The Islanders made the third round of the playoffs in consecutive seasons with a ton of help from their deadline acquisitions. They have had to sacrifice many draft picks because of this, so when the entry draft came this summer, general manager Lou Lamoriello had more time on his hands than most of his counterparts. The New Jersey Devils were given New York’s first and second-round picks as a product of the trades for Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac, in addition to the Andy Greene deal before the pandemic. The team did recoup a second-rounder from Detroit for Nick Leddy, making their first selection 52nd overall.
Aatu Räty, F, Karpat — Liiga (Round 2, Pick 52)
Tristan Lennox, G, Saginaw Spirit — OHL (Round 3, Pick 93)
Cameron Berg, F, Muskegon Lumberjacks — USHL (Round 4, Pick 125)
Eetu Liukas, F, TPS — Liiga (Round 5, Pick 157)
Aleksi Malinen, D, JYP — Liiga (Round 6, Pick 189)
Tomas Machu, D, HC Vitkovice — Czech (Round 7, Pick 221)
The Finnish influence here is noticeable. Half of the Isles’ picks (including their top one) come from Finland. There is also just one American and one Canadian to be seen in this class. This could definitely be a result of the pandemic shortening seasons in North America while Europe played an actual season. Given that the team did not have a first-round pick, they did very well. The Islanders have a very weak farm system, making this year’s draft key for them.
The best pick and worst pick could both be the same guy. Raty was projected by many to be a potential first-overall draft pick about two years ago. He was on the World Juniors team for Finland in 2019-20 but had a very rough 2020-21 season playing with grown men in Finland. Raty missed Team Finland completely and scored just three goals with three assists in 35 games for Karpat. He still has a ton of talent and poses as a high-risk, high-reward pick. Raty has already shown his potential in the week following the draft in the World Junior Summer Showcase. Playing against people his own age, Raty led the four-team tournament with 14 points in six games.
Calling a third-round pick a bad selection is unfair, especially right after the draft. But for the total class, this is the biggest question for New York. They went with Lennox, who could potentially be a backup to Ilya Sorokin down the line. However, after the team drafted Jakub Skarek in the third round of 2018 and Henrik Tikkanen with their final selection of 2020, organizational goaltending depth was more of a choice than a requirement here. The six-foot-four Lennox will get to work with world-class goaltending coaches Mitch Korn and Piero Greco on the Island, which is a huge bonus. But in 33 OHL games in 2019-20, he posted a save percentage of .876.
Sixth-rounder Malinen is a six-foot left-handed defender who has played a lot of games at the highest level in Finland for someone drafted in his round. He played in 30 games last season in Liiga and made Finland’s U18 World Junior team, scoring a goal in seven games. Scouting reports describe Malinen as a transitional skater who can take the puck up the ice with ease, something the big club needs in the organization badly.
Given their circumstances, the Islanders just had to go with the best player available a ton and they succeeded with their first pick but not as much with the rest of the draft. The Islanders’ organization has excelled at drafting talent in the mid-rounds; look at Sorokin, Adam Pelech, and Scott Mayfield, three key contributors for them. So, do not count out their class for not having a top pick. They were still able to pick a top-round talent in Raty, giving them a chance at unlocking potential this summer.
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