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Selecting Holmstrom A 'Unanimous' Decision For Islanders

Swedish forward excited to become newest Islanders prospect

by Cory Wright WrightsWay / NewYorkIslanders.com

There wasn't a lot of debate at the New York Islanders table on the draft floor during the first round of the NHL Draft on Friday night. 

The Islanders' scouting staff was unanimous in their decision - if Simon Holmstrom was available at 23, the blonde-haired, blue-eyed and eager Swede was coming with them back to Long Island. 

"Our scouts were extremely high on him, where we had him rated," Lamoriello said. "It was unanimous with them, that if he was going to be there at that point, we were going to take him."

While the Islanders were unanimous, the rest of the hockey projections were anything but. Holmstrom, who was drafted from HV71's junior team in Sweden's SuperElit league, was projected anywhere from 16th to 46th and was even ranked as the 27th European skater by NHL Central Scouting. 

Holmstrom said he was admittedly a little surprised to go where he did, but he was ecstatic to begin his NHL journey with the Islanders.

"I was really shocked but [it's an] unbelievable feeling," Holmstrom said beaming at the interview podium. "I've dreamed of this as a little kid."

Video: Islanders draft F Simon Holmstrom No. 23

So who is Holmstrom? According to Lamoriello, he's a skilled winger who projects to be a top-six forward. Hip and thumb injuries have limited his playing time the past two seasons, but he's averaged over a point-per-game (50 points in 49 games) in Sweden's SuperElit league when healthy. Lamoriello said Holmstrom was evaluated and cleared by the Islanders medical staff. 

"If doctors feel there are no issues then you go with that if it's the best player," Lamoriello said. "If there are any concerns, you don't do it."

Holmstrom describes himself as a goal scorer who likes to have the puck on his stick and drive the net. He idolizes Peter Forsberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Mathew Barzal. In another surprise, Barzal - a Vancouver native - was in the building to welcome him to the team on Friday. A second sweet surprise for the Swede.

"It's was pretty great [to meet him]. He's a great guy," Holmstrom said, smiling from ear-to-ear. "[He] was looking at my game and he really enjoyed it. I enjoy his game as well."

He wasn't the only one thinking about a potential partnership down the line. 

"What our scouts are saying is that he's got a really good release, lots of quickness, real good hockey IQ," Head Coach Barry Trotz said. "When you're watching him and Barzal walking together, hopefully they'll play together some day."

Video: Simon Holmstrom's Draft Day

Holmstrom will have the chance to skate alongside Barzal at Islanders training camp in the fall, but the next step is the team's annual summer development camp, taking place next week at Northwell Health Ice Center. Holmstrom, who won a gold medal with Sweden at the U-18 World Championship, wants to start the training process, which includes bulking up his 6'1, 193 lbs. frame. 

"I think I need to work a lot in gym. They are men and I'm still just a little boy," Holmstrom said. "Hopefully, I'll be a man soon and hopefully have more strength in my legs and in my skating."

Holmstrom also received a phone call from Islanders' captain Anders Lee, who told him to enjoy the moment and soak it all in. The 18-year-old was shuttled off through the rookie gauntlet of rookie portraits, interviews - in English and Swedish - and more, but was beaming the entire time, excited to become the newest Islander, even if it still felt surreal.

"I couldn't believe it," Holmstrom said. "I couldn't expect a better city and a better team. I'm very grateful."

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