Islanders

Gallof: Hockey Prospectus Draft Expert Says Islanders Should Stay Course, Take Forward

Corey Pronman Loves Franchise's Farm System, Says D-Man Not Worth 4th Pick
Mikhail Grigorenko

Might the Islanders get a chance to take Russian forward Mikhail Grigorenko with the No. 4 pick in the upcoming NHL Draft? (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (WFAN) — The NHL Draft is less than two weeks away and rumors continue to run rampant over what the Islanders will do with their first-round selection.

Some experts have suggested they follow their usual blueprint and take a forward, while the fans seem to be clamoring for a cornerstone defenseman. Still others, though, think General Manager Garth Snow should trade the pick.

Well, we’re going to find out when Snow takes to the podium at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh on June 22.

In the interim, though, it never hurts to get opinions from experts who specialize in just this sort of thing.

Next up on the docket is NHL draft guru Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus and ESPN fame.

What is your opinion of the current crop of Islanders prospects and those kids who are appearing on the NHL club as the rebuild now enters it’s fourth year?

Pronman: “The Islanders have one of the best farm systems in hockey. There’s a lot of talent and depth at every position. The rebuild isn’t done yet as I don’t think most of their young talent is going to peak in the next year or two, but there’s a lot of great pieces in that organization. On the club, Tavares needs no extra praise, I’m a big Hamonic fan and think he’ll be a great defenseman on that team for a while. Nino probably shouldn’t have been in the NHL this year, but he’ll be a top six player as well.”

Do you see any pattern of “style” in regard to the Islanders drafting over recent years?

Pronman: “I don’t see a particular pattern or style. However, something other scouts and myself have noticed is how efficient this hockey operations group has been. The Islanders don’t exactly throw around dollars, and thus this is a pretty small scouting staff, but they’ve managed to draft very well these last few seasons considering that.”

Do you agree with the draft philosophy that defensemen are harder to develop and thus some teams seem to be cautious about taking them too early?

Pronman: “Absolutely. They are a risk to that and have more uncertainty in their projections out of the draft than forwards do. They aren’t like goalies who are a crap shoot at best in the draft, but their production out of the draft isn’t as tightly correlated to their draft slot as forwards are.”

Of course, just about every Isles fan is demanding a defenseman, thinking of what is needed on the NHL level right away, despite the fact that it takes years to develop. What is the usual development time and are there any defenders this year that the Islanders should consider bucking their trend and contemplating a selection at the No. 4 spot?

Pronman: “Even the ‘NHL ready’ defenders out of the draft are only usually ready to be a third pairing defender in year 1. A reasonable time for them to become notable producers is about 2-3 years post-draft, and about 4-5 years for them to peak. Most top defense prospects aren’t NHL ready though, and you may have to add another 1-2 years onto that for pre-NHL development time. You’ll sometimes find outliers like Drew Doughty and Alex Pietrangelo who play tough minutes and play at a high level right out of the gates, but even for top prospects that’s pretty rare. My top five players in the draft are forwards, and if I were in the Islanders shoes, I would take one of them.”

What about on offense? Is there anyone the Islanders should pay attention to that might fit either their system or should be considered in your opinion at the No. 4 spot?

Pronman: “Like I said in the previous question, my top 5 players in this draft are forwards. Yakupov, Grigorenko, Galchenyuk, Forsberg and Teravainen in that order. The top three I think are notably better than the latter two though.”

How hard is it estimating Galchenyuk’s and Rielly’s draft value and projection when there is a much smaller sample size from this past season due to injury?

Pronman: “There’s a lot of risk, especially on Galchenyuk, who barely played at all this season. While I love their talent levels, and I have both ranked pretty high, there’s a lot of missing information on those players. John McFarland and Angelo Esposito were thought of as sure fire top-5 picks in their pre-draft seasons and if you drafted based on just that info, they would have gone there. Same goes for Matia Marcantuoni and Nick Ebert this season who if the draft happened in August, may have both gone in the top 10. That’s why it’s very risky to have the bulk of your information come from a pre-draft season, as you don’t know how those players would have looked over a full draft season.”

There seems to be a noted increase in Teuvo Teravainen’s stock value late this year. Is he the real deal?

Pronman: “Absolutely, he’s a high-end prospect. Kids who play in Europe tend to rise late as if their development goes very well as most head scouts don’t get eyes on them until the February and April tournaments.”

How valuable do you really think the NHL Combine is?

Pronman: “From a prospect evaluation standpoint it isn’t really. It’s a nice little event that is held, and it gets the media involved with the prospects a month before the draft, but most teams know these players inside and out on a hockey, physical and personal level way before the combine happens.”

If you were to predict where some guys outside the projected or assumed top 10 could land within it, who would they be and why? Is there the potential for a real surprise in the top 10 or if a team in the top 5, like the Isles, should consider moving back?

Pronman: “Pontus Aberg is a guy who I see as a top 10 talent that I know isn’t a universal thought in the industry, but there are some scouts who feel the same way.”

Stay tuned this week for more on the Islanders draft insight from other top draft gurus and experts, including TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

Read more column from B.D. Gallof and follow him on Twitter at @BDGallof

Do you agree with this expert’s assessment of the Islanders’ draft strategy? Please offer your thoughts below …