It might be two months away, and the playoffs are barely underway, but people are already asking the big question: Who will the New York Islanders select with the first overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft?
The Islanders, notorious for one-sided deals that always seem to favor the team that they are trading with, are the subject of a lot of talk about whose name they will speak into the microphone at the podium on June 26th in Montreal.
Conventional wisdom would point to the Isles selecting one of two players; the OHL’s John Tavares, or Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman.
Tavares, who is just 18 years of age, has been playing professional hockey in Canada for four years after gaining “exceptional player” status from the OHL when he was 14. In that time, he has topped 100 points three times, including this past season when he split time between the Oshawa Generals and London Knights.
Even at his young age, Tavares already has an impressive resume. He is a natural scorer, totaling 215 goals including 72 in the 2006-07 season with Oshawa. He has won two gold medals in the World Junior Championships as a member of Team Canada.
Not the most fleet footed of players, the only real criticism of Tavares’ game is his lack of speed. However, the Isle’s possess a lot of speed overall as a team, so that shouldn’t be a huge concern for them.
Hedman, on the other hand, is a strong skater and has good offensive skills for such a large player, though that doesn’t always translate to his point totals (25 points in 82 senior Swedish Elite League games). He plays smart, and doesn’t make the rookie mistakes that other young players tend to make. He has also won two silver medals at the World Juniors with Team Sweden.
From the small town of Ornskoldsvik, he shares the same hometown as the Ranger’s Markus Naslund and Vancouver’s Sedin twins. Former Avalanche superstar Peter Forsberg is also from the town.
At 6’5″ and 230 pounds, Hedman certainly has the size that New York would love to have patrolling their blue line.
But does any of this matter to the Islanders, who are notorious for making, let’s say, terrible deals.
It’s unlikely that they will trade this pick. Either one of these players has the make-up to be a stellar NHL player. Tavares might get the edge here, simply because he is an offensive machine, something the Isles desperately need, while they already have a plethora of young, hungry defensemen.
So expect to see Tavares putting on an Islanders sweater in two months time.
That is, of course, if they don’t repeat their same old mistakes.