The period of 2010 through to 2014 was supposed to be transformative for the New York Islanders. It’s not that they played well over those years, in fact, it was quite the opposite. The Isles 156-167-53 record was the third-worst in the NHL during that period. Only the Panthers and Oilers were worse.
But for their efforts (or lack there-of), the Islanders would receive draft capital. Through the 2010 and 2014 drafts, the Isles would make four top five picks. They would hit on one of those picks, and even then “hit” is being very generous.
Those four picks, along with John Tavares (first overall pick in 2009) were supposed to be the cornerstone of the franchise and lead the team to success. Only one of those picks is still with the team, and he’s barely a middle-six forward for them.
Assuming we had a do-over, who should the Islanders have gone with knowing what we know now?
(Two things to specify, I’m not going to go way off the board. Pick has to be taken within three slots after Isles pick and has to be a similar position. Center for a center, a winger for a winger, d for d. You get it.)
Redrafting the New York Islanders top 5 picks from 2010 to 2014
2010 Draft: Nino Niederreiter (5th overall)
Nino put up big points in his draft year and followed that up with another 70 points in 55 games the year later. But things didn’t work out when the Isles insisted he work on his defensive game and had him play next to Marty Reasoner and Jay Pandolfo in 2011-12.
Redraft: Jeff Skinner
Now based on that alone, perhaps there’s no better pick to make. The Isles seemed to go out of their way to sabotage their own draft pick. But selecting Jeff Skinner – who went seventh overall – might not have been a bad play.
I know Skinner is on a mammoth contract and is playing on Buffalo’s fourth line. But he is the 2010 draft’s third-highest scoring player after Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall. He has five 50+ point seasons and four 30+ goal seasons, he’s a good player and maybe would have worked out better than Nino. Maybe.
2011 Draft: Ryan Strome (5th overall)
Strome was the best of the top five picks from 2010 to 2014 for the Isles. His 50 point sophomore year showed he belonged in the NHL. But he never truly lived up to the hype of a fifth overall pick. Now with the Rangers, Strome is putting up a lot of points but that wasn’t the case with the Isles.
Redraft: Mark Scheifele
Scheifele (8th overall pick) is the third highest-scoring player in the 2011 draft with 467 points. Only Nikita Kucherov and Gabriel Landeskog have more points*.
*Landerskog has one more point than Scheifele.
The Winnipeg Jets center is one of those second-tier stars in the league. If he played in another market than Winnipeg he’d certainly be making more headlines. I thought about taking Mika Zibanejad and if that’s the way you’d rather go I can’t blame you.
2012: Griffin Reinhart (4th overall)
Ok. I know the Isles were able to trade Reinhart to Edmonton to get Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier. But they selected him because they thought he could be a factor for them at the NHL level not to eventually become trade fodder.
Redraft: Morgan Reilly
We know the Islanders wanted to re-stock their d-pool. They used all of their seven picks in 2012 on defensemen. They were also rumored to have asked Columbus to take all of their picks in exchange for the second overall pick that year.
Morgan Reilly (5th overall) has to be the pick the Islanders take. The Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman has been a solid blueliner since entering the league in 2013-14. Even putting up a 72 point year in 2018-19.
Here (in 2018) Andrew Berkshire takes a deep dive into Reilly’s play, and while he doesn’t place him as an elite defender, Reilly isn’t far off. That’s a wild upgrade over Griffin Reinhart and his 37 career NHL games.
2014: Michael Dal Colle (5th overall)
Michael Dal Colle had some monster numbers in juniors. But that hasn’t followed him to the NHL level. In 93 games over four years, Dal Colle has 19 points to his name. The big winger just hasn’t put together a career you’d expect from a top-five draft pick.
Redraft: William Nylander
Three picks later, the Toronto Maple Leafs took Swedish product, William Nylander. The son of former NHL’er Michael Nylander had some impressive numbers at the Allsvenskan level and in the SHL during his draft year.
That production followed him to the AHL and NHL levels. In two years at the AHL level, he scored 77 points in 75 games. He’s been part of the Leafs top-six since 2015 and has scored 235 points in 326 games.
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Think about that redraft class versus the one the Islanders made. Of course, it assumes the Isles record is the same, but holding that to be true the quartet of Skinner+Scheifele+Morgan+Nylander is much better than that of Neiderreiter+Strome+Reinhart+Dal Colle.