New York Islanders HQ was burning the midnight oil to amass a team the fans could be proud of, says GM Jussi Kalmi.
“We were pretty nervous when dispersal draft started, as a huge amount of time had been invested on different scenarios. We can be pleased overall, thank God”.
Islanders GM Jussi Kalmi is glad that it's over, but feels he did what he set out to in building his club through the BEARD Hockey Dispersal Draft. He also mentions there were three key points in the Islanders’ draft strategy:
1. To create a harmonious and united team: a ‘Never give up’-attitude and excellent work spirit.
2. Get a franchise center who can lead the Isles for years to come.
3. Grab a few interesting top prospects and veterans who can protect and mentor them.
In their first pick, New York was over the moon to get Aleksander Barkov. Barkov is an absolute total package. He can do everything: score, pass, defend, and more. There is very little he can not do.
“All the crew had a nice shot of freezer cold Jägermeister after we announced Barkov. It was worth it,” says Kalmi.
“We were extremely surprised to get both Ilya Samsonov and Igor Shesterkin. These two lads are already good level goalies, but within couple of years they will be top six in the league. So, we have cemented our goalie department for many, many years indeed.”
A little mishap happened when Colton Parayko was selected, though. He was apparently high on Islanders’ list, but an internal computer glitch showed his contract length as 3 years, not 1 year as it actually is. Still, Kalmi was extremely pleased to get him.
“Solid and fairly young D, can do everything. We will do everything we can to sign him to a new contract as soon as possible.”
Kalmi apparently gave high fives to everyone in the draft room when Rickard Rakell was picked. The Islanders GM could not understand their luck with that sixth round pick.
“We were certain that he would be picked in first five rounds. The guy can play every forward position effectively. One of the most underrated players in the league.”
Kalmi was in constant contact with Jared Bednar, who ultimately became the Isles' head coach, during and prior to the draft. Kalmi always admired Bednar’s work ethic and manners.
“I was totally sold on Islanders’ project after couple of long talks with Jussi," said Bednar, who was signed to a three-year contract worth just under $5 million per season. "We both want to build something special, but to do it with a meticulous plan and not to rush unnecessarily. I cannot wait to get started. I’m very excited.”
“We could have picked perhaps a few players who would have helped our team immediately this season, but we couldn’t pass on the chance to take Jake Bean and Owen Tippett," stated Kalmi after taking the younger players in Rounds 9 and 10, respectively. "All of us in the Islanders organization are extremely high on those two young guns. We will give them time to develop and gather confidence before coming to the big leagues."
"They will be cornerstone pieces in our future lineup.”
To get some players with plenty of experience, leadership and physicality on the team, Kalmi picked players as such as Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas, Josh Anderson, Micheal Ferland, and Jake Gardiner.
“Those players will be fan favorites as well. They will have huge role to play in our team on- and off the ice. No one will push us around, and if they try to, we will see what will happen (Kalmi smirks and laughs at this)."
"They will teach the young players to work hard and give 101% for the team and fans. Martin and Cizikas called me immediately after they had been picked, and both said they will do everything for the team. Sweat and blood won’t be spared."
The Islanders will be putting a lot of emphasis on their farm team as well. Jim Hiller was a surprise choice to lead the club in Bridgeport, but the 50-year old will get his chance to show what he can do at the held of a team.
"Bridgeport will be mixture of youth and experience, and the plan is to cooperate with the parent club as much as possible. Bednar and Hiller will be in constant communication with each other," said Kalmi.