I did the other two teams in the Hudson River area, so I’ll do the Islanders.
23rd Overall: Simon Holmstrom (RW, HV71 J20: SuperElit)
For starters I like Holmstrom as a player. I had the Devils taking him at 55 in my draft. He’s a good player… for pick number 55. This was one of the bigger reaches in the first round I felt like, and it came from a team that I don’t think is really in the position to afford these kinds of reaches yet. There weren’t a lot of guys with Holmstrom’s blend of speed and and opportunism for goal scoring on the board at 23 and maybe that’s what the Islanders made this pick based on. Holmstrom does have an excellent nose for the net and for putting himself into positions where he can make usage of great speed and an excellent shot. There are a lot of questions about his motivation and his drive though. Questions that would dissuade me from picking him as early as the Islanders did. I can’t stress enough, I like the player, I just don’t like him picked here. He projects to maybe be a top 6 scoring winger at best, but it’s going to take the right development to get him anywhere close to that, and aside from Barzal, the Islanders have not shown great efficiency at developing forwards. The best path to development might be to let him play in Sweden for at least 2 more years.
57th Overall: Samuel Bolduc (D, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada: QMJHL)
Bolduc might have been the best actual skater of the big defenders available in the first 3 rounds of this draft. He’s 6’4, 212 pounds, but he skates more like what we would expect to see from a 5’10 defender. He played top pairing on a team where he didn’t get a lot of help and was successful. He’s a big powerful kid with the wheels to keep up as the modern NHL continues to get faster. There are some hiccups and questions about how he is in his own end. He’s good on zone entry and good at working on the peripheries, but his work down low and in front of his own net leaves a little to be desired for a kid with his physical gifts. Islanders are hoping he’s a top pairing guy someday, but I think he projects middle pairing at the NHL level, and probably for a few years. I would expect him to play 2 more years in the Q and then at least a year of AHL before he’s really ready to step in.
147th Overall: Reece Newkirk (C, Portland Winterhawks, WHL)
5’11, 172 pound kid from Moose Jaw Saskatchewan. Newkirk is so hard to get a real read on. He played on a great line for Portland but averaged under a point per game, playing the bulk of his season with Cody Glass and Joachim Blichfeld. Newkirk was really the complimentary 3rd forward on this line so it’s really hard to project what kind of real skills he has on his own. This is a real boom/bust pick for the Islanders. If Newkirk can stand on his own and be a great player without being carried by superior linemates, it’ll be a good pick. If he flames out next season, the Islanders will know that he always needs to ride shotgun with somebody better. That doesn’t project well for an NHL forward. His potential ceiling is good, but his potential floor is likely outside of the NHL.
178th Overall: Felix Bibeau (C, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies QMJHL)
I do not get this pick at all. Bibeau is a 3rd year eligible player who probably could have been had the day after the draft without expending a pick. With one round left to go, I don’t think Bibeau was high enough on anyone else’s board to warrant the pick. He’s got average size and build for a player who will turn 21 mid way through his overage junior season, playing for Quebec. Rouyn-Noranda traded him after the season. His regular season both this season and last season were good, they weren’t mind blowing, or standout amazing. He really came alive in the playoffs and made a good showing at the Memorial Cup. I guess if that was all the film you saw on the kid and you’re of the “what have you done for me lately” persuasion then I could view this as a good value pick. But there was so much other 2001 birthday and even other overaged talent on the board still that this almost feels like a waste of a pick. 6th and 7th rounders are typically long shots anyway, but that’s no reason to just toss them away on kids you could sign for free the day after the draft. If he ever makes it to the NHL, he’s probably going to be a depth scorer at best.
209th Overall: Cole Coskey (RW, Saginaw Spirit: OHL)
Another overage kid taken by Lou and company. This one makes a bit more sense because he’s a June birthday, so his draft year he may have been a bit under developed. Even in his draft year though, he was one of the better players on an exceptionally underwhelming Saginaw Spirit squad. Last year he was one of their top performers and scored 2 of their 8 total playoff goals as they were swept in the first round. This season he was even better and was 2nd on the team in goals, while having missed about a quarter of the season. He’s average sized at 6’0 190 pounds, but he shows consistent growth and scoring through his time in the OHL. I cannot say he projects more than a depth player and it seems likely that it’ll take a couple years in the AHL to get him there. But what Coskey does have is a great attitude and phenomenal work ethic that could help push him further in the right circumstances.
This draft awkwardly resembles some of the drafts that Lou and David Conte put together during their latter years with the New Jersey Devils. Simon Holmstrom’s game strongly reminds me of the scouting reports on Mattias Tedenby and Niclas Bergfors as they came up in their draft years. Bolduc is probably the best pick of the batch in terms of value and when they got him. Coskey is a good grab but he may only be a role player for them in the future. I didn’t really like this draft and if I were an Islanders fan, I would be leery about this one.