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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Isles’ Draft Party

The carnival-like atmosphere surrounding last year’s New York Islanders Draft Party will be difficult to replicate when it is held again on Friday, June 25 because the Islanders’ on-ice performance improved noticeably during the 2009-2010 season.

Given their move northward in the Eastern Conference standings, the Islanders will make the fifth overall selection in the 2010 National Hockey League Entry Draft, whereas in June 2009 the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum was jammed because the Islanders had the first overall pick, and used it to bring John Tavares to Long Island. The choice paid immediate dividends, as Tavares, a left wing, finished his rookie season leading all Islanders scorers with 54 points (24 goals, 30 assists).

Tickets to the Friday, June 25 Draft Party, to be held at the Coliseum starting at 5:30 p.m., are available free of charge, with an eight-ticket limit, at www.newyorkislanders.com. The Islanders’ Web site will also carry the draft day activities for those who cannot make it to Uniondale next Friday at the online Islanders TV. The NHL Entry Draft is being held in Los Angeles and gets under way at 7 p.m. Those proceedings will be simulcast to the Coliseum crowd.

Draft Party attendees uninterested in focusing on who the Draft’s first four overall picks are—the Edmonton Oilers, Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers, and Columbus Jackets get to make their first round selections before the Islanders—will have plenty of diversions. The Islanders have announced that Tavares, Matt Moulson, and Trevor Gilles, some of the team’s current stars, will be on hand for the Draft Party, modeling the Islanders’ new road white jerseys. Islander alumni from the team’s Stanley Cup years, such as Mike Bossy, Bobby Nystrom, and Bryan Trottier, are scheduled to be there, as well.

Kids are sure to enjoy the locker-room tours, arcade station, and street hockey courts, too, all of which will be set up on the Coliseum’s floor. The Gilles Stache Station, named after the mustachioed Trevor Gilles, will feature Gilles himself, helping children create their own ‘stache,’ using different kinds of arts and crafts. In addition, Islander memorabilia, such as game-used equipment, will be available for sale.

While the hard-core fans generally show up for Draft Day celebrations, anyone who roots for the Islanders has come to recognize the Draft’s importance in building a winning team. Right wing Kyle Okposo, the Islanders’ first pick in 2006, was their second-leading scorer this year (52 points) behind Tavares, and center Josh Bailey, the Isles’ first-round selection in 2008, is already making his presence felt, finishing seventh on the team last season in scoring with 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists).

These front office moves, coupled with the free agent signing of left wing Moulson last summer and defenseman Mark Streit in the summer of 2008, have positioned the Islanders as a definite playoff contender for the 2010-2011 season. Moulson scored 30 goals to lead the Islanders in that category during the 2009-2010 campaign while Streit made the NHL All-Star team, and played for Switzerland’s hockey team in this year’s Winter Olympics.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net