What if the Islanders Drafted Mark Scheifele?

The Islanders have a long list of mistakes including bad trades, horrific contracts and lousy draft selections to cover the entire Earth. Let’s go more in-depth on one draft selection the Islanders organization possibly regrets.

What if the Islanders decided not to draft Ryan Strome with the fifth pick of the 2011 NHL Draft, and instead decided to draft Mark Scheifele?

With the fifth overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, the Islanders selected Ryan Strome. In the 2011-12 season with the OHL’s Niagara Ice Dogs, Strome recorded 68 points in 46 games; however, the year prior, Strome racked up an impressive 106 points in 65 games.

Ryan Strome’s career with the Islanders did not pan out the way it was expected to. Strome’s career, so far, has not been near the career that was anticipated for him.

Let’s be clear though. Ryan Strome is not a bad player. He has talent. He has just not performed to expectations so far in his career. Strome’s numbers compared to the rest of the top-ten picks from that year are underwhelming. Every forward picked in the top ten of the draft has more points than Strome.

With the Islanders drafting Scheifele instead of Strome, the Islanders would be getting a player who has scored 371 points in 448 games compared to a guy who has 195 points in 421 games played. That’s an average of 0.828 points per game compared to an average of 0.463 points per game.

If Scheifele had been playing in an Islanders’ jersey during his first four seasons in the league, his presence on the Islanders would have most likely made a positive impact. And during the last four seasons, his influence would have been enormous.

So, what if Scheifele was in an Islanders sweater during the last four years?

Well, there’s no way to know for sure, but the Islanders line combinations on the opening night of the 2015-16 season would have most likely featured Tavares centering Lee and Bailey instead of Lee and Strome. The second line would have likely featured Scheifele centering Okposo and Kulemin. The third line would have featured Nielsen centering Nelson and Grabovski, while the fourth line would have remained Martin, Cizikas, and Clutterbuck.

The Islanders would have benefited in the regular season from Scheifele, but would have benefited more during the playoffs. In the 2015-16 playoffs, the Islanders lost in five games to the Tampa Bay Lighting. Strome notched two assists in the Islanders win in game one, but was invisible during the rest of the series and was even a healthy scratch for Game 3.

Having Scheifele in the lineup instead of Strome would most certainly have been beneficial. In those four games the Islanders lost, they could not have only used Scheifele’s goal-scoring and playing abilities. They also could have used his big six-foot-two frame, especially against Tampa Bay, a team with some big players on their roster.

At that point, they had the 6’7″ Andrej Sustr, 6’6″ Brian Boyle and Victor Hedman, and the 6’5″ Braydon Coburn. There’s no saying the Islanders would have won that series, but Scheifele’s skill and heavy frame would have helped. 

During the 2016-17 season, there is no doubt the Islanders would have made the playoffs if they had Scheifele instead of Strome. During that season, Strome only had 30 points while Scheifele put up 82 points. The Islanders also missed the playoffs that season by a single point.

If the Islanders won one more game that season, they would have returned to the postseason for the third year in a row. Scheifele’s 82 points would have propelled the Islanders into a playoff spot. To further make this case, 15 of Scheifele’s 82 points came on the power play, which would have helped the third-worst powerplay in the NHL. That would have most definitely helped the Islanders make the playoffs.

Now, here’s where these comparing scenarios get tricky. The Islanders traded Ryan Strome for Jordan Eberle in a one-for-one swap.

During the 2017-18 season, Eberle and Scheifele’s numbers were almost identical. Scheifele had 60 points while Eberle had 59. However, the big difference is that Scheifele played 21 fewer games than Eberle due to injuries.

The Islanders offense was not the problem during the 2017-18 season. It was their defense. The Islanders were seventh in the league for goals for and had the sixth-highest powerplay percentage in the league. The team defense was the Achilles heel.

The Islanders were last in the league in goals against, and their penalty-kill percentage was the worst in the NHL. The team missed the playoffs by 17 points because of their defense. Even if Scheifele played all 82 games with the Islanders, no amount of points from him would have been able to get the Islanders into the playoffs. 

Eberle had the postseason of his life against the Penguins and a decent series against the Hurricanes, but the Islanders lost to the Hurricanes because they could not get the job done offensively. Eberle is a crafty playmaker with fast as lighting hands who is hugely underrated.

There is no question Eberle can score goals, but he is a different type of goal scorer than Scheifele, who is the type of player who can fire the puck anywhere from the offensive zone and score. In other words, Scheifele is a shoot-first type of player.

Unlike most of these activities, Garth Snow and the Islanders rewrote the narrative. They made a mistake in drafting Strome, but fixed it by trading for Eberle. You have to give credit where credit’s due, and Snow saved the day by acquiring Eberle.

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