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Islanders will be on sideline for first two rounds of NHL draft

Barry Trotz and Lou Lamoriello of the

 Barry Trotz and Lou Lamoriello of the Islanders attend the NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on June 22, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada.  Credit: Getty Images/Bruce Bennett

Lou Lamoriello, in his first two seasons running the Islanders, had three picks apiece in the first- and second-rounds to help stock the organization.

He has none this year as the NHL approaches its draft, to be conducted virtually in deference to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first round is Tuesday night at 7 and the remaining six rounds will be conducted on Wednesday starting at 11:30 a.m.

The Islanders sent their first- and second-round picks to the Ottawa Senators for center Jean-Gabriel Pageau at the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 24. Barring further trades, the Islanders will have one pick apiece in rounds 3-7, selecting 28th in each round after reaching the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1993. Their first pick will be 90th overall.

"We can just depend upon our scouting staff to find something for us," said Lamoriello, the Islanders president and general manager.

That may include prioritizing the organizational depth for defensemen.

But Lamoriello spread out his picks evenly in his first two years running the Islanders’ draft. Out of 13 overall selections in the two drafts, the Islanders took four defensemen, four centers, four wings and one goalie.

But those two drafts — in Dallas in 2018 and in Vancouver in 2019 — were conducted under much different, pre-pandemic conditions.

It wasn’t just the NHL season that was paused on March 12. It was any in-person scouting. And there was no NHL Scouting Combine for this draft.

"Fortunately, most of the work was done prior to the pandemic coming upon us," Lamoriello said. "So, there is a real strong viewing that has taken place and, certainly, there is a lot more video that has been watched by scouts throughout the NHL, not only the New York Islanders, that might not have been done otherwise. So, that time was not wasted during the period that we could not go out and scout."

Lamoriello was also isolated from his management staff as he accompanied the team to their playoff bubbles in Toronto and then Edmonton from July 26 to Sept. 18.

Lamoriello credited assistant general managers Chris Lamoriello, his son, and Steve Pellegrini, who first worked with Lou Lamoriello with the Devils in 2006, for "overseeing all of this while I’ve been away."

Lamoriello said his two assistant general managers have also been spending plenty of time with the Islanders’ IT department to make sure there are no bugs in the system for the virtual draft.

"I believe it will go very fluid, from just my understanding," Lamoriello said. "There will certainly be some dry runs of it. We will be sort of observers unless something changes in the meantime the first day because we do not have a first pick, we do not have a second pick. So, we’ll have an opportunity to watch and see if anybody does anything out of the ordinary or if there’s anything we can learn. But I think it’s going to be fairly simple as far as it comes across."

So far, both the NFL and Major League Baseball have conducted virtual drafts that were considered successes.

It’s still too early to put a grade on either of Lamoriello’s first two drafts with the Islanders.

He picked speedy wing Simon Holmstrom 23rd overall in 2019 despite his injury history. Holmstrom had eight goals and seven assists in 46 games for the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport, Connecticut last season and is currently on loan to the Swedish league.

In 2018, sharp-shooting wing Oliver Wahlstrom was picked at No. 11 — he had 10 goals and 12 assists in 45 games for Bridgeport, played nine games without a point for the Islanders and is also currently on loan in Sweden — and defensemen Noah Dobson at No. 12 and Bode Wilde at No. 41. Dobson had a goal and six assists in 34 games for the Islanders last season as a rookie while Wilde, slowed by injuries, had two assists in 20 games for Bridgeport.

Isles: What they need

1. Speed, speed, more speed: Regardless of position, the NHL places a higher and higher premium on speed each season. In particularly, the Islanders need speed on the wings and in the middle.

2. Up-front scoring: The Islanders should be looking for both speedy (there’s that word again) forwards with a shoot-first mentality. At the same time, they could use some more big bodies who can get to the net, screen the goalie and bang in rebounds.

3. Defensemen/goalies: Any Lou Lamoriello-run organization builds from the net on out. So, just like pitching in baseball, the Islanders can’t have enough depth at either position, particularly since good prospects also become valuable trade chips as well.

New York Sports