Leading into the 2018 NHL Draft, it was believed that the New York Islanders would not be holding onto both of their first-round picks, which came in succession at Nos. 11 and 12. With pressing needs for a true starting goaltender and a top defenseman, those selections could have been used in a trade package to get the help that could step in immediately.
But Islanders president of hockey operations and general manager Lou Lamoriello was faced with quite a conundrum when the draft began on Friday night in Dallas. Top-level prospects, expected to go in the first six or seven selections, began to drop down to the Islanders’ level.
Instead of scouring the trade market, Lamoriello decided to keep the picks and with it, acquired two big-time talents that could excel in the NHL in a few years in winger Oliver Wahlstrom and defenseman Noah Dobson. Here is what Islanders fans can expect from both prospects:
Oliver Wahlstrom, RW, United States National Team Development Program
Wahlstrom might be the best pure goal scorer that was available in the draft, yet somehow slid down to No. 11 past the New York Rangers, who opted to take Vitali Kravstov at No. 9.
Having just turned 18 on Jun. 13, Wahlstrom is committed to play at Harvard next year where he will continue to develop an explosive game that can one day be featured alongside the likes of John Tavares (should he re-sign) or Mathew Barzal.
In 54 games with the US National Team Development Program, the Portland, ME native registered 40 goals and 83 points before adding another 22 tallies in 26 games for Team USA in the USHL.
He’s a lethal finisher, who works similarly to Washington Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin’s style of camping in the left face-off circle and letting his wicked wrist shot do the work. He’s not afraid to go into the corners though and take contact while driving to the goal.
Pro Comparison: Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets
Noah Dobson, D, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)
Leading up to the draft, there were many who ranked Noah Dobson as the second-best blueliner behind overwhelming No. 1 selection and generational talent Rasmus Dahlin, which would have made him a top-five pick in Dallas on Friday.
But the Vancouver Canucks went with the smooth-skating Quinn Hughes at No. 7 while the Chicago Blackhawks took Adam Boqvist a pick later. The Edmonton Oilers decided on Evan Bouchard just one selection before the Islanders’ duo of picks, ensuring Dobson was available.
This is a big, physical defenseman at 6-foot-3 who skates well to create a valuable two-way prospect. But he will have to improve on his ability to close in on opposing puck handlers as he acclimates to the pro game. Regardless, Dobson is a physical, intelligent defenseman who is constantly in the correct position to make plays. He’ll join the likes of Devon Toews and Mitch Vande Sompel as highly-touted Islanders defensive prospects that are expected to round out the blue line in the next few years.
Pro Comparison: Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers