2024 NHL Entry Draft, Islanders Prospects, Konsta Helenius, New York Islanders, NHL Entry Draft, Shai Buium, Teddy Stiga, Trevor Connelly

New York Islanders’ 2024 NHL Draft Targets

With the draft lottery completed, mock draft season is now in full swing, and it is time to prepare for the 2024 NHL Entry Draft. In possession of the 18th overall pick, the New York Islanders are poised to make a first-round pick for the first time since 2019 when they selected Simon Holmstrom. Who are their best options with their early draft picks if they hold onto their selections?

First Round Options

The team’s first-round selection will likely join the prospect pool and immediately become the best prospect so that he will have hefty expectations immediately. Considering the Islanders have many needs, going for the best player available is likely the best strategy. With the teams’ position in the first round, there is a chance a few of the top 12 prospects drop to the 18th spot, and the Islanders should not pass on them if given the opportunity.

Zeev Buium

There is no hiding the lack of scoring on the left side of the Islanders’ defense. Adam Pelech and Alexander Romanov are stay-at-home defensemen with some offensive skills but do not use them. They play their roles well, but they do not provide any offense. Left-handed defenseman Zeev Buium is an elite offensive talent who spent this season with the University of Denver of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). His rankings range from four to 20, so he is unlikely to be available at 18. However, trading into the top 10 could allow the Islanders to draft the elite prospect.

Related: Every NHL Team’s Most Underrated Prospect

In the regular season, he recorded 11 goals and 48 points in 38 games, an incredibly impressive mark for one of the youngest players in the NCAA. He is a strong skater who is great in his own end and would fit in seamlessly in the Islanders’ defensive core. The most impressive part of his game is his hockey IQ, a trait that allows him to dominate offensively without lacking defensively. He reads opponents well and finds the best pass. His game has no glaring weaknesses, although it would be nice if he could play a more physical game.

Zeev Buium University of Denver
Zeev Buium, University of Denver (Photo by Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Considering that the Islanders do not lack physicality, that will not be a worry, and he should be the ideal selection if he is available when the Islanders’ name gets called. While he could likely play in the NHL next season, spending another year developing in college or with the Bridgeport Islanders is most likely.

Konsta Helenius

Opinions on Konsta Helenius vary with whom you ask, but most agree he should be taken in the top-16. He has the tools to be a great NHL player, but many fear he does not have what it takes to become a star. He has no apparent weakness or clear strength; he is good at everything. His projection went from a consensus top-5 pick before the World Junior Championship to a debatable top-10 pick due to having just one goal and two points in seven games for Finland.

While these concerns could be valid, they are all pure speculation. Sometimes, it is as simple as taking the player whose name appears most on the scoresheet rather than taking a prospect believed to have “intangibles.” His profile is reminiscent of Aatu Raty and Brad Lambert. Helenius, Raty, and Lambert are all Finnish centers with concerns regarding their draft positions and ultimately dropped in the draft because of baseless concerns.

Konsta Helenius Team Finland
Konsta Helenius, Team Finland (Pasi Mennander/FIHA)

Teams should not make such irrational decisions again, especially considering Raty had a great season this year with the Abbotsford Canucks, and Lamberts’ was even more impressive. Like Buium, Helenius would be a candidate to spend next season in Bridgeport, but he is arguably NHL-ready. For a team with a lack of youth and a need for organizational center depth, having him in North America would be helpful in the event of injury to a center on the NHL roster.

Others in the First Round

While Helenius and Buium are ideal options, it is not the most realistic to see them drop to 18. Other targets at 18 should be left-handed winger Teddy Stiga, left-handed center Trevor Connelly, left-winger Nikita Artamonov, and right-winger Terik Parascak, who could be great fits in the organization. All three have offensive prowess and would fit well in the Islanders’ prospect pool. If the Islanders do not make any crazy reach with the selection, they will be setting themselves well for the future.

Second Round and Later

The Islanders do not have their third-round and seventh-round picks in this draft but still have the opportunity to add to their weak prospect pool. With the second-rounder, it will be as simple as taking the best player available, likely snagging a player who fans thought could be a first-round selection but dropped.

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The first name that comes to mind is Kamil Bednarik, a 2024-25 Boston University commit. The well-rounded, left-handed center is projected to go in the 35-50 range. He is a great two-way player but failed to distinguish himself from the rest of the 2024 USA Hockey National Team Development Program (USNTDP) class regarding offensive talent.

Other options in the second round are Christian Humphreys and Adam Jecho. For defensemen, the Islanders should be interested in EJ Emery, Stian Solberg, Veeti Vaisanen, and Jesse Pulkkinen. In the later rounds, they should look for Will Zellers, Clarke Caswell, Noel Fransen, and Artyom Shchuchinov.

As the offseason begins to ramp up, Islanders fans will finally have something to get excited about at the NHL Draft. They could try to trade up to add more NHL-ready talent or find value in their current selections. Regardless, it will be fun as the team is finally expected to address its underwhelming prospect pool.

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