Today we take a look at the first post-draft seasons of the six players the Islanders selected in Rounds 4, 5 and 6 last summer. Here’s yesterday’s story on the draftees from Rounds 1-3, from Josh Bailey to Kirill Petrov.
* A reminder about our grading system. Please note that the grades are not judgments of the quality of the Islanders’ draft selection or a projection of the players’ potential. The grade is strictly based on the strides they have made this season. If Kirill Petrov’s grade is far worse than Travis Hamonic’s, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s not going to be a better pro. Less than one year after the draft, it’s too early to tell which draft picks the Islanders will eventually sign.
4. Matt Donovan (96th overall), D, Cedar Rapids (USHL): The 6-0, 190-pound defenseman (above left) may be the hardest case to judge because he is playing one final season in the United States Hockey League before starting his collegiate career in the fall at Denver University. Donovan is 15-21-36 in 41 games with Cedar Rapids and leads all USHL defensemen in scoring. All eyes will be on Donovan to see if he can take the next step at a top college program, but so far, so good.
Development Grade: B+
4. David Ullstrom (102nd overall), LW, HV71 (Sweden): The highlight of Ullstrom’s season was his strong play for Team Sweden at the World Junior Championships. Around that experience, the 6-3 wing has bounced between fourth-line play for HV-71 in the Swedish Elite League and first-line duty with their Allsvenskan (“first division”) squad. Outside of the WJC, he has not had enough icetime to make this a highly-productive year of development. He is 1-3-4 in 19 games in the Elitserian and has hopes to play in North America in the near future. Here’s our story with Islanders European chief scout Vellu-Pekka Kautonen while Ullstrom was at the WJC.
Development Grade: B-
5. Kevin Poulin (126th overall), G, Victoriaville (QMJHL): The Islanders took a mid-round flier on the talented 6-2 goalie and the results so far are mixed. Poulin is 16-16-2 with a 2.92 GAA and .909 save percentage in the high-octane Quebec League. No doubt the Islanders will take a long look at his play for Victoriaville in the playoffs, plus all of next season, before deciding if it’s worth it to sign him.
Development Grade: C
5. Matt Martin (146th overall), LW, Sarnia (OHL): The Islanders may not say this publicly, but Martin has become a late-round pride-and-joy prospect for the scouting staff. After a 38-point season on the third line last year, Martin is a 30-plus goal scoring captain this season. The 6-2 tough guy is 30-29-59 with 113 PIMs in 52 games. Here’s our article on Martin and his Sarnia teammates (and follow NYI draftees) Mark Katic and Justin DiBenedetto. We’ll have another story on Martin – the finale of our Chronicles of Sarnia trilogy – later this week.
Development Grade: A
6. Jared Spurgeon (154th overall), D, Spokane (WHL): If you can believe it, the Islanders have another undersized defenseman in the system – this one over-achieving impressively since draft day. The 5-9, 185-pound Spurgeon is 10-29-39 in 47 games this season with the Chiefs, and lately he has really taken off. A serious injury to blueline partner Jared Cowan – a near-lock to be a top 10 pick overall this June – has put all of the pressure on Spurgeon, and so far he has embraced it. For Spokane to defend its Memorial Cup, the Islanders’ sixth round pick will have to lead the way on defense.
Development Grade: B+
6. Justin DiBenedetto (175th overall), LW, Sarnia (OHL): The Islanders used the last of their 13 picks in the 2009 draft on DiBenedetto, a center with a few question marks around him. Skeptics believed he couldn’t continue his scoring pace without ’07-08 linemate Steve Stamkos, the first overall pick in the draft. But all the 5-11 DiBenedetto has done this season is prove them wrong, night after night. He is 39-40-79 in 51 games this season. That’s fourth in Ontario Hockey League scoring behind 2009 first or second overall pick John Tavares, Anaheim 2007 second round pick Eric Tangradi and potential 2010 first pick Taylor Hall. Here’s a story we did with Sarnia GM Alan Millar on DiBenedetto, Martin and Katic.
I can’t find anyone in the game with the guts to boldly declare, positively or negatively, what kind of pro the kid they call “DiBo” will be. That’s probably because no one knows. But say this for DiBenedetto – he couldn’t be doing more to earn his shot.
Development Grade: A+
The 2008 Roundup
An admittedly premature grouping of the Islanders’ draft picks of 2008:
Safe bets to play in the NHL someday: Travis Hamonic, Matt Martin, plus already-there Josh Bailey
Strong NHL upside, but Miles to Go: Aaron Ness, Corey Trivino, Kirill Petrov
Underdogs, but Definitely with a Shot: Matt Donovan, Jared Spurgeon, Justin DiBenedetto, David Ullstrom
It’s Early, but Still Lots to Prove: David Toews, Jyri Niemi, Kevin Poulin
Comment on Prospects here. I’ll be at Islanders practice today.