ON THE HORIZON – Isles ready to unveil draft plan

In less than 72 hours, general manager Garth Snow, team owner Charles Wang and a few members of the New York Islanders hockey brass will all step up to the stage at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh with hopes of adding another significant piece to its self-proclaimed “rebuilding” plan.

Selecting among the draft’s top five selections for a fourth time in the last five years – back in 2008, the Islanders held the fifth overall selection, but traded back twice and selected Windsor (OHL) center Josh Bailey with the ninth overall pick – the Islanders will have its opportunity to strengthen a glaring need on the blue line, as upwards of six defensemen are expected to be selected within the draft’s top-10 overall picks.

The Islanders could also use their pick to fortify an offense that finished 28th overall in the league in goals scored, netting a paltry 196 goals in 82 games – a 2.39 GPG average.

Therefore, here are a few options that I can foresee being viable when the New York Islanders – selecting fourth at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft – are on the clock.

Select D Ryan Murray with the 4th pick – At 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, the Everett (WHL) blue liner has drawn comparisons to former New Jersey Devils defenseman Scott Niedermayer. Mature beyond his years, the White City, Saskatchewan-born Murray, who will turn 19 on September 27, had the opportunity to play for Team Canada at the recent World Hockey Championships in Finland. Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith was more than impressed. Not overly physical, Murray relies more on positional play to fend off would-be attackers. Silky smooth with the puck, Murray has the potential to be a mainstay on the back end for the next 10-to-15 years. Ranked second in Monday’s final draft rankings by TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Murray could easily vie for a regular shift on any NHL blue line this fall.

Select F Filip Forsberg with the 4th pick – At 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, the Leksands IF (SWE) power forward has drawn comparisons to Anaheim’s Corey Perry. Forsberg, who will turn 18 on August 13, is already a veteran of the Leksand junior hockey program, having played in the Under-16 program at age 14. Two years later, Forsberg, whose hockey idol growing up was fellow Swede Peter Forsberg (no relation), played for Leksand’s under-20 team at just 16 years of age. He has also played internationally for Team Sweden in both the Under-18 (2011 & 2012) and Under-20 (2012) World Junior Championships, helping his country secure one gold and two silver medals. Forsberg possesses an accurate shot, is also a skillful skater and is one who isn’t afraid to be physical when need be. While he has already announced his intention to return to Leksands IF for the 2012-13 hockey campaign, an opportunity to play in the NHL next season might be too tempting to resist. Forsberg was ranked third in TSN’s final draft rankings.

Select D Griffin Reinhart with the 4th pick – At 6-foot-4, 207 pounds, the Edmonton (WHL) defenseman models his overall play after current Norris Trophy candidate Shea Weber of Nashville. Reinhart, who turned 18 back on January 24, has a hockey pedigree. Father Paul played 12 NHL seasons with the Vancouver Canucks and both the Atlanta and Calgary Flames. Brothers Max – a third round selection by Calgary in the 2010 Draft – and Sam – an expected top-five pick in the 2014 NHL Draft – both played for Kootenay (WHL) this past season. Still, what separates Griffin from his father and siblings is size. Reinhart isn’t afraid to throw his body around, yet he also has an offensive skill-set that continues to mature on a daily basis. Despite a stellar postseason run in leading his Oil Kings to a Western Hockey League championship crown, many hockey insiders still believe that Reinhart might be a year away from contributing on the NHL level. Nonetheless, when fully developed, Reinhart might be the one defenseman to come out of this defensive-laden draft whose play will stand above the rest. He was ranked fourth in TSN’s final draft rankings. Furthermore, during Tuesday evening’s mock draft – conducted by TSN’s Craig Button and Pierre McGuire – Reinhart was selected fourth overall by the Islanders.

Select F Alex Galchenyuk with the 4th pick – At 6-foot-2, 207 pounds, the Sarnia (OHL) center/winger has drawn comparisons to Chicago’s Marian Hossa. Galchenyuk, who turned 18 back on February 18, had a very difficult draft-eligible season. The Wisconsin-born, Russian-raised forward suffered a torn ACL during mini-camp, forcing him to miss all but two regular season games. Upon his return, he would once again center the team’s top line. Playing alongside winger and best friend Nail Yakupov – the consensus choice to be selected first overall this Friday evening – the duo would build chemistry albeit for a brief eight games. A son of a 22-year professional hockey veteran, Galchenyuk possesses a high hockey IQ. He also has world class hands, with the ability to beat an opponent with an accurate shot or a precise pass. Galchenyuk might return to Sarnia for a second full OHL season, but he has the make-up to make an NHL roster this fall. Galchenyuk was ranked fifth in TSN’s final draft rankings.

Trade up with Columbus to secure # 2 pick – With forward Rick Nash being shopped around the NHL over the past couple of months, will D-Day finally come at the NHL Entry Draft? If so, Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson might be ready to find Nash’s replacement at the draft. Having already committed $17.4 million on its top four defensemen – James Wisniewski, Jack Johnson, Marc Methot and Fedor Tyutin – for the 2012-13 season, selecting Murray might not be the team’s top priority. Would reuniting Nino Niederreiter with his Portland Winterhawks teammate Ryan Johansen be an enticing enough proposal for Howson to swap picks? With the fourth selection, the Blue Jackets would have its choice of two of the following three top-end forwards – Forsberg, Galchenyuk and Quebec’s (QMJHL) Mikhail Grigorenko.

Trade #4 pick to Carolina for # 8 & # 38 picks – Already rumored to be in play for a top-six forward to play alongside Eric Staal and/or Jeff Skinner, Carolina is willing to part with its first round pick – eighth overall. Discussions have been ongoing with both Pittsburgh and Edmonton in hopes of either reuniting Eric with his brother Jordan from Pittsburgh or simply trading the pick straight up for 22-year-old forward Sam Gagner from Edmonton. If both scenarios fall through, the Hurricanes might be inclined to trade up to nab the best available forward – Forsberg, Galchenyuk or Grigorenko. In return, the Islanders would have an opportunity to select amongst a trio of high-end defensemen – offensive-defenseman Morgan Rielly of Moose Jaw, energetic and highly-skilled defenseman Matthew Dumba of Red Deer or defensive-defenseman Jacob Trouba of the United States National Team Development Program. Second-tier defensemen such as Saskatoon’s Dalton Thrower, Kelowna’s Damon Severson and Erie’s Adam Pelech could also be available for the Islanders with the 38th pick.

Trade #4 pick to secure either an established top-six forward or a top-four defenseman – Rumors are rampant that restricted free agent Evander Kane wants out of Winnipeg. If available, could the trade of a pick, a young defenseman (i.e. Calvin De Haan) and Michael Grabner be enough to sway Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff’s mindset in trading both Kane and defenseman Tobias Enstrom, who will be entering the final year of a 4-year, $15 million contract this fall? Vancouver defenseman Alexander Edler – heading into his final season before becoming restricted – could also be had in a package.

DRAFT CHATTER: Notable names being bandied about just days before the draft include Nash, Montreal’s P.K. Subban, Nashville’s Shea Weber and just recently Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan. Realistically, Nash might not be willing to waive his no trade clause to come to Long Island. Subban, according to new Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin, is not available, while both Weber and Ryan’s trade value might cost the Islanders two-to-three top prospects, along with two high-end picks.

DEFENSEMEN AVAILABLE: Thirty-two year-old Douglas Murray (San Jose – 1 year remaining @ 2.5 million per), 25-year-old Niklas Hjalmarsson (Chicago – 2 years remaining @ 3.5 million per) and 29-year-old Keith Ballard (Vancouver – 3 years remaining @ 4.2 million per) could all be attractive fallback options for the Islanders. With only three defensemen – Mark Streit, Andrew McDonald and Travis Hamonic – under contract for the 2012-13 campaign, the aforementioned blue liners would not cost the Islanders more than a second round pick or a second-tier prospect – if that.

The 2012 NHL Entry Draft is just two days away … The Islanders should be on the clock at approximately 8 p.m. EST. Things should get quite interesting shortly thereafter.