At the time of me writing this, the Islanders are completely out of playoff contention. While this may seem daunting, both due to the fact that Tavares is a free agent this summer and because it seems like we are always in this position, don’t fear! Now we get the privilege of distracting ourselves with dreams of awesome new prospects that (hopefully) will save this team from its eternal state of mediocrity. At the moment, we currently are positioned at 23rd in the NHL, which would be 8th overall, and thanks to our old pal Travis Hamonic we also possess what would be the 10th pick if the lottery gave everyone their pick based off the standings. So, I’ve decided to look into who our best options would be at that point in the draft, because I don’t think all the teams below us are dumb enough to pass on Rasmus Dahlin (sadly).
The Likely Candidates:
#9 Ranked Prospect (Sportsnet) D, 5’10” Quinton Hughes (U. of Michigan, NCAA)
Oh boy. Watching his highlights actually got me excited about this tank. Hughes has got a lot of things I like about him. He’s great at finding and using open ice. He has great speed so he’s able to get into great position seamlessly both with and without the puck and uses his excellent vision/hockey sense to put himself and teammates in good situations to score. He reminds me a lot of Nick Leddy with his combination of wheels and hockey sense, but in the offensive zone it’s like he has a little bit of forward in him, in terms of his aggressiveness to make plays. He also has very good quick decision making skills, as he doesn’t always hang onto the puck too long and knows when to circle back on a play if he does and the defense closes in. Promising on the PP. I like him.
HIGHLIGHTS: Quinton Hughes
#11 Ranked Prospect (Sportsnet) C, 6’1” Barrett Hayton (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL)
Hayton is a very strong forward from Sault Ste Marie, with a great shot, excellent release, and good hands. One of the things that stands out about him is his versatility. He’s able to score on the rush, shown in some of his IIHF highlights, but he’s also great in close and in the slot. On top of this, he is extremely strong on the puck, making him difficult to defend and often drawing attention from more than one defender, leaving his teammates more available for passes and scooping up rebounds. He’s got good size too at 6’1”, which means his in-tight and on the boards ability will be more easily translatable to the next level than some of the new-age smaller forwards. At the very least he can project to be Anders Lee-esqué, which I’m sure none of us will complain about.
HIGHLIGHTS: Barrett Hayton
#13 Ranked Prospect (Sportsnet) D, 6’3” Bode Wilde (USNTDP)
Bode Wilde is a very good defenseman out of the USNTDP, just like Quinton Hughes. He has excellent speed, and is capable of starting a rush by getting past multiple defenders, which he shows no fear in doing. He also has an excellent shot that he does not hesitate to use, and can score with a wrister or with a far out slap shot, both of which have an excellent release. In addition, he is a big body at 6’3”, and is very capable of putting that to use. He is great at jumping in on the rush and acts as a very mobile 4th forward on the power play and occasionally even in 5v5. He reminds me a lot of what Ryan Pulock looked like in his junior highlights which again, I cannot complain about. (Also I promise I didn’t plan on looking into three players with Isles comparable sit just worked out that way. At least their Islanders counterparts aren’t Andrew Ladd or Tanner Fritz.)
HIGHLIGHTS: Bode Wilde
#14 Ranked Prospect (Sportsnet) C, 6’1”, Joe Veleno (St. John’s, QMJHL)
He might be my favorite prospect to watch film on that is on this list. Veleno has great size and better speed, which he uses to be a total beast on the puck, holding off defenders and often times literally going around them. He’s effectively mastered the Tavares one-handed power move. That being said, he actually reminds me more of Nathan MacKinnon with his size and play style. He is definitely not a shoot first kind of guy, rather he likes to put himself in a position to shoot in order to draw the defense and open up his teammates. Those situations are where I draw his MacKinnon comparison from, as he is able to weave the puck past or through multiple defenders to his teammates. This makes everyone on the ice with him a scoring threat, since he can get the puck to them regardless of who is on him or where his linemates are. On top of this, his speed forces defenders to make decisions faster than they are comfortable, which he exploits. I’m legitimately surprised sportsnet has him ranked so low, as his passing ability seems translatable considering he’s not just hitting seam passes that can be accredited to the lower talent level in the CHL, instead he’s making passes with coverage on him to teammates who also are being defended. He has a track record for elite capabilities as well, as he was the first player in the QMJHL to gain exceptional status (AKA John Tavares status) in order to play in the league a year early. It technically would be a reach to take him at 12, but I would be excited to see this guy in blue and orange come draft day.
HIGHLIGHTS: Joe Veleno
Sportsnet’s latest prospect rankings: Here
Thanks for reading!