Written by Gregory Giaconelli, email@example.com Friday, 12 July 2013 00:00
Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum was buzzing with excitement at the 13th Annual Draft Party. With the New York Islanders qualifying for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since the 2006-07 season, expectations for building off this past season’s success are running high. Given the fact that the team is slated to move to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for the 2015-16 season, the window is closing fast for the Isles to make a run while still playing in the team’s original barn.
As in past years, the draft party offered plenty to check out whether it was fun and games for children such as NHL Super Deker, where they can show off their puck handling skills or NHL Shut Out, where kids could practice blocking shots as a goalie in a virtual reality world. There were also carnival related rides and bounce houses. Adult attendees were treated to a tour of the team’s locker room in addition to several hockey memorabilia displays catering to old and new generations of hockey fanatics.
Players from the franchise’s past, present and future Islanders were in attendance. Legendary winger Bob Nystrom was a huge draw and was gracious in accommodating the Islander faithful with autographs and posing for pictures. Fresh off its first round elimination were a number of current Islanders including forwards Matt Martin, Eric Boulton, Ryan Strome and defenseman Matt Carkner. Last year’s fourth round draft pick Loic Leduc also pressed the flesh with fans and was optimistic about the future.
“The Islanders are such a good team that I hope one day I can make it there” said Leduc.
The actual 2013 draft started promptly at 3 p.m. and was broadcast live from Newark’s Prudential Center, home of the New Jersey Devils. Center Nathan MacKinnon of the Halifax Mooseheads was taken first overall. Before long, many in the Coliseum crowd were locked in on the big screen above center ice and opining on who their team should go with.
“I feel that Max Domi would be a good fit for the team” said Islander fan Chris Ladka. Domi, son of former NHL tough guy Tie Domi, wound up getting drafted number 12 by the Phoenix Coyotes.
Howard Richards, a longtime Islander fan who’s been attending the draft party for years, weighed in with his own draft strategy.
“I hope they get the best player available and then trade up for a goalie,” he explained.
The Islanders did not end up getting a goalie but instead picked up mobile blueliner Ryan Pulock of the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Brandon Wheat Kings. The 6-foot, 211-pound Pulock led his team’s defenders in scoring in his three WHL seasons while racking up 45 points last season to tie for the team lead. The two-way rearguard also scored 60 points the year before and was named to the Eastern Conference WHL First All Star team. He’s a promising pick that could be a potential key building block for a Cup run while the Isles still call Nassau Coliseum home.