Lou Lamoriello certainly went off the board when it came to the 23rd overall pick in the first round of the NHL Draft on Friday night.
By many accounts, Swedish forward Simon Holmstrom was expected to go later in the NHL Draft. The Athletic had ranked him 46th on their prospects chart and none of the writers at NHL.com had Holmstrom going in the first round.
“Big surprise. I was really shocked,” Holmstrom told reporters in Vancouver on Friday. “But, it’s an unbelievable feeling.”
Shock and surprise were likely the way some fans felt too when the name was announced late in the draft. The Islanders had been expected to take Philip Tomasino or Ryan Suzuki with the 23rd overall selection, two picks that would have addressed a need that they have at center depth.
They’re also two players that entered the draft with less of an injury history than Holmstrom does. The 18-year-old right winger has dealt with hip and thumb issues that limited his playing time, but Lamoriello and Holmstrom both said that won’t be an issue going forward.
And, with the thumbs up from the doctors the Islanders selected the player their scouting staff felt was the best on the board.
“Our scouts were extremely high on him,” Lamoriello told reporters, according to Newsday. “He’s a top-six forward with skill, and you can’t go beyond that. In comparison to the other players, it was unanimous with them that if he was going to be there at that point, we were going to take him.”
Holmstrom described himself as an offensive player that likes to drive the net and put a few in the back of the net. He is often described by others as a good player with good hands and puckhandling ability.
In 21 games with HV71 in the SuperElite junior league in Sweden, he recorded 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) last season.