With the 2010 NHL Entry Draft less than a week away, we take a look at five possible players the New York Islanders could identify as players they could pick up with the fifth-overall pick in the first round.
Having watched the Islanders as a season ticket holder for the last six years—and a credentialed blogger for the last three—it's easy to identify what type of players the Islanders really need to focus on in this upcoming draft.
While the cupboard is chock full of up-and-coming offensive and defensive talent, the Islanders really lack that powerhouse on the back end. They need someone who can punish the opposition with a crushing hit, but has the tools to be a quarterback on the power play and a handful to deal with offensively.
Luckily enough for the Islanders, there are a few great defensemen in the top 15 of 2010. Yet, at the same time, there are a handful of exciting talented forwards that can make Garth Snow's job a little tougher than in years past.
Standing at 6'3" and 195 lbs is defenseman Erik Gudbranson, a player whom many of the teams in the top five find on their respective draft boards.
Gudbranson is a player that doesn't come around often. Despite his size and power, he is a mobile defenseman who isn't afraid to play with an edge and has the grit the Islanders sorely lack.
Although he may be limited offensively in comparison to some of the other d-men in the top 15, Gudbranson is said to possess a heavy shot from the point—something else the Isles have needed on the power play for quite some time.
Personally, Erik Gudbranson is the player I hope is still available for the Islanders at number five; he is one of those players that any team in a rebuild SHOULD build their defensive corps around.
Gudbranson finished this season, with the Kingston Fronteacs, with two goals and 21 assists for 23 points in 41 games.
Should the Florida Panthers or the Columbus Blue Jackets identify Gudbranson as the defenseman they need in their organizations, I would have no problem with Garth Snow should he announce Cam Fowler's name at the podium with the fifth selection.
Fowler stands at 6'3" and 200 lbs, not all too much different from Gudbranson. Where he does differ is in his skill set.
Fowler is a two-way defenseman whom many scouts claim has very few weaknesses to his game. He backs up his size with a strong skating ability and is outstanding positionally.
During his time with the Windsor Spitfires, he has been known to eat up lots of minutes on the back end and has been played in every situation.
The addition of Fowler-with the likes of De-Haan, Hamonic, Katic, Ness, and Donovan-will give the Islanders a great group of young defensemen in the system.
Fowler finished his season with the Spirtfires with eight goals and 47 assists for 55 points in 55 games.
Shifting gears here for a third choice, we move to forward Brett Connolly—someone who has been talked about the last several weeks almost as much as Hall and Seguin.
Connolly spent much of last season battling a hip injury that has made many of the scouts leery on selecting him in the top ten of the first round. His agent and the player himself have been doing their best to assure everyone the injury is no longer an issue, something that should have been straightened out during the combine a few weeks ago.
Brett Connolly is one of those players many teams may regret not taking a chance on, simply for his pure offensive ability. He stands at 6'2" and 181 lbs, and would fit in just fine up front for the Islanders, along side Okposo, Tavares and Bailey.
Scouts claim Connolly has a gifted pair of hands and he often finds himself in areas of the ice where the puck finds him.
An important note, in his rookie season with the Prince George Cougars, he had 30 goals and 30 assists for 60 points in 65 games as a 16-year old—the first time since Patrick Marleau did the same feat in the 95-96 season.
With a name like Nino Niederreiter, you almost have to pick him for the sake of having a perfect hockey name (and nickname—El Nino).
All kidding aside, Niederreiter stands at 6'2" and weighs in at 203 lbs, he is a left-handed shot and has the hockey world buzzing over his offensive potential.
After doing some research on Nino, several scouts gushed over his passing, shooting, creativity, patience, maturity, and most importantly, defensive play. It's no wonder this player has the potential to be drafted higher than any other Swiss player before him (Michel Riesen at 14th overall in 1997 owns the current record).
In his rookie season with the Portland Winterhawks, Nino Niederreiter had 36 goals and 24 assists for 60 points in 65 games.
A great offensive selection for the Islanders, should Connolly be snatched up prior to their fifth selection, and in some cases—a better selection given there is no question over his health. He'd also have a fellow countryman on the team in Mark Streit, which can't hurt.
Going back to defensemen, another player listed in the top-15 is Brandon Gormley. TSN has described Gormley as "The Poor Man's Nick Lidstrom," citing his intelligence, play on either side of the puck, his positioning, and his anticipation.
Listed at 6'2" and 190 lbs, Gromley has the size the Islanders need, but lacks the clear-cut talent of Gudbrandson and Fowler, but that doesn't mean with some good coaching and a chance to bulk up—he cannot flourish on the Islanders.
As part of the Moncton Wildcats, Gormley has become a solid part of their defensive corps. His ability to break up rushes and make the smart, safe defensive play makes him important in all situations.
Gormley finished this season with Moncton with nine goals and 34 assists for a total of 43 points in 58 games.