It isn't often that a top-five draft slot is traded, so many were wondering what New York Islanders General Manager Garth Snow was thinking on June 20 when he dealt the No. 5 pick to Toronto and then moved down again to No. 9 after a second deal with the Nashville Predators.
But Snow and the Islanders' hierarchy knew exactly what they were doing. They were confident that Josh Bailey would be available at No. 9, and figured they could scoop up some extra draft picks in the process. Snow was right: They received a third-round pick in 2008 and a second-round pick in 2009 from Toronto, and an additional 2008 second-rounder from Nashville before nabbing Bailey.
"Josh was the player we targeted from the beginning," Snow told Newsday. "He's a center who makes other people around him better, the type of center we need in our system. He has great offensive instincts and he can make things happen with his superior vision, character and leadership."
Bailey played for the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League last season and was one of the OHL's premiere playmakers. The 6-foot-1, 188-pound center finished third in the OHL with 67 assists and a team-best 96 points.
Bailey recognizes that he looks to pass almost too often -- even when some of his coaches think he should be looking to shoot.
"I'm more of a playmaker with good vision -- I think I see the ice well," Bailey said. "I always think pass before I shoot, which has gotten me in trouble over the years. My coach has told me to shoot more, but it's just the way I play."
The draft-day maneuvering by the Isles wasn't the first time Bailey has been involved in trades. Bailey started his OHL career with the Owen Sound Attack, but was dealt to the Spitfires in the middle of the 2006-07 season.
Before Bailey was traded, he learned from two teammates there. Bobby Ryan, drafted No. 2 by the Anaheim Ducks behind only Sidney Crosby in 2005, and Trevor Lewis, who was picked No. 17 by the Los Angeles Kings in 2006, played with Bailey in Owen Sound and he believes they were tremendous teachers.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
2007-08 SEASON STATS
(13th east/26th NHL)
|Change from 2006-07
(15th east/28th NHL)
(13th east/25th NHL)
"I sat beside Bobby in the room over my time there and he taught me a lot," Bailey said. "I always listened to what he had to say. And I roomed with Trevor my second year. I always had my ears wide open, listening to whatever I could get from them. I think I learned a lot from them over the time I was there -- just their work habits and how they practice every day as well as how they are as people, too. They're both really good guys, so they helped me a lot."
Bailey could be a perfect fit with the Islanders' 2006 first-round draft pick, Kyle Okposo. The talented right wing left the University of Minnesota halfway through last season, and after a stint in the American Hockey League, had two goals and three assists for five points in nine games with the Islanders. He could use a playmaking center like Bailey to help his game flourish in the NHL.
While the Islanders had their eye on Bailey, even he is surprised by his success and top-10 selection in the Draft. Bailey admits he didn't even envision himself being drafted by an NHL team until after the 2006-07 season.
"I think you always want to be (drafted) growing up," Bailey said. "I don't think it became a reality until probably more (in 2006-07) than anything. I had a decent year with Owen Sound and Windsor. And you see a lot of guys with a late birthday, a lot of guys my age getting drafted and you see yourself and compare yourself amongst them. And you see some guys and think I got a good shot. I just worked really hard over the summer and came into (2007-08) with high hopes. Just trying to do everything I could to have a good year and help my team."
Bailey knows what it's like when things don't go well for his team. In 2006 he had no points in 11 playoff games as an OHL rookie with Owen Sound, and in 2007, while with the Spitfires, Bailey missed the playoffs. Last season, however, the Spitfires went from ninth place in the OHL's Western Conference to third. Windsor was knocked out in the first round by the Sarnia Sting, but Bailey had one goal and five assists in five games.
Bailey needs to do all he can once he makes the Islanders because they, too, know what it's like to miss the postseason. The Islanders have missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs in two of the last three seasons and haven't won a Playoff round since 1993. They're hoping the addition of Bailey and some other talented youngsters will help change that.