New York Islanders draft targets
(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

With the 2018 NHL Draft fast approaching, here’s a look at seven potential targets for the New York Islanders.

“He has the size, the speed and the shot,” a scout once remarked to me, “so I’ll never understand how he didn’t pan out in the NHL.”

If there’s anything to learn from the pre-draft processes of years’ past, it’s that guessing how a bunch of 18-year-olds will mature and develop is a frivolous exercise. Nail Yakupov was “destined to become one of the true must-see players around the league.” Griffin Reinhart was “potentially a Gary Suter-type — physical, two-way defender.” Slater Koekkoek had “all the pieces.

New York Islanders


The common denominator between these players is talent. And, ultimately, failed expectations.

There is no secret recipe for evaluating an NHL prospect. There is no magical attribute, no hidden quality, no mystery talent. At the end of the day, scouts must trust their intuition and hope that with the right surrounding cast and player development team, these highly-talented prospects will become highly-talented players.

Here’s a look at seven potential targets for the Islanders:

Joe Veleno, C, Drummondville (QMJHL)

Date of Birth: Jan. 13, 2000 (18)
Place of Birth: Montréal, Quebec
Ht/Wt: 6’1”, 194 lbs
Shoots: Left
Rankings: #12 (Future Considerations), #10 (ISS Hockey), #8 (NHL Central Scouting, NA Skaters)

Background

Three years ago, Veleno was granted exceptional player status to the Central Hockey League, joining John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, Connor McDavid and Sean Day in this exclusive club.

The first overall pick in the 2015 QMJHL Draft, he found his niche on a stacked Saint John Sea Dogs’ roster, helping lead them to the Memorial Cup in 2017. Traded to Drummondville this season, he put up 16 goals and 32 assists in 33 games, before starring for Canada in the WJC-18.

Why It Makes Sense

In Veleno, the Islanders will be getting a jack-of-all-trades player who should land in the professional ranks sooner than his peers. Veleno can play in all three zones, but it’s his size and speed that leads us to believe that he’ll be a top-six center at the NHL level.

Why It Doesn’t Make Sense

The Islanders need to draft a defenseman, and to no fault of his own, Veleno isn’t one. On a more serious note, Veleno’s shot isn’t where it needs to be for him to be an effective scorer at the next level.

Barrett Hayton, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

Date of Birth: June 9, 2000 (17)
Place of Birth: Kitchener, Ontario
Ht/Wt: 6’1”, 185 lbs
Shoots: Left
Rankings: #11 (Future Considerations), #12 (ISS Hockey), #9 (NHL Central Scouting, NA Skaters)

Background

Sault Ste. Marie finished the season with a 55-7-3 clip, one of the most successful campaigns in Junior history. One of the reasons for this success was second-line center Hayton, who tallied 21-39-60 in 63 regular season games and 8-13-21 in 24 playoff matchups.

While he wasn’t even the top center on his own club, Hayton is a consensus first round pick and one of the fastest risers in this year’s draft.

Why It Makes Sense

Hayton plays a smart game and is reliable on both sides of the ice. He can be a relentless forechecker, and is a presence on the penalty kill and man advantage — his well-rounded play reminds scouts of a younger Frans Nielsen.

Why It Doesn’t Make Sense

There’s not a lot to dislike about Hayton, but there have been questions about his ability to handle his own at the next level. His ceiling seems to be that of a second-line center — good, but not great.

(Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Ty Smith, D, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)

Date of Birth: Mar. 24, 2000 (18)
Place of Birth: Lloydminster, Saskatchewan
Ht/Wt: 5’10”, 170 lbs
Shoots: Left
Rankings: #9 (Future Considerations), #19 (ISS Hockey), #14 (NHL Central Scouting, NA Skaters)

Background

Once the first overall selection in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft, Smith has made noticeable strides in each of his first two Junior league seasons. His confidence has increased with each passing game, helping him develop into a more well-rounded defenseman who projects as a solid NHLer down the line.

Why It Makes Sense

Smith is as talented on the offensive side of the ice as he is on defense. He is an excellent skater who can lock horns with any forward and quarterback the power play. He is as well-rounded of a prospect as the Islanders have had in years.

Why It Doesn’t Make Sense

Like current Islanders defensemen Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield, Smith is prone to over-committing with the puck and being forced back into odd-man rushes. Fans will love his attitude, but he might test their patience with the turnovers.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, Ässät (Liiga)

Date of Birth: July 6, 2000 (17)
Place of Birth: Pori, Finland
Ht/Wt: 6’2”, 190 lbs
Shoots: Left
Rankings: #13 (Future Considerations), #16 (ISS Hockey), #6 (NHL Central Scouting, EU Skaters)

Background

In a very thin draft for centermen, Kotkaniemi ranks near the top of the pack. Just 17 years of age, he has starred for Ässät, a team in Finland’s top men’s professional league. His father, Mikael, played in Liiga for six seasons, contributing to Kotkaniemi’s impressive bloodlines.

One of just four teenagers on his club, Kotkaniemi posted 10-19-29 in 57 games this season, before leading the Finnish U18 squad to a gold medal at the 2018 World Junior Championships and being named a top-three player on the team.

Why It Makes Sense

Kotkaniemi is a smart, clean forward with loads of offensive creativity. He’s well ahead of the curve for a 17-year-old, playing with poise and composure in Finland’s most competitive league. He can play either center or wing, and contribute to the power play.

Why It Doesn’t Make Sense

Signed to a multi-year deal in Finland, Kotkaniemi is a draft-and-stash prospect. For a team looking to compete in the near-future, it will be difficult knowing that Kotkaniemi won’t be a part of any immediate plans.

Joel Farabee, LW, US U18 (NTDP)

Date of Birth: Feb. 25, 2000 (18)
Place of Birth: Cicero, New York
Ht/Wt: 6’0”, 168 lbs
Shoots: Left
Rankings: #15 (Future Considerations), #11 (ISS Hockey), #12 (NHL Central Scouting, NA Skaters)

Background

The Empire State native is the captain of a stacked US U18 squad, a testament to his willingness to go into the dirty areas and ability to motivate his teammates. Over the past couple of years, few players have made as big of an impact in international tournaments as Farabee, who tallied 4-4-8 in seven games at the 2018 WJC, and 3-3-6 in seven games at the 2017 event.

Why It Makes Sense

Farabee is effective in all three zones, playing an almost textbook-style game and lending his impressive leadership skills. He is one of the top scorers in his class, never stopping his feet and always putting in maximum effort.

Why It Doesn’t Make Sense

Size, size and size. At just 5-foot-11 (6-foot, according to some) and 168 pounds, Farabee would be one of the smallest players on the ice, although it has worked out well for the Bruins’ Brad Marchand and Blue Jackets’ Cam Atkinson.

(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

Bode Wilde, D, US U18 (NTDP)

Date of Birth: Jan. 24, 2000 (18)
Place of Birth: Montréal, Quebec
Ht/Wt: 6’2”, 196 lbs
Shoots: Right
Rankings: #12 (Future Considerations), #23 (ISS Hockey), #17 (NHL Central Skating, NA Skaters)

Background

Talk about high-risk, high-reward. Wilde is an über-aggressive defenseman, who tallied 12-29-41 in 61 games for the US U18 team last season. He has been a known commodity in hockey circles for a little while now, and he has yet to disappoint.

Why It Makes Sense

If everything goes right, Wilde can be a top-pair defenseman. He has a tremendous combination of size, strength, speed, and he looks graceful carrying the puck up the ice.

Why It Doesn’t Make Sense

Sometimes, Wilde is a little too eager with the puck on his stick. He is prone to penalties, turnovers, miscues, and can kill a team five minutes after saving it.

Rasmus Kupari, C, Karpat (Liiga)

Date of Birth: Mar. 15, 2000 (18)
Place of Birth: Kotka, Finland
Ht/Wt: 5’11”, 163 lbs
Shoots: Right
Rankings: #16 (Future Considerations), #15 (ISS Hockey), #11 (NHL Central Skating, EU Skaters)

Background

Kupari is a boy among men: playing in Liiga with a bunch of 25-to-32-year-olds, he has showcased his ridiculous offensive potential, proving why he is one of the most talented players in this year’s draft. He posted a 6-8-14 line in 39 games for Karpat last season, before turning it on at Hlinka Memorial, where he was one of the tournament’s top offensive players.

Why It Makes Sense

On the offensive side of the ice, Kupari is a slick, talented forward, who has the ability to make highlight-reel plays and score goals at ease. He is a strong stickhandler and has excellent agility, making him a compelling prospect.

Why It Doesn’t Make Sense

On the defensive side of the ice, Kupari is a polar opposite. He is a long-term investment, as evidenced by his lapses in judgment and lacking in size. In three years, he could become a legitimate star. But until then, he’s going to have to make big strides to get to that point.

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Justin Weiss is a staff editor at Elite Sports New York, where he covers the New York Islanders and Brooklyn Cyclones. In 2016, he received a Quill Award for Freelance Journalism. He has written for the Long Island Herald, FanSided and YardBarker.