2012 DRAFT PROFILE – Slater Koekkoek, D, Peterborough (OHL)

Each week until the entry draft in June, Point Blank will be reporting on the top prospects in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft. This week’s profile is defender Slater Koekkoek, ranked as the 23rd best North American skater in the final CSS rankings. You can keep a watch on our profiles via the “2012 Draft” tab at the top of the page and check out profiles of Islanders’ young guns filed under the “NYI Prospects” tab. We’re also working on a mock draft, which will be published next week.

On Monday evening, 105 draft hopefuls converged on Toronto to participate in the annual National Hockey League Scouting Combine. Thirty-two defensemen were seeking to make that lasting impression on the bevy of scouts, representing all 30 NHL organizations. Peterborough’s (OHL) Slater Koekkoek, once looked at as a potential top-10 overall selection in this June’s Entry Draft in Pittsburgh, was simply hoping to show the many team representatives – including medical staffs – that he is physically ready to perform.

Back in late November, Koekkoek – the 6-foot-3, 200-pound blue-liner from Mountain (population 11,225), Ontario – suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in a regular-season game in Windsor. The injury caused him to miss his team’s final 40 regular games, and left his draft standing in question.

“I had surgery on my left shoulder back in January,” said Koekkoek, while rehabbing back in February. “Hopefully, not playing won’t have an effect on when I get selected.”

Despite the inactivity, which limited Koekkoek’s point-scoring total to 18 – five goals and 13 assists – in just 26 OHL games, TSN’s Craig Button has still pegged the potential top-pairing defenseman as a fringe first-round selection, ranking him as his 33rd overall prospect in June’s NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh. To read more of this story, click here

IPB’s Potential Options for Islanders' #4 Pick

In less than a month’s time, Islanders general manager Garth Snow and his draft-day decision-making will once again be held under the NHL microscope. Five years removed from a first-round ouster at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres, Snow and his hockey brass will look to add an additional piece to the team’s “rebuilding” core, when the Islanders and its 29 counterparts take aim at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center on June 22 -23 for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Snow or my personal choice – David Volek – will make a selection that not only the organization, but most importantly the Islanders’ loyal fan-base can look at as a key turning point to its recent struggles. Nineteen years ago, Volek netted a Game 7 overtime-winner in the Division Finals – at the recently-demolished Igloo – that would halt the Penguins’ two-year Stanley Cup reign. His presence might not only give the organization some badly-needed luck, but also would tweak a bitter foe in front of its faithful fan base.

Possessing the fourth overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft will also present the organization some interesting alternatives on which they can vastly improve their present-day hockey club.

Here are some viable options that I have compiled, in which the structure of the current-day and future Islanders could be transformed significantly.

Islanders select the Best Player Available at #4 – To read more of this story, click here

2012 DRAFT PROFILE – Dalton Thrower, D, Saskatoon (WHL)

Each week until the entry draft in June, Point Blank will be reporting on the top prospects in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft. This week’s profile is defender Dalton Thrower, ranked as the 26th best North American skater in the final CSS rankings. You can keep a watch on our profiles via the “2012 Draft” tab at the top of the page and check out profiles of Islanders’ young guns filed under the “NYI Prospects” tab. We’re also working on a mock draft, which will be published in early June.

Many hockey insiders marvel at the talents of Red Deer defenseman Matthew Dumba. However, others question whether Dumba – at six-foot, 185 pounds – could withstand the pounding of a rigorous 82-game NHL schedule, playing as frenetically as he has over the past two-plus seasons in the Western Hockey League.

Saskatoon (WHL) defenseman Dalton Thrower finds himself in a similar boat as Dumba, yet not with the same fan-fare. Still, the six-foot, 190-pound Thrower’s play is synonymous with his name. The North Vancouver, British Columbia-native enjoys throwing his body around, engaging physically in a manner that set many-a-tone for his Blades over the past three seasons.

“I grew up a Canucks fan, watching (current Florida Panther and former Canucks defenseman) Jovo (Ed Jovanovski) play,” said the 18-year-old Thrower. “Right now, I love watching (current Canucks defenseman) Kevin Bieksa play. To read more of this story, click here

2012 DRAFT PROFILE – Dalton Thrower, D, Saskatoon (WHL)

Each week until the entry draft in June, Point Blank will be reporting on the top prospects in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft. This week’s profile is defender Dalton Thrower, ranked as the 26th best North American skater in the final CSS rankings. You can keep a watch on our profiles via the “2012 Draft” tab at the top of the page and check out profiles of Islanders’ young guns filed under the “NYI Prospects” tab. We’re also working on a mock draft, which will be published in early June.

Many hockey insiders marvel at the talents of Red Deer defenseman Matthew Dumba. However, others question whether Dumba – at six-foot, 185 pounds – could withstand the pounding of a rigorous 82-game NHL schedule, playing as frenetically as he has over the past two-plus seasons in the Western Hockey League.

Saskatoon (WHL) defenseman Dalton Thrower finds himself in a similar boat as Dumba, yet not with the same fan-fare. Still, the six-foot, 190-pound Thrower’s play is synonymous with his name. The North Vancouver, British Columbia-native enjoys throwing his body around, engaging physically in a manner that set many-a-tone for his Blades over the past three seasons.

“I grew up a Canucks fan, watching (current Florida Panther and former Canucks defenseman) Jovo (Ed Jovanovski) play,” said the 18-year-old Thrower. “Right now, I love watching (current Canucks defenseman) Kevin Bieksa play. To read more of this story, click here

2012 DRAFT PROFILE – Derrick Pouliot, D, Portland (WHL)

Each week until the entry draft in June, Point Blank will be reporting on the top prospects in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft. This week’s profile is defender Derrick Pouliot, ranked as the 12th best North American skater in the final CSS rankings. You can keep a watch on our profiles via the “2012 Draft” tab at the top of the page and check out profiles of Islanders’ young guns filed under the “NYI Prospects” tab. We’re also working on a mock draft, which will be published in early June.

As the Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers take aim on collision courses in their respective Conference Finals, the other 26 NHL organizations – thirsting for future postseason success – have already begun working diligently on their own particular offseason plans.

Having to decide which free agent – unrestricted or restricted – to either retain or pursue is a discussion that has been or should be bandied about in pro personnel offices throughout the league, with free agency commencing on July 1. However, what could determine the direction a specific organization might take in free agency could hinge on the success it has just a week earlier at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh.

Scouting departments have scoured talent all throughout Europe, Canada and the United States over the past 12-to-24 months, in hopes of finding that next diamond in the rough. Some organizations, such as Montreal, Buffalo and Toronto are seeking top-six forwards to complement a defense corps, budding with blue-chip talent. Other franchises, such as Tampa Bay, Columbus and the Islanders have accrued a bevy of young forwards over the past few drafts, yet lack the depth on the back-end to take that necessary step to pursue that coveted playoff berth.

Teams pursuing the next Drew Doughty, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Adam Larsson and Dan Girardi on defense need to look no further than Canada’s Western Hockey League (WHL), where an expected four blue-liners – Everett’s Ryan Murray, Moose Jaw’s Morgan Rielly, Edmonton’s Griffin Reinhart and Red Deer’s Matthew Dumba – could hear their names called amongst the draft’s top-10 overall selections.

Portland’s Derrick Pouliot, a six-foot, 190-pound defenseman, hailing from Weyburn, Saskatchewan, is making his case to be mentioned with the aforementioned quartet, after anchoring the Winterhawks’ defense through a second-consecutive WHL postseason run. To read more of this story, click here

2012 DRAFT PROFILE – Tom Wilson, F, Plymouth (OHL)

Each week until the entry draft in June, Point Blank will be reporting on the top prospects in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft. This week’s profile is forward Tom Wilson, ranked as the 15th best North American skater in the final CSS rankings. You can keep a watch on our profiles via the “2012 Draft” tab at the top of the page and check out profiles of Islanders’ young guns filed under the “NYI Prospects” tab.

Despite failing to reach the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season, the 2011-12 campaign did provide a record-setting moment for one New York Islander. Third-year forward Matt Martin’s 374 hits not only bested Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown’s 293 for tops in the NHL, it also eclipsed Minnesota’s Cal Clutterbuck’s previous NHL high-water mark of 356, set back in the 2008-09 season. Yet, there were many-a-night in which the Windsor, Ontario native was left alone on a proverbial island, forced to fend for himself against an opponent’s enforcer or two.

Stressing a dire need to add necessary bulk to its hockey club, the Islanders organization spent three of its first four selections in last year’s NHL Entry Draft on skillful teens with size – 6-foot-4, 205-pound defenseman Scott Mayfield, picked in the second round (34th overall), followed by 6-foot-3, 205-pound forward Johan Sundstrom, also chosen in the second round (50th overall) , concluding with 6-foot-4, 201-pound defenseman Andrey Pedan, chosen in the third round (63rd overall).

With an eye towards this June’s NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh, the Islanders organization – selecting fourth overall – will have its choice of either adding another top-six forward to its stable of raw, yet highly-touted core of forwards – Leksands IF (SWE) winger Filip Forsberg, Quebec (QMJHL) center Mikhail Grigorenko and Sarnia (OHL) center Alex Galchenyuk are all viable options – or address a pressing need on the blue-line – Everett (WHL) defenseman Ryan Murray, Red Deer (WHL) blue-liner Matthew Dumba or Moose Jaw (WHL) rear-guarder Morgan Rielly have all been mentioned as potential top-five picks. To read more of this story, click here

2012 DRAFT PROFILE – Brendan Gaunce, F, Belleville (OHL)

Each week until the entry draft in June, Point Blank will be reporting on the top prospects in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft. This week’s profile is forward Brendan Gaunce, ranked as the 13th best North American skater in the final CSS rankings. You can keep a watch on our profiles via the “2012 Draft” tab at the top of the page and check out profiles of Islanders’ young guns filed under the “NYI Prospects” tab.

Belleville (OHL) Bulls head coach George Burnett never second-guessed his decision in naming then 17-year-old Brendan Gaunce an assistant captain in just his second junior hockey league season. Now, many National Hockey League scouts are touting the Markham, Ontario native’s leadership skills and believe that his attributes – both on and off the ice – should translate into the quintessential captain on the professional level in the not-so-distant future.

“From the moment he stepped into our locker room, he had all the qualities that you would want in a leader,” said Burnett, a 21-year coaching veteran, who has spent the past eight seasons behind the bench in Belleville. “He’s a guy who always wants to be in key situations.

“From his skating to his grit to his overall compete level, Brendan possesses the great habits that you would want in a hockey player,”

Compared most favorably with current Pittsburgh Penguin center Jordan Staal – a second overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft – due to his size, superior skating ability and overall skill-set, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Gaunce possesses the hockey pedigree that professional organizations salivate over. It is however the drive that the now 18-year-old center is blessed with that may catapult his draft standing from what was thought to be a mid-to-late first round pick into a top-10 overall selection in June’s Entry Draft in Pittsburgh. To read more of this story, click here