"I think we are going in the right direction, but nothing speeds it up like getting a great hockey player. We have some good young players that have taken some strides this year, but to get somebody like this in your organization in September or October will give us a boost and maybe it will give us some confidence. If you team that up with everyone getting healthy next year, who knows what position we are going to be in."
-- Doug Weight
The 38-year-old was a second-round pick, No. 34, of the New York Rangers in the 1990 Entry Draft. Nineteen years later Weight, now with the Islanders, is as excited as he's ever been about a draft, due to the fact that his team holds the top overall pick.
"Getting the first pick in the draft certainly excites me from an organization standpoint," Weight said. "We had 61 points this year and we had a lot of injuries and it was a tough year for us this way. I think we are going in the right direction, but nothing speeds it up like getting a great hockey player. We have some good young players that have taken some strides this year, but to get somebody like this in your organization in September or October will give us a boost and maybe it will give us some confidence. If you team that up with everyone getting healthy next year, who knows what position we are going to be in."
While there has been speculation that Islanders GM Garth Snow might consider trading the pick, the conventional thinking seems to be that the Islanders are going to hold on to No. 1 and take either Canadian center John Tavares or giant Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman.
If the Isles opt for Tavares, they would get a super-skilled center who led the Ontario Hockey League with 58 goals and 104 points and has been touted as the best offensive weapon in the draft since the Penguins drafted Sidney Crosby in 2005.
If they go with Hedman, they will get a 6-foot-6, 220-pound Swedish defenseman who already is a star playing as an 18-year-old against men in the Swedish Elite League.
Weight admits he hasn't seen much of Tavares or Hedman in action, but trusts the scouts that say both are NHL-ready, and thinks the Islanders can't go wrong with either player.
"I haven't seen Tavares play a lot," Weight said. "I've seen one game he played in the World Junior tournament and he played very well. They both say that Tavares and Hedman are both ready to play in the NHL and that they are the two best players in the draft by far. The world has a lot of great hockey players that are 18 or 19, and if those guys are ranked first and second I don't think we can go wrong. It's good for our organization and Garth's got a lot of decisions to make now. As an organization we're going in the right direction. I know Garth's doing his due diligence and we're going to try to pick the best player. Hopefully it turns out to be an immediate impact for us."
Even though the Islanders finished with the fewest points in the League last season, Weight has faith in the club's bevy of prospects, which includes early first-round picks Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey, and thinks the team would have been better had they stayed healthy all season. Bailey missed the first month of the season with a lower-body injury, and Okposo missed a month with a wrist injury. Overall, the Islanders lost a League-leading 582 man-games due to injury.
"We have a high draft pick and we have young guys coming up," Weight said. "But we've had some bad health. You grow relationships within your job and your life and I want to be part of that. You don't want to just jump ship every time you get a different offer. There's something to be said to building something from within and being part of something for the duration and this will be exciting for me and hopefully we'll be better next year and hopefully I'll be part of that."
Even though the Islanders were on their way to the worst record in the League, Weight decided to sign a one-year extension in April. Part of the decision to re-sign is the opportunity to play top-six minutes, something he might not get if he played for a top-flight club.
"I definitely think I have more of an opportunity here than I do in other places," Weight said. "You look at what other teams in the League need and I'm still very confident in my ability, but I know it's not 10 years ago and I know that I'm 38. I'm going to give everything I can and be in shape. I still think that I could perform at a pretty high level, but I'm certainly not at the level I was 10 years ago, so I have to try to find a place that's a good city and a good place for my family. I've been treated very well here."
Contact Adam Schwartz at email@example.com