Simon Holmstrom, Lou Lamoriello
AP Photo

Lou Lamoriello had been working the phones prior to the New York Islanders 23rd overall selection but opted for Simon Holmstrom.

Matt Di Giacomo

The 2019 NHL Draft had its share of surprises, further emphasized by the New York Islanders selection at 23, Simon Holmström.

There were several options on the table for the Islanders, way more than they probably imagined going into tonight.

Among them was a healthy selection of centers — something the Islanders are also in need of. However, Lou Lamoriello’s eye wasn’t on Philip Tomasino, Ryan Suzuki or Connor McMichael.

A self-proclaimed goal-scorer with a shooter’s mentality, the 18-year-old Simon Holmström models his game after Peter Forsberg, Pavel Datsyuk and the Isles own Mathew Barzal, who was there to greet him as he was introduced to the club.

Ready to put his injury history behind him, Holmström told reporters in an interview he was fully healthy and ready to contribute.

Holmström’s 2018-19 season was hampered with injury, including hip surgery last offseason. On top of that, he suffered a broken thumb and a concussion which derailed his draft stock.

It’s thanks to said injuries that dropped Holmström from a late first-round pick to an early second-round selection, not his skills. In 21 games with HV71 J20, he had seven goals and 20 points. Another three games with the J18 team netted a goal and four points.

New York Islanders

Simon returned in time for the playoffs, where he was a point-per-game player with a goal and three points.

Lou Lamoriello was adamant about selecting the Swedish forward, saying Isles scouts were “unanimous” in their decision. It was believed the Isles were seeking to swap their first-round selection to move down in the draft for more selections, but Lamoriello couldn’t find a move that made sense.

Elite Prospects shares the Isles praise of Holmström, touting his offensive ability:

“An offensively skilled player who competes hard. Holmström is a good skater and stands out with really good hands and impressive puckhandling skills. Quite shifty and a player that can do the unexpected offensively. Has a good wrister and his two-way game is underrated. Great character and team player.”

Holmström is seen as a very skilled and smart winger who creates space for his linemates and is deceptive in his playmaking. Historically, talented skaters don’t always have the hands to keep up with their legs, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue here.

Touted with both explosive skating and creative tendencies make Simon a threat, especially on 1-on-1 situations. He challenges defenders and battles hard for space.

The tangible downside to his existing game is that Holmström is known to make reckless plays which sometimes create turnovers rather than keeping the puck in possession.

If all goes well in his development, Holmström can find himself alongside Barzal in the coming seasons. Those close to the Islanders should feel confident in their ability to teach a little restraint into the young forward.

The Isles ties to HV71 go back to their selection of goaltender Linus Söderström, their top goalie prospect behind the KHL’s Ilya Sorokin.

With a little seasoning and maturity, Simon Holmström can turn into a steal at this draft. Only time will tell and the Isles can continue to place their trust in management which guided them to their highest draft position in over a decade.

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