An independent blog on the New York Islanders, the NHL and AHL by a guy from New York.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Isles 2016 Draft: A Left Wing Thing

Our New York Islanders went into last week’s NHL Entry Draft with a purpose.  And apparently, it was to add depth to their system.  I am sure many fans, including this one hoped the Isles would package picks with other assets for a trade to try and upgrade their roster immediately.  It’s entirely possible that those deals just weren’t there for them, so they did the draft thing and acquired the prospects that addressed their need.  That was Left Wings.

In the first round, with the 19th pick, the Isles selected 6’1, 195# Kieffer Bellows of the USA National Team Development Program.  Kieffer is the son of former NHL’er, Brian Bellows, so he grew up around professional hockey and probably gets a tip or two from Dad on his game from time to time.  The physical, 50 goal scorer (31 assists) is noted for his puck handling ability and strong skating per elite prospects.  He is also known for his fore check and his ability to control the flow of a game, which could explain why Bellows was rated 10th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.  So it’s safe to assume Bellows will have some time to develop a little more in the Isles system after his Boston University commitments.  I would imagine that fans should get to see him showcase his wares at this year’s Blue and White scrimmage. 

It’s worth mentioning that my 1st round choice for the Isles, Julien Gauthier was drafted two picks later by the Carolina Hurricanes.

Garth Snow added five more picks on day two.  He mostly stayed the left wing course with two picks in the 4th, one in the 6th and 2 in the 7th, adding a D-Man with the last pick of the draft.  

Snow traded the Isles 110th pick along with a 2017 6th rounder to Chicago for the 95th to select a former WJ Russian silver medalist, 21 year old named Anatoli Golyshev.  The 5’8, 178#, Golyshev has 3 years of KHL experience (and is still under contract thru 2019) that includes a career highs of 25 and 19 for 44 points in 56 games (with most at even strength) playing for Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg.  Let’s see if he can shake the small, Russian stigma and get a chance to make an impact for New York in their system.

The Islanders traded up with Philadelphia to acquire the 120th selection for a 2017, 4th rounder to draft 6’4, 219#, 17 year old Finn, Otto Koivula.  With a career high 58 points last season and another 12 in playoff competition, Koivula must have been the choice to management.  There is hopes that he can use his on-ice vison and accurate shot to make some as he develops over-seas, while improving his mobility.

With the 170th pick, the Isles choose Collin Adams of the USHL.  As another smaller sized forward at 5.9, 172#, Adams played big and got noticed last season by being named to the USHL All-Rookie 1st Team.  He did so by scoring 27 and 34 for 61 points in 59 games.  Adams has a standing commitment to play for North Dakota next season.  He is known for his leadership qualities, both on and off the ice and one of those “heavy” shots we love to hear about.

Nick Pastujov was added to the Islanders system with pick #193.  Pastujov (6’0, 199#) tallied 21 points in 60 games for the U18, Bronze Medal US National Team and has a commitment to play for the University of Michigan next season.  He was apparently fishing when he heard the news that he was drafted by New York.

With their final pick of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, the Islanders went defensive and brought 5’8, 181# David Quenneville into the organizational fold.  With the Tigers of the WHL, Quenneville scored 14 and 44 for 55 points and models his game after the Kings, Drew Doughty.  He has two brothers in NHL organizations.  New Jersey Devils 2014, first-rounder John Quenneville and Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Peter Quenneville.

After stockpiling prospects at the draft, we can probably assume the Islanders are shifting their focus at add the “win-now” talent they need at the start of free agency.  It should be interesting to see if any trades happen before then or if the team is content to wait and make their offers to specific targets on July 1st. If Snow can’t make a splash at that time, he may be looking for trades later in the summer and before the start of next season like the ones he orchestrated for Boychuk and Leddy.

What are your plans for Friday?


You are irreplaceable.

R.I.P. Ares

Sunday, June 19, 2016

KoC 2016 Draft and Free Agency Preview

The chances of Matt Martin, Kyle Okposo and now even Frans Nielsen getting signed are dwindling.  Recent rumors have talks with Nielsen progressing, but the money wanted by Okposo and Martin is said to be enough for the Islanders to look elsewhere to shure up what has been a talented, but lacking roster.  "It's kind of tough. We'll see what happens, but I think all of Long Island would like him back," Cizikas said on the possibility of Martin’s departure from the Islanders organization.  After Cizikas was given a higher than 4th line center’s raise ($3.35M per), it obvious changes are coming, even for what’s expected of him.  Garth Snow said of Okposo, “Kyle has been a terrific player for us, a great person off it. The salary cap is a reality. I wish Kyle nothing but the best.”  This is a business for players the same way it is for the teams.  Both sides need to protect their own interests.  And don’t discount a chance for the rights of an Okposo or Martin be traded prior to the draft in order to add to the day’s assets.  I’m sure the Wild would be high on Okposo and several teams would want to complete their agitation line with Martin.  In that way, Snow could stack the odds with who could get an early shot at signing them far, far, away.

So when you look into the draft that’s happening next week (June 24th & 25th) in Buffalo, the Islanders go in having the 19th, 110th, 170th, 193rd and 200th pick in the 7 rounds of the NHL Entry Draft.  I’d like the Isles draft Jesse Puljujarvi, but he’ll be gone in the top 3, so where does that leave New York?  I think they will add to the pipeline with the later picks or use them to sweeten possible trade offers.  They could also use the 19th pick in some kind of draft day deal as a big piece to help add a player to their stable.  If they did use the pick, or trade up, and if they were available to swing it, I’d choose between a couple of talent forwards in this year’s draft.  In an unlikely trade up scenario, my choice would be Matthew Tkachuk (LW,London) who may go as high as 4th or 5th, but his scoring touch (38g and 95pts) and hockey sense say he is worth the price. Another player I like is the more attainable, 6’4, 224# play-maker, Julien Gauthier (RW, Val-d’Or).  He’s a talented grinder who tallied 38g and 73pts in 68 regular season games, but fell from 10th to 21st in the winter rankings and is now 12th after his late post season drop-off.

I feel the real summer plans of Snow and his Islanders will be one of real change.  Some players will be shed and some added to remix their playoff formula for next season.  They will be banking on the organizational guys they feel are a necessary part of the core.  And while I think the Isles are less likely to trade up for unproven, blue chip talent, I think they will spend money on “proven” assets to compliment John Tavares and crew.  Whether that is a big money signing, a major trade with a cap strapped team or another safer bet, reclamation project, the Islanders should be busy looking to make a few bigger acquisitions than we are used to.  Could a blockbuster trade for frustrated Oilers F, Ryan Nugent Hopkins or Taylor Hall be made?  Not sure if the cost could be amiable to the Islanders.  Rostered players like Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey (I know) still need to be much better to remain long term while guys like Shane Prince and Alan Quine will probably be given a shot to compete for a bigger place with the squad.

Previously seen “untouchables” like Jaroslav Halak, Ryan Strome or Brock Nelson could see themselves packaged for a high end upgrade along with most of the talented Isles prospects not named Barzal, Beauvillier or Ho-Sang.  Even stud net minding prospects like Sorokin, Koskinen or McAdam could be a requested piece for the right trade.  The Islanders have spent $56.7M against next year’s cap so far.  Some “right-now” type, veteran acquisitions that would suit their needs are guys like Milan Lucic, Andrew Ladd, Jiri Hudler, David Backes or Mikkel Boedker.  A healthy Steven Stamkos would surely be a fit with JT, but his apparent $11M per, multi-year deal may be more than the Isles are comfortable committing to, even if he would sign here. And don’t count out a look into veterans like Scott Hartnell or even a Thomas Vanek if a buy-out or salary splitting trade could be negotiated. 

Whatever happens over the next several weeks, you can be sure the team will be re-fitted and reworked to try and address the shortcomings of the last few seasons.  Whether it works or not is yet to be seen.  But job number one should be locking in a primary partner for John Tavares on the first line and being sure that the mix of young guns and veterans will finally be enough to compete for a deep playoff run.  The Islanders need to find and tweak their group until the right mix and method can be employed. I doubt the new majority ownership of Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin will want to do anything less than win as soon as possible.  And I am sure they won’t be too resistant to change or struggle to rethink a system if they feel the current version isn’t working.  Remember that the Pittsburgh Penguins went from an out-of-playoff position in December and firing their head coach to Stanley Cups Champions in the same season.

No excuses.

Isles Notes:

Per Arthur Staple, “First NHL buyout window opens today (15th). Not expecting any Isles to be bought out, though window stays open until June 30.”

The Islanders annual Blue & White scrimmage happens at the Northwell Health Ice Center on June 29th.

NHL Notes:

R.I.P. Gordie Howe

NHL approves Las Vegas for expansion in 17-18.

“Teams cannot reacquire players they trade after Jan 1, 2017 prior to January 1, 2018. This is to prevent teams from entering arrangements to “hide” players from the expansion draft. There will likely be a lot more guidelines as a part of this rule.

Teams have to expose at least two forwards and one defensemen who have played either 40 games in the previous season (2016-17) or 70 games in the previous seasons (2015-17). Teams can only lose a max of one player.

The expansion team must select players that have a total value of between 60 and 100 percent of the 2016-17 salary cap.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Islanders Secure Cizikas

On June 2nd, the New York Islanders announced a 5 year, $16.75M ($3.35M per) deal with Casey Cizikas.  The RFA center was set to enter the off season as a free agent but chose to remain with the team that drafted him.  Cizikas commented on Twitter that he was “Blessed” to remain with the Islanders for the next 5 years.  After the deal, the Isles have $13.2M available in cap space (pending a $71.4M cap) with some important decisions to make on Nielsen (in talks), Martin and Okposo (no talks) set for free agency along with an interesting crop of RFA’s named Strome, Prince, Quine, Berube.  Especially with the Draft coming in a few weeks.

Cizikas, 25, was 8 and 21 for a career high 29 points with 1 SH and 4 GWG’s to his credit in 80 GP and added 3 playoff assists for New York.  But the contributions of Cizikas go beyond the stat sheet.  While not the biggest or the fastest of the team’s forward core, Cizikas has one of the strongest work ethics on the team and refuses to surrender.  Along with line mates Matt Martin & Cal Clutterbuck, the Isles 4th line were able to change to flow of games and agitate the opposition’s top players without remorse.  The Islanders must decide if that 4th line will remain intact with the future of Matt Martin uncertain at this point with the July 1st free agency period looming.

His ability on special teams (especially on the PK) and talents to disrupt the flow of an opponent’s game in either zone probably helped Garth Snow pull the trigger on a new deal to keep “Zeeker” in Brooklyn.  “Casey has developed into a highly dependable two-way center and we’re pleased to sign him through 2021,” General Manager Garth Snow said. “His energy and passion both on the ice and in the community, make him an invaluable piece of our lineup.”  I’ve always liked the snarl and punch Cizikas brings to a game.  I said as much to Garth Snow at a booster club gathering in 2013 when I mentioned that Cizikas would turn into one of the most important parts of the rebuild moving forward.  That was also the interview when I broke the news of the Isles then, officially unrevealed Winter Classic jerseys. (shameless self promotion)

The Isles 4th round, 92nd overall pick in 2009 has bought into the future plan by New York and is ready to do what he can to contribute to the cause.  “I’m excited to continue to be a part of this group as we build towards the ultimate goal, the Stanley Cup.”

Isles Notes:

Bracken Kearns and Ben Holmstrom have agreed to terms on a one-year, two-way contract with the Islanders.

Sound Tigers Notes:

The Sound Tigers have sign defenseman Ryan Obuchowski (Yale University) and forward Travis St. Denis (Quinnipiac University) to one-year, AHL contracts.