Its amazing how stuff works in my head sometimes. Originally I wanted to compare the 99-00 Islanders Depth Chart to the 09-10 Islanders Depth Chart. If anyone can actually find a depth chart or the regular lines from the 99/00 season contact me. There were too many players who only played 40 games for me to guess. But instead I realized something else. The Five youngest players of each team had a good deal of potential that went unrealized for the Islanders. So lets compare.
Aged 18 and the Islanders #5 pick overall in 1999, he played in 81 games that season. With 34 Points but a minus 25 rating (only ahead of Chara’s minus 27) Conolly finished third on the team in scoring. It was a hopefully promising start to his Islanders career. He ended up being traded in the deal for Peca. Although solid but unspectacular, he tends to get hurt easy and hasn’t played a complete season in over five years now.
Aged 19 and the 21st pick overall in the 1998 draft. He was acquired as part of the Palffy/Smolinski trade with the Kings. He played 60 Games, Managed 8 points and was -13 on the year. The 60 games would be a career high for him as the following season he was in Milbury’s doghouse and sent to the AHL. He was eventually traded for Acouin. He spent last year and this year in the German Hockey League.
Aged 20 and the 3rd overall pick in the 97 draft. Olli was highly touted and was part of the same Palffy/Smolinski deal with Biron. This was his one season on the Island and he managed 21 points in 82 games. On the bright side he did finish with a Zero in the +/- column. He would later be dealt with Luongo for Parrish and Kvasha. He was the Panthers Captain for five seasons and has racked up a good career with 539 points in 827 games.
Aged 20 and the 5th Overall pick of the 97 Draft. Brewer found himself in Milbury’s doghouse rather quickly in his second season. He managed a minus 11 in 26 games with only two points. Brewer ended up being dealt in the deal for Hamrlik with the Oilers. It ended up better for Brewer, as he is currently captain of the Blues, a Gold Medal Olympian and considered a top dman.
Aged 20 and the 4th overall pick in the 97 draft. Originally angry at not making the team out of camp, he was eventually called up given Potvin’s trade. He had a good season for a rookie on a horrible team, matching or improving upon the stats of former All-Star Potvin and older Weekes. He ended up being dealt with Jokinen for Parrish and Kvasha. He is a four time all-star, the captain of the Canucks, and has more Records then I could list here.
I’m actually surprised at how Talented the 99-00 team was. Three of the Top Five picks of the 97 Draft played for the team. That might be the only time that’s happened. All of them except Biron are still in the NHL Today, and Luongo – Jokinen – Brewer might have been a good core for any team to build around. All three of them have been captains of their respective teams. So how does the future hold up?
2009 – 2010 Islanders
Aged 18 and the first overall pick of the 2009 draft. He currently leads all rookies in Points and Goals, and should be leading in the Calder trophy if the Islanders continue challenging for the playoffs. Obviously one year does not make a career, but Tavares has been everything the Islanders could have wanted out of him this year. Teams are game planing to keep him out of “his office” in front of the net.
Aged 19 and the #9 overall pick in 2008. Although he hasn’t been the scoring machine he was in the OHL (At least this season is an improvement on last) his defensive play has been highly rated. His plus 6 is second on the team and he is third on the team in goals. I sense this could go either way, but I’ll be happy if he just ends up a solid defensive center.
Aged 21 and the 7th overall pick of the 2006 draft. Okposo is proving that 39 points in 65 games last season (Good for 2nd on the team) was no fluke. He’s already racked up 27 points in 41 games which is good for 2nd on the team and puts him on pace for 54 points barring injury. Okposo looks like he is going to be a force for years to come on the Island.
Aged 22 and a former 6th Round pick in 2006. MacDonald is a sign of something new on the Island, patience. Given time to work up to the NHL level, MacDonald was an all star in the AHL last year, led all Bridgeport dmen in points and was sixth on the team in points himself. Over the course of 18 games MacDonald has managed a plus 5 on the season and has managed to earn the trust of Scott Gordon and given more ice time as his play showed he was worthy. MacDonald might be a drop in the bucket, or he might be a long term dman for the Islanders. But after years of late round picks being wasted he is a good sign of what can come of patience and the right player
Aged 23 and drafted 47th overall in 2004. Although he hasn’t been impressive enough to earn a full time slot this season (11 Points in 26 games). He is yet another sign of a change of culture. This is now his fourth season on the Island and there is no talk of doghouses. There is no GM running around bashing him in the press. There is just that feeling that as the Islanders improve, this might be one of the last chances for Comeau to prove he can play with the big boys. Whereas in the past his 15 points in 51 games in 2007/08 might have meant the trading block, he’s still on the Island knocking on the door and working for the chance.
This article became something I didn’t think it would. Its not about a comparison of Luongo – Jokinen – Brewer to Tavares – Bailey – Okposo. Instead its a story of how the culture of a team can change. How a team can leave the dark ages and show you the light is at the end of the tunnel. How one man can shamelessly destroy a team. Of the 99 team, Luongo played 24 games as an Islander, Conolly 163, Biron 74, Jokinen 82 and Brewer 89. You can’t look at a 20 year old or younger playing under 100 games and say what the future will be. By the same token, Comeau has 133 games, MacDonald has 110 AHL games, Bailey 109, Okposo 115 and Tavares 41. By now in the past Okposo and Bailey would probably be on the trading block, Comeau would be long gone and MacDonald would have never been called up (A questionable Vet would have been brought in).
So for the first time in years, I can look at the Islanders and feel like the future might be bright. That in a few years we might be talking about the cup. I don’t have to worry when Snow goes to the Podium at the draft because he’s not insane. Lets just hope the future on the Island is as bright for Tavares – Okposo – Bailey as it was once for Luongo – Brewer – Jokinen.