"Not many guys get that opportunity to be selected number one," he said, as reported on NHL.com. "I'd love to go to (first), but then again I'd love to go to any NHL team. I feel like I can contribute in a good way. If it happens, I'll be honored and very excited."

Still only 18, Tavares has been plying his trade in the competitive Ontario Hockey League since 2005. Two years ago, he broke Wayne Gretzky's league record by scoring 72 goals at the young age of 16. He finished his OHL career with 215 goals, setting another record in the process.

Last season, he played for both the Oshawa Generals and London Knights, scoring a combined 58 goals and 46 assists for 104 points.

If the Islanders pass on Tavares, they most certainly will select Victor Hedman, the 6'6", 220-pound defenseman from Sweden. In two seasons playing for Modo in the SEL, Hedman scored only nine goals and had 16 assists. Scouting reports state that he is good on both the power play and penalty kill and that he gets himself involved in the offense often for a defensive-minded individual. The stats do not back that up and a team in need of a serious shot in the arm cannot take a chance on a player who will not be in the box score often - especially with the first pick.

Islanders' general manager Garth Snow has not committed to any one player and has denied any talk of the possibility of trading down. With the Isles finishing last in scoring this past season, it would seem like a no-brainer to go with Tavares.

It was just a few short years ago that the Penguins needed a quick fix to improve the team and keep it in Pittsburgh. Too many similarities with the Islanders' situation are present for this not too end up good, unless they make a serious mistake and pass up on a player who can be their Sidney Crosby.

NHL Draft - June 26
Location - Montreal

First Round:

1- New York Islanders
2 -Tampa Bay Lightnng
3- Colorado Avalanche
4 -Atlanta Thrashers
5- Los Angeles Kings
6- Phoenix Coyotes
7 -Toronto Maple Leafs
8 -Dallas Sars
9 -Ottawa Senators
10 -Edmonton Oilers
11- Nashville Predators
12 - Minnesota Wild
13 -Buffalo Sabres
14 -Florida Panthers
15 -Anaheim Mighty Ducks
16- Columbus Blue Jackets
17- St. Louis Blues
18- Montreal Canadiens
19- New York Rangers
20- Calgary Flames
21- Philadelphia Flyers
22- Vancouver Canucks
23- New Jersey Devils
24- Washington Capitals
25- Boston Bruins
26- New York Islanders
27- Carolina Hurricanes
28- Chicago Black Hawks
29- Pittsburgh Penguins
30- Detroit Red Wings