BUFFALO — The Islanders picked up five more prospects, including their own hope for the next Artemi Panarin, on day two of the NHL Draft on Saturday. But their attention is already turned to how the Isles will approach the current contact period with pending unrestricted free agents and how the team will change on July 1.
Garth Snow did not make any moves for immediate help this draft weekend at the First Niagara Center, but there were few major deals around the league after an immense amount of chatter leading up to the draft. Snow could certainly pick up those talks now that the team has stocked a few more youngsters in the prospect cabinet.
Kieffer Bellows, the No. 19 pick on Friday night, leads the way and the Islanders were still thrilled that the son of elite scorer Brian Bellows (485 career goals) was available at 19 amid numerous trade discussions to move down and add a pick in the third round.
“Similar to [Mathew] Barzal at 16 last year, we were shocked Kieffer was there at 19,” said Velli-Pekka Kautonen, the Isles’ scouting director running his first draft. “We had him much higher.”
Kautonen has been the team’s chief European scout for several seasons and that expertise factored into a pair of draft-pick moves to add two forwards in the fourth round.
The biggest addition at No. 95 was Anatoli Golyshev, a sparkplug-sized 21-year-old who scored 25 goals for Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg of the KHL. The Hawks swooped in to sign Panarin, who at 23 was too old to be drafted, after six years in the KHL and he won the Calder Trophy this past season.
Golyshev would have been a free agent next year, so the Islanders made their move on Saturday to lock him up.
“The Russian papers call him the best unknown player around,” Kautonen said. “To score 25 goals in that league is impressive at any age, but to do it at 20 years old is special.”
Kautonen said Golyshev is signed for several more seasons but believed that the Islanders could buy out the contract in the summer of 2017.
With the UFA contact window opening early Saturday morning, the Islanders’ immediate needs took center stage. A source indicated Kyle Okposo had already drawn interest from eight clubs, the Jets, Wild, Blues, Red Wings, Kings and Sabres among them; Matt Martin’s camp has reportedly drawn interest from the Leafs and possibly the Rangers, though a move to Manhattan would seemingly need to be preceded by a few contracts departing the Rangers.
Snow declined comment on all matters related to free agents, so it isn’t known whether the Islanders have reached out to Lightning star forward Steven Stamkos, the big dog of the free agent class. Blackhawks forward Andrew Ladd may also draw some interest from the Islanders as the clock ticks towards July 1.
The Islanders made four other picks on Saturday. They selected 6-3, 219-pound Finnish forward Otto Koivula at No. 120, University of North Dakota-bound wing Collin Adams at No. 170, Michigan signee Nick Pistujov at No. 193 and intriguing defenseman David Quenneville, who had 55 points for Medicine Hat of the Western League, at No. 200.