Islanders end up with fistful of defensemen

Ville Pokka of Team Finland skates during the

Ville Pokka of Team Finland skates during the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship game. (Dec. 31, 2011) (Credit: Getty Images)

PITTSBURGH -- There was no grand plan to stock the Islanders' prospect system with defensemen this weekend, but that's what happened. The Isles used all seven of their picks in the NHL draft on defensemen, particularly the big, physical kind.

"We didn't come to the table and say, 'We're taking all defensemen and only kids over 6-foot-4,' " Islanders scouting director Trent Klatt said. "It was just the way it worked out."

The way it worked out Saturday, when rounds 2-7 were completed, was a continuation of the Isles' plan on Friday night. General manager Garth Snow completed a trade with the Ducks for veteran defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky just before the first round began to add needed depth to a thin blue line, then Snow began planning for the future by taking defenseman Griffin Reinhart with the No. 4 overall pick.

Starting with steady Finnish defenseman Ville Pokka, whom the Islanders took with the 34th pick early Saturday, and finishing with Minnesota high schooler Jake Bischoff at No. 185, the Isles went all-in on defense.

VILLE POKKA
SELECTED AT NO. 34:
At just under 6-feet he’s one of the shorter picks this year, but he’s solidly built (already 205 pounds) and has the sort of mobility and smarts the Islanders are always hunting for. Had no goals and three assists in 35 games for Karpat of the Finnish league, but he’s a young 18 (just turned that age on June 3) and is playing against men.
“He’s a stable, steady, two-way player,” Klatt said. “He’s got a high level of hockey sense.”

ADAM PELECH
SELECTED AT NO. 65:
He comes from a hockey family — older brothers Matt and Michael were drafted and currently play in the minors, and his uncle is Canucks GM Mike Gillis — and, despite being ranked No. 120 among North American skaters by Central Scouting, the Isles coveted the stay-at-home style of the 6-2 Pelech, who had two goals and 18 assists for Erie of the Ontario League.
“One of the biggest issues people have with him is that his skating isn’t the prettiest,” Klatt said. “But this kid’s a player. He hits, he blocks shots, he’s played in international tournaments. He’s a Willie Mitchell type of player.”

Loic Leduc, selected at No. 103:
He’s just shy of 6-6 and was another lower-rated prospect (209 out of 210 North American skaters ranked by Central Scouting) whose skating needs some polish but has physical skills. He had two goals and eight assists for Cape Breton of the Quebec League.
“He plays with a lot of energy and jump for a big kid,” Klatt said. “He’s aggressive, too, he likes the physical side of the game.”

Doyle Somerby, selected at No. 125:
The New Hampshire high-schooler and incoming Boston University freshman was the second-biggest skater drafted yesterday — he’s 6-4, 232 pounds and won’t turn 18 for another two weeks — and is definitely more of a project than the earlier picks.
“He’s raw, but he’s just huge,” Klatt said. “As it happens, we need some kids like these.”

Jesse Graham, selected at No. 155:
More of an offensively inclined puck-mover, the Islanders saw plenty of Graham the last two seasons at Niagara of the OHL: Ryan Strome, last year’s first-round pick, plays there as well. Graham had four goals and 37 assists last season.
Jake Bischoff, at No. 185: Another smaller (5-11, 178) defenseman who has time to grow. He’s only a junior at Grand Rapids (Minn.) HS and headed for the University of Minnesota in the fall of 2014.

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