by Chris Botta
One week after we provided an analysis of the three Islanders draft picks with the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League, Point Blank contacted Sarnia GM Alan Millar to get his take on the trio.
Mark Katic: 2007 third round pick
“I’m really proud of Mark this year,” said Millar. “Because he’s 5-10, people think it all has to be about his offensive stats. But Mark’s game has evolved into much more than that. His defense has become excellent, and he’s still among the top dozen D scorers in the Ontario Hockey League. I’ve said that if there was such a thing as a ‘third assist,’ Mark would lead the league in scoring because his first pass is so instrumental in our success. His skating and his poise get us out of trouble every time.
“He’s grown so much as a player and a man. He was definitely disappointed when he wasn’t invited to the camp for Team Canada, but that was their loss. What I really liked about Mark’s attitude was that as upset as he had every right to be, he refused to take one step back. He went the other direction, turned the setback into a positive. That tells you a lot about what Mark’s made of.
“Mark will be ready to turn pro at the end of this season. I’m sure he’ll need the proper amount of development time in Bridgeport, but he has the potential to be a very good player for the Islanders.”
Matt Martin, 2008 fifth round pick
“There is no question in my mind that Matt Martin will play for the New York Islanders,” said Millar with complete confidence.
“He has come so far for us. Two years ago he was a walk-on at our training camp. Now he’s probably going to score 30 goals this season. This kid wants to be a hockey player. He wants it so bad and you see it in how he approaches every practice, every game, everything he does.
“He’s athletic – conditioning-wise he is a specimen. But he’s not a one-dimensional player. He’s become a good power forward and as our captain he’s our unquestioned leader. He’s an absolute joy to have on our team and I know the Islanders feel the same way about him.”
“Justin has been in the Ontario Hockey League for five years,” said Millar. “He started out as a first round pick of St. Michael’s and I’m proud of making the trade that brought him to Sarnia. He has 34 goals and 34 assists in his first 45 games this season.
“Foy anyone who wanted to make the argument that he was in a secondary role playing on Steve Stamkos’s line last season, look at what he’s done this year as our go-to guy. He’s evolved into a leader. He’s up there with (John) Tavares and (Taylor) Hall as one of the league’s scoring leaders.”
So, to address one of the Islanders’ biggest offseason questions, do you think DiBenedetto has a shot of someday playing in the NHL?
“Yeah, I do,” said the Sarnia GM. “Justin will give himself that chance. Look at his overall play – he has become a complete player. He’s competing in the scoring areas like some critics thought he might not. And when he gets a chance to score, he’s a great finisher. The consistency knock on him you’re hearing less and less.
“He’ll need the development time in the American League, but the Islanders have done a nice job with him and I believe they will continue to. We see a lot of their people – Ryan (Jankowski), Tim MacLean, Eric Cairns. I feel Justin is going to get his chance with the Islanders, and they will be really happy with the results.”