New York Islanders Have Decisions to Make With That "Other" First-Round Pick

Eddie O'Malley@ed_omalleyContributor IJune 1, 2009

UNIONDALE, NY - OCTOBER 31:  An 'Ice Girl' of the New York Islanders carries a Islanders flag after the team defeated the Chicago Blackhawks on October 31, 2006 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The NHL draft is less than a month away. We all know that the Isles will most likely draft John Tavares or Victor Hedman with the first overall pick. 

There is also the outside chance that Matt Duchene could be drafted or that the pick could be dealt. But I do not feel the Isles will go in either of these directions.

I also feel very strongly that the Isles will take Tavares with the first pick. I think there's too much Tavares can do for this franchise, on and off the ice, for the Isles to pass him up.

The Isles do have another first-round pick (the 26th-overall from San Jose) to go along with the first as well.

There are many different directions the Isles can go with this pick. 

Do they draft another forward (assuming Tavares is taken first), or take a defenseman at number 26? Or do they package the pick with one or two of their three second-round picks to move up in the first round?

If Zach Kassian falls to around number 15, then the Isles should try and trade up to get him. Kassian is a big bruising power forward, who hits, fights, and scores.  He went 24-39-63, with 136 PIMs last season in 61 games with Peterborough of the OHL.

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If Kassian is taken earlier in the first round, then the Isles could also sit at 26 and take a guy like Jordan Caron, who could be available there. 

Caron is another big forward, who went 36-31-67 in 56 games with Rimouski of the Quebec league. Caron is a player with some good offensive upside and could fit nicely on this team's second line with Josh Bailey and maybe Sean Bergenheim.

Regardless of whether the Isles trade up or stay put at 26, I feel they should draft a second forward. This team needs more offense and potential top-six forwards in the organization. 

Don't get me wrong, I know this team needs defensive help as well. They finished last overall in the NHL last year, so they need help everywhere.

The problem with the defense is they already have Mark Streit, Bruno Gervais, Brendan Witt, Radek Martinek, Andy Sutton, and Freddy Meyer under contract for next season.  Throw in Jack Hillen, who if re-signed, played well enough to merit a chance to compete for a spot in the lineup during training camp.

That already gives you seven defenseman going into training camp next season, so it may be hard for a rookie to find playing time.  The forwards are not as set in stone, so there is some room to maneuver guys around there.

The other reason I would go with another forward is that defenseman generally take longer to develop. This rebuild could go a little quicker if they build the offense through the draft, and the defense through free agency—like they did with the Mark Streit signing last season.

Regardless of what the Isles do with this pick, this is a very crucial draft for the franchise. GM Garth Snow did a pretty good job replenishing the system in last years draft and now he needs to get that big stud prospect at number one—continuing to replenish the system so that this team can be a contender again in a couple years.