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New York Islanders’ 2023 Draft Class: 1 Year Later – The Hockey Writers – New York Islanders

With the New York Islanders making three picks in the first two rounds of the 2024 draft, there has been a lot of buzz in the media about the team’s improved prospect pool. While the 2024 draft brought in a wealth of valuable talent, the team’s 2023 class did the same, with many of those young prospects impressing last season and paving the way for bright futures on Long Island.

Danny Nelson, #49 General

Danny Nelson was selected 49th overall by the Islanders in the 2023 draft, despite having a consensus ranking of 25-45 by most scouts. His impressive skating, vision, shot, and length were evident during his two seasons with the United States Developmental Program (USDP), but there were concerns about his consistency and speed. He committed to the University of Notre Dame his draft year, a significant boost that showed scouts that he could transfer his game to the NCAA and potentially the NHL. And his first season at Notre Dame was impressive.

Nelson played in 30 games for Notre Dame last season, scoring nine goals and 23 points in 30 games. He struggled to stay out of the penalty box, racking up 16 minor penalties during the season, but was very effective when he was on the ice. The team wasn’t great, finishing with a 15-19-2 record, but as a freshman, Nelson was one of their few bright spots.

Nelson had impressive production at the age of 18, but it was his two-way play that really stood out. At 6-foot-3-inch, 212 pounds, he took control of the defensive zone with physicality, positioning, and stick work. He rarely allowed the opponent to gain possession near the slot, and with his long reach, he was able to regularly knock the puck off opponents’ sticks. This led to him being used as the United States’ top defensive forward at the 2024 World Junior Championship, where they won the tournament.

Danny Nelson University of Notre Dame
Danny Nelson, University of Notre Dame (Photo Credit: ND Athletics)

Nelson will be returning to Notre Dame next season, where he should serve as the team’s top forward. Leading scorers Landon Slaggert and Patrick Moynihan are no longer eligible to play in college, so Nelson is expected to serve as the team’s leading point scorer. It will be a tough challenge, but it will also be a great litmus test to see how much potential he has offensively.

Jesse Nurmi, #113 General

Jesse Nurmi was the Islanders’ second pick and fell to them in the fourth round. Many scouts had him ranked in the 70-85 range due to his all-around play, but he fell in the draft due to his inconsistency and perceived limited offensive potential. While he didn’t alleviate those concerns last season, he had a solid season that led to him signing an entry-level contract this offseason.

Relating to: Grading the New York Islanders’ 2024 Draft Picks

Nurmi will join the Bridgeport Islanders this season, where he has the potential to have a breakout year. The team lacks depth, especially among left-handed forwards, and this could be a prime opportunity for him to step up. While his two points in 19 games with the KooKoo of Liiga aren’t impressive, this will be his first time playing in North America and a chance to ignite his potential. He’ll find plenty of opportunity and freedom on a Bridgeport roster that desperately needs a promising young prospect like him, so it’ll be interesting to see how he plays.

Justin Gill, #145 General

As a 20-year-old player, Justin Gill dominated last season with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar of the Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), scoring 40 goals and 98 points in 65 games. He finished the season as the QMJHL’s leading scorer, third-leading assister, and third-leading scorer. While this is not unusual for such an old player in a junior league, he still showcased offensive potential that the Islanders organization was lacking.

Gill signed a contract with Bridgeport after last season and is likely to join the team as a middle-six center. This season will be crucial to his development as he will need to prove his ability to produce at the professional level. It is not impossible for him to reach the NHL, but he will need to stand out if he hopes to fulfill that dream.

Zachary Schulz, #177 General

Zachary Schulz is a defenseman who played alongside Nelson at USDP and is on a college path, but he reunited with fellow Islanders prospect Quinn Finley at the University of Wisconsin. Schulz’s offensive expectations have never been high, so his six points in 34 games shouldn’t be too concerning, but his defensive presence was clear. He played in 34 games as a freshman, committed just three penalties and finished with a +3 plus/minus rating. He will return to Wisconsin next season in hopes of improving his offensive output. Still, his early career success is commendable.

Dennis Good-Bogg, #209 General

The Islanders selected defenseman Dennis Good-Bogg with the 209th pick. He’s a solid skater with strong defensive instincts, but he wasn’t great last season. He’s played for five different teams across three levels of hockey in Sweden, and he’s struggled to stay on the roster or produce for all of them. He’s only 20 years old, so he still has time to develop, but his chances of reaching the NHL are slim.

The Islanders found a few good pieces in the 2023 draft, but they are still too young to set realistic expectations. However, it is fun to look to the future and this draft class could make a significant impact in the NHL if they continue to develop.

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