Friday, 20 July 2012 00:00
Recently, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum was the site of the Islanders’ 12th annual Draft Party. Calling the event festive was an understatement as the old barn had the aura of a carnival right down to the line of kids waiting to use the myriad of bounce houses, the multigenerational families wandering around clad in blue and orange and even a Ferris wheel whose passenger cars were festooned with the team’s logo.
After the Edmonton Oilers took Russian junior right wing phenom Nail Yakupov with the overall first pick, speculation was rampant as to who the Isles would take with the fourth pick. Forty-year-old father and fan, Jeff, hoped his Islanders would go in more for more scoring punch to go along with John Tavares and Matt Moulson.
“I wouldn’t mind if we got [Swedish winger Filip] Forsberg,” he said. “I also like [Belarusian center Alex] Galchenyuk.” The Huntington native wasn’t in luck as the Isles kept with what became a trend of taking mostly defenseman in the first round of this particular draft. Highly touted blueliner Ryan Murray, who plays for the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League (WHL), was the name on many fans’ lips. New York didn’t break ranks but rather than tapping Murray, (the second pick that went to the Columbus Blue Jackets), Griffin Reinhart will instead be donning the blue and orange. The 6-foot-4 18-year-old is the son of former NHLer Paul Reinhart and currently plays for the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings.
In keeping with the serious business of building for the future, a number of team’s prospects, including Aaron Ness, Johan Sundstrom, Andrey Pedan, Mike Halmo and Jon Landry, were signing autographs and chatting up fans. Inclement weather kept Tavares from flying out of Toronto, but linemate Moulson put in an appearance, getting interviewed by play-by-play radioman Chris King.
Of the few trades that were executed, Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero made the biggest waves by trading fan favorite Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes for Brian Dumoulin and the Canes’ eighth pick in this draft. In keeping with a strategy revolving around beefing up his team’s defensive core going forward, Snow also showed he was thinking about the upcoming season, acquiring veteran rearguard Lubomir Visnovsky from the Anaheim Ducks for a second round draft pick in the 2013 NHL draft. And while most fans at the Draft Party scratched their heads over the acquisition of the Visnovsky, he is a power play QB on the level of current team captain Mark Streit. The Slovak blueliner is an assist machine that has scored more than 50 points three times, most recently tallying 68 points for the Ducks in the 2010-11 season, with 31 of them coming with the man advantage.
Despite the blank looks Visnovksy’s name conjured up, New York fans are still a devoted enough lot that his name will undoubtedly join the likes of former out-of-towners Michael Peca, Ray Ferraro and Pierre Turgeon on jerseys that will be seen being worn at future Draft Parties. When Garth Snow stepped to the podium at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center prior to making the team’s first pick, his acknowledgement of fans watching the 2012 NHL Entry Level Draft back home was met with raucous cheers at Nassau Veteran’s Coliseum. It’s a reflection of the pride, enthusiasm and optimism hockey fans of every stripe cling to when the NHL draft rolls around each year.