The New York Islanders announced that D Jesse Graham agreed to terms on a three-year, entry-level contract with the organization Saturday.
Graham, the Isles’ sixth-round draft pick (no. 155 overall) from the 2012 NHL Entry Draft scored 54 points (11G, 43A) in 66 games last season playing in the Ontario Hockey League. The 20-year-old Oshawa, Ontario native captained the Niagara IceDogs before being traded to the Saginaw Spirit in November.
Saginaw was bounced from the OHL playoffs in the first round, after which Graham joined the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Graham scored four points (1G, 3A) in seven games for the Islanders’ AHL affiliate. He recorded 13 shots on goal in those games.
In four seasons of major junior hockey, Graham recorded 152 points (20G, 132A) in 265 OHL games. He was named to the OHL First All-Rookie Team in 2010-11, after scoring 18 points (1G, 17A) in 63 games with Niagara. On the international stage, Graham won gold with Team Canada-Ontario at the 2011 World U-17 Hockey Challenge.
Graham is yet another defensive prospect in the Islanders’ already defense-saturated prospect pool. At 5-foot-11 and 168 pounds, he’s undersized compared to the rest of the blueliners in the pipeline—Kevin Czuczman, Ryan Pulock, and Griffin Reinhart, to name a few—but will provide adequate support for the Sound Tigers next season.
According to HockeysFuture.com, Graham projects as a no. 5 or no. 6 defenseman at the NHL level, but likely won’t get his shot with the Islanders for a couple of years. His first step as an official member of the Islanders organization will be to add muscle; then, he’ll need to prove that his success in juniors can translate to the AHL.
Islanders general manager Garth Snow has had a relatively busy offseason already. Graham’s ELC signing follows fellow prospect Ville Pokka’s three-year entry-level deal and veteran netminder Jaroslav Halak’s four-year, $18 million contract. Up next for Snow? The 2014 NHL Draft on June 27 and 28.