5 Best Islanders Longshot Draft Picks of All-Time

They came out of nowhere — one from Minnesota, another from Michigan, two from Sweden, and of course a Canadian. Each of the five rank among the best longshot draft picks for the Islanders.

Four of them played during the Isles’ dynasty, and the final draft gem skates for the club now.

Here’s why they made this special list.

1 Bob Nystrom (3rd Round, 33rd Overall, 1972)

Bobby Nystrom (center), forward for the New York Islanders, leaps in the air aftering scoring the winning goal in overtime against the Philadelphia Flyers, earning the Islanders their first ever Stanley Cup, Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, Long Island, New York, May 24, 1980. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

When he arrived as a rookie at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in 1972-73, the Islanders maiden season, the Swedish-born right wing was as awkward as any skater who ever came down the pike.

The combination of power skating lessons from Laura Stamm, and eventually the astute coaching of Al Arbour, turned Battlin’ Bob into one of the best third-liners in NHL history. A master of sudden-death goals, Nystrom capped his career in the spring of 1980 by beating Philadelphia Flyer’s goalie Pete Peeters for the Cup-winning goal — first of four straight for the Islanders.

Bobby, whose family moved from Sweden to Canada, could fight as well as provide offense. Among his all-time famous bouts was a classic one-on-one with Rangers tough forward George McPhee. Nystrom’s 14-year career was cut short due to an eye injury. He was clipped during practice by an errant stick wielded by teammate Gerald Diduck.

When his playing career ended, Nystrom and his family remained on Long Island and to this day, remains one of the most beloved New York sports figures of all-time.

2 Garry Howatt (10th Round, 144th Overall, 1972)

PHILADELPHIA – 1980: New York Islanders’ Garry Howatt circles the net looking to beat the Philadelphia Flyers’ defense during a game at the Spectrum circa 1980 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

The hard-nosed enforcer from Glendon, Alberta had a second home in the sin-bin at Nassau Coliseum during his tenure with the Islanders. In nine turbulent years on the Island, The Toy Bulldog racked up 1,466 penalty minutes.

One of his most notable foes was Flyers left-winger Dave “The Hammer” Schultz, regarded as the NHL’s most fearsome fighter during the 1970s. But, Howatt never was afraid to trade punches with Schultz, nor any other tough guy for that matter.

After having a cup of coffee in the NHL during the 1972-73 season, Howatt became a regular, playing 78 games the following year. Steady as always, Garry helped the Islanders secure the first two of their four consecutive championships.

Every so often, Howatt would reveal a scoring touch. A memorable goal was a breakaway against Hall of Fame goalie Ken Dryden. Garry executed a clever dipsy-doodle deke beating the Canadiens ace, and a huge ovation followed.

3 Stefan Persson (Round 14, 214th Overall, 1974)

Butch Goring (left) and Stefan Persson (right) of the New York Islanders celebrate with the Stanley Cup in the locker room after the Islanders defeated the Vancouver Canucks in Game 4 of the 1982 Stanley Cup Finals. (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)

After Bill Torrey found solid, steady defenseman Dave Langevin seven rounds earlier, he surprised draft onlookers when he plucked Persson from Sweden. Adroit both offensively as well as in his own zone, Persson became a regular in 1977-78, and never looked back.

In many ways, Persson and Morrow were duplicates. Neither was particularly robust yet they could play as tough a game as necessary. When Stefan was teamed with Denis Potvin, the duet ranked among the best defensive pairs of the 1980s.

Al Arbour praised the quiet Swede for his defensive style of play. That, plus his offense in the 1980 Stanley Cup Final was memorable. Persson also made history of a sort with the Isles, not just winning four straight championships, but being part of the first NHL team to win the Cup featuring Europeans on its roster.

4 Ken Morrow (4th Round, 68th Overall, 1976)

Unobtrusively, and without any fuss or fanfare, a defenseman from Bowling Green University was plucked by 1980 U.S. Olympic coach Herb Brooks to make Uncle Sam’s hockey roster. At first glance, it looked as if he wasn’t strong enough to make the cut.

Tall and lanky, Morrow hardly looked like a player to put fear in the hearts of enemy skaters, but that soon would change. The Michigan native was tougher than he looked and could fire bullets more accurately than most forwards.

First, he powered the American Olympic team to the 1980 Miracle On Ice and then completed his spectacular double-dip, spearheading the Islanders to their first of four consecutive Stanley Cups.

[Fischler: How I Got It Wrong About Ken Morrow]

Although billed as a defensive defenseman, Morrow delivered some series-turning playoff sudden-death goals. The most memorable of all was delivered in the 1984 postseason against the Rangers. Morrow’s shot from the right point beat goalie Glen Hanlon, thereby eliminating the Blueshirts and thrusting the Islanders into the Stanley Cup Final for the fifth straight time.

Morrow remained an Islander until the 1988-89 season, after which he retired. He has been working for the club as the Islanders Director of Pro Scouting.

5 Anders Lee (6th Round, 152nd Overall, 2009)

Anders Lee (Credit: AP Images)

Garth Snow‘s 2009 Draft was one of his best, not simply because he snagged franchise cornerstone John Tavares, but also a 6-foot-3, 228-pound hulk from the University of Notre Dame, Anders Lee.

Most impressively, Lee scored on his first shot in the NHL in a huge game that helped propel the Isles to the 2013 playoffs, their first playoff appearance in seven years. Quickly finding his way in the league, he scored 22 goals in his first full season, 2013-14.

A year later, Lee was a major role player when the Islanders returned to the playoffs with a 41-point season. Although he struggled in 2015-16, Lee exploded this past campaign for a career-high 34 goals, making him one of the Isles most valuable performers.

The aforementioned quality quintet came from Everywhere but share one common theme; nobody — but nobody — ever figured they would be as good as they became.

That’s why the term “longshot” was invented!