FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Trent Klatt's final Islanders draft as the organization's head amateur scout won't be like the previous five he directed. Barring a trade, Klatt and his staff won't be making any recommendations to general manager Garth Snow until sometime Saturday morning, when the Islanders pick 72nd overall, midway through the third round.
But you won't catch sight of an empty draft table on the floor of the BB&T Center Friday night or early Saturday morning.
"We're preparing as if we're picking 21st," Klatt said of the first-round slot the Isles would have possessed had they not dealt it to Buffalo in the Thomas Vanek deal. "There's always a chance to learn something. And we want to be prepared down the road if we're picking there again, or 24th, 25th -- or 30th."
Klatt will step down to a regional scouting role next season because of family commitments and will be replaced as head scout by Velli-Pekka Kautonen, the Isles' chief European scout. Klatt sees the way the team has changed the past few seasons from one that relied heavily on the scouting staff to build a barren prospect pool to one that went out and added six experienced veterans via free agency and trade last summer in an attempt to become a legitimate playoff threat.
"Just because we've improved doesn't mean you sit back and get complacent. I put more pressure on myself and the staff because now we have to find players deeper down in the draft," Klatt said. "If we always have players coming up, it makes Garth's decisions easier on trades or contracts.''
Snow has a few such decisions that could play out on the draft floor during Friday night's first round.
Michael Grabner and Kyle Okposo, two long-serving Isles, are entering the final years of five-year deals.
Grabner is known to have been actively shopped the past few weeks. Okposo could be dealt this weekend because of the possibility of high contract demands and the possibility that Snow could reap a solid return for a star forward who carries a modest $2.8-million salary-cap hit this coming season.
If the Isles stand pat, Klatt understands what's at stake. Even armed with only the 72nd and 82nd picks among the top 100 this weekend, the Islanders must add to the prospect pool that has deepened considerably under Klatt's watch.
"One of those guys [at 72 and 82] has to play for us at some point,'' Klatt said. "I hope both of them do, plus anyone else we pick further down. We've done well, but now we need to do better.''