NHL DRAFT PREVIEW — Finally, the Draft is Not the Most Important Part of the Off-Season

Kevin Schultz, Islanders Point Blank:

This Sunday, the NHL will gather at the Prudential Center in Newark for the 2013 NHL Draft. It’s going to be a jam-packed day, as all seven rounds of the draft will be held on the same day.

For the first time in GM Garth Snow’s tenure, the Islanders first round pick will be outside of the top-10 (in 2007, Snow’s first draft, the Islanders didn’t have a first round pick). This will also be the first time the team has selected outside of the top-5 since trading down to select Josh Bailey ninth in 2008. So, it’s been a while since the draft wasn’t quite so important.

After making the playoffs this season and with a whole ton of prospects waiting to get their chance, this will be the first time in quite a while that training camp in September will matter more for the franchise than June’s draft. Sure, the 15th pick is nice and — assuming the Islanders don’t trade up — it will produce an above average prospect but there is no ‘can’t miss’ player to be taken at 15. There is likely no player who could be taken in that spot that will be the difference between the Islanders and the playoffs in 2013-14.

Finally, the Islanders fortunes will rest with the players they already have (or maybe will obtain through free agency), and not with those they will select at the draft. Whomever they take at #15 could be a factor in the future two or three years down the road, but they won’t be a factor in 2013-14 and likely won’t be one the following year either.

For the Islanders, whether they improve next year and go deeper in the playoffs (or make the playoffs at all) will depend on the current roster of players, the dozen or so prospects that will have a chance to make the team at training camp, and maybe a free agent or two. The draft matters, as it always does, but in terms of next season’s success or failure, the draft doesn’t matter so much.

Welcome to the NHL Draft without most of the ‘ohmygod they’re going to screw it up, aren’t they?‘ anxiety, folks. And so begins our NHL Draft Preview.