The New York Islanders addressed a major organizational need in a span of about 45 minutes Friday night. They acquired veteran defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky from the Anaheim Ducks and drafted sizeable defenseman Griffin Reinhart with the fourth overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, to set up a suddenly formidable blue line for the short and long-term future.
Visnovsky will add a lot of experience to the defensive corps. A veteran of 771 NHL games over 11 seasons with Anaheim, Edmonton and Los Angeles, Visnovsky plays in all situations, with 47 of his 117 career goals coming on the power play.
Islanders forward Matt Moulson was Visnovsky’s teammate with the Kings earlier in his career and believes the 35-year-old blueliner will add a lot to this club, both on the ice and in the locker room.
“I thought that was a real good pickup for us,” Moulson said. “I had a chance to play with him a bit in LA and he’s an extremely skilled defenseman. “He’s been in this league for awhile. He knows what’s going on in the locker room, he knows how to play the game well and he knows how to teach younger guys.”
At 6’4” and 207 pounds, Reinhart will bring size and two-way ability to the Islanders blue line. In 2011-12, he scored 36 points (12 goals, 24 assists) in 58 games for the Western Hockey League’s Edmonton Oil Kings, celebrating his 18th birthday in January. The North Vancouver, B.C. native also added eight points (two goals, six assists) in 20 post-season games, helping the Oil Kings to a Western Hockey League Championship.
Despite three teams picking ahead of the Islanders in the draft, General Manager Garth Snow knows the team ultimately got the man they wanted.
“We were ecstatic to have the opportunity to select him,” Islanders General Manager Garth Snow said. “He’s obviously got size and hockey sense. He comes from a winning program and he’s going to fit in great with our young core.”
While Visnovsky will be expected to come in and contribute right away, the same should not automatically be expected of Reinhart. Although he was selected high in the draft, Reinhart is still growing into his body and filling out his frame. Eric Cairns of the Islanders Player Development Staff believes that whether Reinhart makes the Islanders roster next season or sometime down the road, the young defenseman will play a major role with the team someday.
“He’s a type of defenseman that you would put against the other team’s offensive players and he will shut them down,” Cairns said. “And he’ll do it very, very well in an unflashy way.”
The Islanders certainly made a splash on the first day of the 2012 NHL Draft. Rounds 2-7 will take place Saturday and only time will tell if Snow has any more tricks up his sleeve.
“We’re never done,” Snow said. “We’ll always look for ways to get better and help our team get to the next level."