31-in-31: New York Islanders
Welcome to our annual 31-in-31 Summer Series here at DobberProspects! Every day in July we will be bringing you a complete breakdown of a team’s draft, notes from their development camp, and insights into their off-season moves so far. Following this up, the August 31-in-31 Series will dive into every team’s prospect depth charts with fantasy insights and implications for the upcoming seasons. Check in often, because we plan on filling your hockey withdrawal needs all summer long!
The Islanders didn’t get too crazy on draft weekend, opting to stay away from the trading scene and just make the five picks they had remaining. Center depth is a big issue for the Islanders right now, and it seems that Lou Lamoriello missed out on this need with the selection of winger Simon Holmstrom over centers Nick Suzuki, Connor McMichael, and Phil Tomasino. They opted to fill out their center depth with some mid-round players instead of the higher upside in early rounds.
Round 1 – 23rd Overall: Simon Holmström, W, HV71 J20 (SuperElit)
Holmstrom going at 23 in the first round felt like a bit of a reach for a team who is low on organizational depth at the center position. Many rated Holmström as a second rounder, including our own Cam Robinson in his Final 2019 NHL Draft Ranking where he was rated 33rd. He is a very talented skater with the upside to become a top-six winger. His injury history at such a young age is a bit of a concern, but if he can get back on a healthy track, he can be a huge steal. Before the injuries, Holmström was regarded as a top prospect after his 16-year-old season in the SuperElit when he recorded 30 points in 28 games. If he reaches his full potential, Holmström could be a steal that makes Lamoriello look like a genius, but he is a developmental prospect that will take years to pay off for the Isles.
Round 2 – 57th Overall: Samuel Bolduc, D, Blainville-Boisbriand (QMJHL)
The Islanders went for another reach here, taking the third round rated Bolduc in the second round. His size and brawn will be well-suited for the Islanders blueline in a prospect pool full of smaller-sized puck movers on the left side. Lamoriello compared him to Scott Mayfield, which as we know doesn’t bode well for his fantasy value. His 37 points in 65 games in the QMJHL last season shows that there isn’t much offensive upside at the pro level.
Round 5 – 147th Overall: Reece Newkirk, C, Portland (WHL)
The Islanders finally took a stab at improving their center depth in the fifth round, grabbing Newkirk from the WHL. Newkirk has been a late bloomer of sorts, going from off the draft radar to being taken in the top-150. A look at his stats sees his point totals from 2017/2018 to 2018/2019 rising from 11 points to 58. While this is a shot in the dark, if Newkirk can make this big of an improvement in one season, it could be an interesting project for the Islanders to see if they can develop him into a valuable asset. A major strength of his game is his playmaking ability, so this gritty, undersized center does have the ability to put up points at the pro level if he can continue to improve.
Round 6 – 178th Overall: Felix Bibeau, C, Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL)
Bibeau is another center here who could prove to have some upside in the future. After two straight seasons of 60+ points with a really good Rouyn-Noranda team, he had a solid Memorial Cup with six points in five games. There is a general consensus that his point totals are a result of playing on the best team and dominating the lesser league in the QMJHL, so it will be interesting to see how he fares playing with Quebec next season as a part of a middle of the pack Remparts team after being traded in the offseason. I would have liked to see the Islanders take some higher-end centers at the top of the draft, but if they want to go the developmental route it’s hard to argue with Lamoriello.
Round 7 – 209th Overall: Cole Coskey, RW, Saginaw (OHL)
The last two picks of the draft for the Islanders were ’99 born players who went undrafted in their previous years. Coskey should be an interesting case, after attending development camps for the Leafs and Sabres the last two seasons, he has garnered interest from numerous clubs throughout the season, but the Islanders were the team to take the swing. Inconsistencies are a concern for Coskey, but this is yet another player who will be a work in progress.
Development Camp Notes
Noah Dobson – Dobson made clear his intentions to make the team out of camp this season, showing up in the best shape of his career after winning his second Memorial Cup in the last two seasons. The impact of his development in Junior is evident, and many experts are saying he could make the team. If not, he will be back in the CHL for an attempt at his third Memorial Cup.
Simon Holmstrom – Holmstrom impressed with his skating ability in his first Islanders camp, giving a glimpse of his potential. First-rounders were making immediate impacts at other development camps, but it doesn’t seem like Holmstrom had that same effect. It is evident that it could take many years for Holmstrom to show up and make an impact.
Oliver Wahlstrom – Wahlstrom came out of college hockey after having a rough time getting acclimated, hoping to accelerate his path to the NHL. While he was one of the better players at camp, he should still need some seasoning in the AHL to at least start the season.
Bode Wilde – Wilde showed his offensive upside at camp, not hesitating to join the rush and show off his playmaking skill. Wilde continues to look like the steal of the 2018 draft after dropping to the second round.
(Oliver Wahlstrom goal after a beautiful pass from Bode Wilde)
Semyon Varlamov – The Islanders lone addition that wasn’t already on last season’s roster. They chose a four-year contract for Varlamov instead of re-signing Robin Lehner. Varlamov should have a good year with the stingy Islanders, who rode a tandem of Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss to a William M. Jennings trophy for fewest goals scored against. From a talent perspective, Varlamov should be an even bigger success for the Islanders this season if they can replicate their defensive play. This four-year contract could set back the timeline for Ilya Sorokin’s eventual takeover of the New York crease, but the fact that Varlamov is a Russian netminder could open up an opportunity for a mentor-protégé relationship for a couple of years once Sorokin leaves the KHL. In the long run, this could be a huge move for the development of Sorokin as the goaltender of the future.
Anders Lee and Tom Kuhnhackl – The Islanders failed to lock up these two guys before the July 1st deadline because of their interest in Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, but they eventually brought back their captain in Lee, and some depth in Kuhnhackl. A lack of new signings suggests that they will be looking to promote their prospects from within this season instead of overpaying for free agents which is huge for those of us who own Islanders prospects in dynasty leagues.
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