August 32-in-32: New York Islanders

Sean Crocker

2022-08-25

The 32-in-32 Series is an annual event here at DobberProspects! Every day in August we will be bringing you a complete breakdown of a team’s draft, and insights into their off-season movements thus far. Following this up in September, we will dive into every team’s prospect depth charts with fantasy insights and implications for the upcoming seasons. Check back often, because we plan on filling your hockey withdrawal needs all off-season long!

Just one year removed from back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals appearances against the eventual champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Islanders find themselves in limbo with an aging core and in desperate need of a meaningful injection of youth into their lineup. The Isles failed to qualify for the postseason for the first time since the 2017-18 season, dating back to the final year of John Tavares’ tenure with the orange, white and blue. 

The 2021-22 season got off on the wrong foot for the Islanders, starting the season with a 13-game road trip while UBS Arena finished construction. They fell victim to a major COVID-19 outbreak in November which depleted a large portion of their roster. This contributed to an 11-game losing streak, forcing them close to the basement of the Eastern Conference standings by the end of the month. The Islanders were at a disadvantage later in the season too, making up a large portion of those games among others as other teams grappled with the pandemic. 

The Islanders got busy rearranging the coaching staff following the campaign when they let Barry Trotz go to promote his long-time assistant coach Lane Lambert to the helm. The move raised eyebrows around the league, given Trotz’s pedigree, but Lou Lamoriello and company decided that a change behind the bench was needed for this team to take the next step.  

The Islanders are yet to sign a free agent this offseason, and while we all know Lamoriello likes to keep his cards close to his chest, it is increasingly hard to imagine the Islanders will be able to get a major upgrade via free agency or through a trade that will not cost the team dearly in assets. With a little under a month until training camp starts, a lot can happen. With the scene for the Islanders being bleaker than once thought, Islanders fans can only hope Lamoriello can pull out that major move we have all seen him pull off in the past. But the question is will it be enough to salvage the offseason and ultimately the upcoming campaign? We might have that answer sooner than we might expect. 

THE DRAFT

The Islanders held the 13th overall selection heading into the weekend in Montreal, but that was short-lived when Commissioner Bettman announced the deal that sent the pick to the host Canadiens in exchange for left-shooting blueliner Alexander Romanov. The Islanders have not picked in the first round since 2019 when they took Simon Holmstrom 23rd overall. With an aging core, Lamoriello checked off two boxes in injecting a youthful piece into his top-four defensive core while subsequently improving the defensive group. This move put an exclamation on the fact the Islanders need to be able to compete now with an aging core of players mostly on the wrong side of 30. Overall, a move that brings you a top-four caliber defenceman at just 22 years of age, which is a solid move all around. 

Round Two, 65th Overall – Calle Odelius, LD

The Islanders had some good fortune when day two of the draft kicked off in Montreal. With their first pick of the draft, they were able to select Odelius who fits the mold of what one would consider a prototypical Islander. 

His skating is the aspect of his game. This allows him to dictate positioning in the defensive zone, blocking off lanes while using his body and stick to force turnovers both along the boards and in open ice. He has a strong hockey IQ, especially when sending a breakout pass and giving him the ability to effectively control the play in the offensive zone from the point. The Swedish defender put up 30 points in 43 games for Djugardens IK J20 in 2021-22.

The reason this pick is so attractive to the Islanders is the projectable floor of Odelius. He relies on that IQ to make the right play and has impressive awareness on where to be to break up a play or win a battle along the boards. He currently stands at 6-foot and 187-pounds which works against him at times when battling for positioning. If he can get stronger over the next season or two, Odelius could be a threat to crack the Islanders roster in the next few seasons. If he reaches his potential, he could become a top-four defenceman with powerplay upside, which would vault him well into the realm of fantasy relevance. 

Round Three, 78th Overall – Quinn Finley, LW

Finley had an unusual experience during his draft year in the USHL. Drafted by the Madison Capitols, the team had to fold operations for the 2020-21 pandemic season along with a few other teams, which forced Finley to go to the Chicago Steel in the league’s subsequent dispersal draft for that year only.

Selected first overall in the USHL Futures Draft, Finley brings a quick and agile skillset to the table for the Islanders. His greatest asset is his blazing speed that he uses to force defenders on their backheels and will often carry the puck through the neutral zone. Once in the offensive end, Finley can take the game any way you want it. He can let go a quick one-time blast from the lower hash marks or he can burn you with a strong catch and release to catch the defense flat-footed. While standing at 6-0, Finley needs to get stronger as he is just 170 lbs, and sometimes that shows when defenders can box him out from his usual areas where he likes to score. He will need to do just that and improve his awareness in the defensive zone before being considered for the NHL squad. If he can put it all together mixed with the shallow Islanders system up front, that alone could set up a clear path for Finley to work his way into the lineup and eventually become a fixture in the team’s middle-six forward group.

Round Four, 98th Overall – Isaiah George, LD

George is one of those players that scouts love because of his compete level blended with his skillset as a big two-way defenceman. His numbers do not pop out when you see the 23 points in 67 games with the London Knights in a top-four role, but that is far from the allure of his game. 

The 6-1 defender is very mobile and can break up the rush attack from the opposition to cause turnovers and potentially a quick breakout. While he breaks the puck out effectively most of the time, he is still prone to making mistakes. Despite his flaws, his hockey sense is clear, and he has shown at times while he makes the right decisions, sometimes it just does not work out. All of this indicates that once George can put it all together and improve his play in the offensive zone, he can be a strong contributor at both ends of the ice while being deployed in all situations as needed. 

Round Five, 142nd Overall – Matthew Maggio, RW

Maggio went undrafted in his first go-around in 2021, but finally heard his name called by the Islanders in round five of the 2022 draft. Going unranked for most of the season, Maggio worked his way onto the NHL Central Scouting rankings by the end of the season, where he put up 85 points in just 66 games for the Windsor Spitfires. 

The winger is just 5-10 and weighing at 186 lbs and despite being smaller in stature, his skating does not pop out at you when watching his play. He has a dangerous and deceptive shot when playing off the rush. He will need to add an explosive element in his game to take the next step, but with a strong compete level and a technically sound first stride, Maggio has the tools to make it happen. It is just a matter of when and if he can do so. 

Round Six, 174th Overall – Daylan Kuefler, LW

The 20-year-old Kuefler took a few years to break out in the WHL, the winger was a victim of a lack of playing time in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In his first full season in junior hockey, he put up 59 points across 65 games, vastly different from the 13 points in 47 games in the 2019-20 season. 

He is a strong two-way forward with a large 6-foot-2 frame with a lot of compete in his game. This was the first season at the major junior level that he was able to put up large offensive numbers, putting his true offensive upside into question. With a sixth-round pick, it is understandable why the Islanders would be willing to take a chance on a winger with a strong compete level despite the uncertainty around his true upside. A gamble that could pay off if his 2021-22 season is more than just a flash in the pan. 

THE OFFSEASON

The offseason has not been kind to the Islanders. After firing Trotz, there was much speculation about the direction of the team. Lou Lamoriello is always linked to the big-ticket players in rumors and this offseason was no different. The Islanders were rumored to be sniffing around on a JT Miller deal at the draft that fell through at the last minute leading to the acquisition of Romanov. In free agency, the Islanders were on the short list of teams in on Johnny Gaudreau but could not clear the cap space required to sign a contract that rich. Most recently striking out on Nazem Kadri with the same issue following weeks of speculation they had a behind-closed-doors deal ready to be signed upon clearing enough money off the books. The Islanders did not successfully do so, leading us right to Kadri signing in Calgary this past week. 

For a team in a win-now mindset coming fresh off failing to qualify for the postseason, it might be an understatement to say this offseason has been a disappointment for fans. The one aspect in favor of the Islanders is there are still several weeks before training camps officially get underway, meaning there is still time to make noise on the trade market. With free agency having limited options for a big upgrade, which may be the route the team has to go no matter how costly upgrading the roster might be. Much of the fates for the team heading into the new season will lie with Brock Nelson staying in his career-high 37-goal form while seeing youthful players like Barzal, Dobson, and Romanov take another step towards their ultimate upside. A healthy season without the threat of a major COVID-19 shutdown bodes well for a team that struggled mightily with it last season. Couple that in with having one of the best goalie tandems in the entire league in Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov, there is some hope to be had with this team. The tandem has the potential to keep them in games and potentially steal wins along the way, but if it will be enough if their core group of players start to show their age or struggle off the hop will have to wait to be seen. 

Incoming

Alexander Romanov (D), Jeff Kubiak (C)

Outgoing

Zdeno Chara (D), Cory Schneider (G), Michael Dal Colle (LW), Thomas Hickey (D), Austin Czarnik (C), Andy Greene (D), Paul LaDue, Mitch Vande Sompel (D)

Resigned

Noah Dobson (D), Andy Andreoff (C), Otto Koivula (LW), Robin Salo (D), Grant Hutton (D), Ken Appleby (G)

In next month’s 32-in-32 Series we will be diving into updated organizational depth charts to identify the prospect risers, fallers, and projected roles for the 2022-23 campaign.

Sean Crocker

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