Islanders player development head Eric Cairns talks NHL draft, prospects
The Islanders like the prospect talent they have in the organization.
But they’d like to have more organizational depth as preparations are underway for the NHL Draft, June 22-23 in Dallas. The Islanders have eight picks in the seven-round draft, including two in each of the first two rounds.
“We need everything right now,” Islanders Director of Player Development Eric Cairns told Newsday in a telephone interview on Monday. “It’s more strengthening up different positions and getting diversity within those picks.”
The Islanders did not fare well in Saturday’s Draft Lottery as their own first-round pick slipped to No. 11 and the first-round pick they obtained from the Flames in the Travis Hamonic trade remained at No. 12.
The Islanders have at least one pick in every round but the sixth.
“I think we’re in a good spot as far as skill goes,” Cairns said. “We have a lot of good, young defensemen in our organization, puck movers, skaters. That’s important, starting the offense from the back end out.”
The Islanders top defense prospect is Devon Toews, 24, a fourth-round pick in 2014 who was limited to 30 games last season for Bridgeport (AHL) because of a shoulder injury.
“He’s just solid in all three zones,” said Cairns, a former defenseman who played for the Islanders, Rangers, Panthers and Penguins. “He moves the puck so well. He feels good right now. We think he can compete out of training camp.”
Cairns also cited Sebastian Aho, a fifth-round pick in 2017 who played 22 games for the Islanders last season; Mitchell Vande Sompel, a third-round pick in 2015 who was an All-Star for Bridgeport; and Parker Wotherspoon, a fourth-round pick in 2015, as promising prospects.
Cairns is also happy with the goalies in the organization, with the caveat he’s not sure when any of the top prospects – Russian Ilya Sorokin, a third-round pick in 2014; Swede Linus Soderstrom, a fourth-round pick in 2014; and Eamon McAdam, a third-round pick in 2013 – will be ready to play in the NHL.
Sorokin has a KHL contract with CSKA Moscow than runs through 2020 but Cairns said Soderstrom will play in North America next season — most likely for Bridgeport — after spending the past two seasons in the Swedish Hockey League. McAdam has been in the Islanders’ system since 2016 and spent last season with Worcester (ECHL).
“We’re really happy to have Sorokin and Soderstrom in our prospect pool,” Cairns said. “They’re different types of goalies but both have high ceilings. I can’t give a projection as to when.”
Up front, Cairns said he still believed Joshua Ho-Sang, the controversial 28th overall pick in 2014, and Michael Dal Colle, selected fifth overall that year, can make it in the NHL. Cairns said Ho-Sang needs to improve his puck management — “No one is standing in the way of his skill set, it’s just taking a little bit more time” — and Dal Colle needs to add weight and regain his confidence.
Kieffer Bellows, the 19th overall pick in 2016, will turn pro after one season with Portland (WHL). His father Brian totaled 1,022 points — including 485 goals — in a 17-season NHL career.