NEW YORK --
We still won't know for more than two months whether John Tavares
or Victor Hedman
will be the No. 1 selection at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
What we do know now, however, is that the New York Islanders will have their choice of the stud forward or defenseman.
With a 48.2-percent chance of being awarded the No. 1 pick (250 number combinations were assigned to New York), the Isles won the Scotiabank/NHL Draft Lottery on Tuesday night. The Islanders, who suffered more than 500 man-games lost to injury in 2008-09, had just 61 points (26-47-9), the fewest in the League.
The first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft will be held on June 26 at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
Because the Islanders won the lottery, the draft order remains intact with the League's regular-season standings. The Tampa Bay Lightning (66 points) will draft second, followed by the Colorado Avalanche (69), Atlanta Thrashers (76) and Los Angeles Kings (79), respectively. All five teams had a crack at the No. 1 pick.
"It was obviously something that was very well-publicized and something people were looking forward to, but being a goalie as long as I was, there's a lot of things you can't control," Islanders General Manager Garth Snow told NHL.com. "We hoped for the best and probably didn't sweat it out, knowing that I really didn't have any control over the situation."
It's expected to be another huge draft for the Islanders, who also own the San Jose Sharks' first-round pick and three more selections in Round 2. New York also took 13 players in the 2008 Draft, including center Josh Bailey, who spent the entire 2008-09 season on Long Island. The Isles held the fifth pick in 2008 but traded down twice to No. 9, gaining more selections in the process.
"I'm thrilled for our fans," said Director of Pro Scouting Ken Morrow, who won four straight Stanley Cups with the club. "I'm thrilled for our organization. It's a great moment. We're going to take full advantage of this."
Tavares, who will turn 19 on Sept. 20, is the Ontario Hockey League's all-time leading scorer with 215 goals and 218 assists. The center split time between the Oshawa Generals and London Knights this season, tallying 58 goals and 46 assists. He has six goals and eight assists in nine playoff games for London.
In 2006-07, Tavares, who was 16 years old at the time, scored 72 goals in 67 games for Oshawa. He added another 19 points in nine games that postseason.
The Oakville, Ontario native was also named the Most Valuable Player of the 2009 World Junior Championships, which saw him go 8-7-15 in just six games for Team Canada en route to the gold medal. With Tavares on board, the Canadians also won the tournament in 2008.
"It would obviously be a great opportunity," Tavares said of being drafted by the Islanders. "It's a very historic franchise. There's a great tradition there, so it would be a great honor and a special feeling. I'd be glad to be a part of the organization. Hopefully to win a Stanley Cup would be amazing."
Certainly, Tavares would bring the Islanders some much-needed publicity and a shot in the arm in the ticket sales department. While Snow could have come out minutes after the lottery winner was announced and proclaimed his desire for Tavares, the Isles' GM isn't ready to do that just yet.
"It's too early in the process to even comment on that," Snow said. "My responsibility to our fans and for this organization is to build a consistent contender that's going to win a Stanley Cup. We're going to do whatever it takes to bring a Stanley Cup back to Long Island. All those other pressures really don't mean a lot to me. It's about getting the best hockey players."
Hedman, 18, has seven goals, 14 assists and 52 penalty minutes this season for Modo in the Swedish Elite League. The 6-foot-5, 212-pound defenseman has drawn comparisons to Anaheim Ducks blueliner Chris Pronger.
"It's a big moment for the franchise. We just have to go through the process of scouting meetings. We need great players and we need a new building -- there's no doubt about that."
-- Islanders GM Garth Snow
Hedman represented his native Sweden at the 2008 and 2009 World Junior Championships. He and his fellow countrymen lost to Canada for the second consecutive year in the gold-medal game in a 5-1 loss at Scotiabank Place.
"Obviously, it would be a great feeling to go first overall," Hedman said. "The Islanders have got the first pick, and if I go to them I'd dedicated to doing good work with the team and to help them make the playoffs very soon."
Whether it's Tavares or Hedman, it's clear that the Islanders are getting their hands on a very special player. The hope on Long Island is that it's the start of a special year for the franchise. The next big announcement, obviously, would be that owner Charles Wang's "Lighthouse Project" is moving forward. The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum opened its doors in 1972 and is in dire need of a makeover.
"It's a big moment for the franchise," Snow said. "We just have to go through the process of scouting meetings. When we go through the process of meeting them -- not only in the combine, but bringing them to Long Island -- and getting to know them, it's going to be a fun part of the process.
"We need great players and we need a new building -- there's no doubt about that. There's a lot of good things happening right now with this organization. It's an exciting time to be an Islanders fan and a New York Islander."
Contact Brian Compton at: email@example.com.
Material from broadcast media was used in this report.