A position of immediate need is not necessarily a priority in the NHL Draft. Prospects, even ones selected on the first day, might not be ready to contribute for a few seasons.
And, to be blunt, the Islanders have a lot of need, both at the NHL level and within their organization.
Last season, when the Islanders missed the playoffs for the first time since 2018 — a factor in coach Barry Trotz losing his job — it was very apparent that a lack of puck-moving defensemen hindered the team.
The Islanders own the 13th overall pick in this week’s NHL Draft in Montreal, and there should be some interesting puck-moving defensemen available when they select.
The first round will be held Thursday night at Bell Centre and rounds two through seven will take place Friday afternoon.
There are other needs, of course. The Islanders crave at least one lethal-scoring wing who can skate with Mathew Barzal (and perhaps entice the impending restricted free agent — after this coming season — that this team is a good long-term fit for him). There are prospects with that kind of potential in the draft.
But losing Devon Toews and Nick Leddy in successive offseasons as the result of salary cap-forced trades has taken its toll. Toews went to the Avalanche for two second-round picks in 2020 and helped Colorado win the Stanley Cup last month. In another salary dump, Leddy went to the Red Wings, who moved him to the Blues, and now is an unrestricted free agent.
Finnish defenseman Robin Salo, drafted in the second round in 2017, had a solid first North American season with four goals and 16 assists for the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport and also a goal and four assists in 21 games in the NHL. He’s a solid skater who may be able to help the Islanders’ ability to get the puck out of their defensive zone more quickly.
Samuel Bolduc, drafted in the second round in 2019, has a big body and a big shot but isn’t a prototypical puck-mover.
Otherwise, the Islanders are not deep in defensemen in terms of organizational depth.
Slovakian Simon Nemec and Czech David Jiricek generally are considered the top defensemen in the draft and are unlikely to still be around at No. 13, especially with both being righthanded shots.
However, there are a trio of puck-moving defensemen who might be available when it’s the Islanders’ turn.
Kevin Korchinski is a 6-2, 185-pounder who had 61 assists in 67 games for Seattle of the Western Hockey League. His playmaking ability is ranked near the top of his class and he is a very strong skater.
The 6-1, 194-pound Pavel Mintyukov had 17 goals and 45 assists in 67 games for Saginaw of the Ontario Hockey League, and his game has blossomed since leaving Russia for Canadian juniors. His skating is considered elite and he’s very adept at getting up the ice on the rush.
Denton Mateychuk, 5-10, 194 pounds, had 13 goals and 51 assists in 65 games for Moose Jaw (WHL) and is considered an elite skater who is responsible defensively.
All three are lefthanded shots. None would be AHL age-eligible, so more seasoning at the junior level would be a near-certainty.
Notes & quotes: Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello has added Jim Paliafito to his front-office staff. Paliafito, who was the Maple Leafs’ senior director of player evaluation until May, is known for his scouting and recruitment work with European free agents. Lamoriello is a former Maple Leafs GM.