He is 6-2, 205 pounds and has the ability to zip around the ice with plenty of speed and tenacity to excel in the Islanders’ forecheck. In Bridgeport, he centers the line that matches up against the opponents’ best. The coach of his undermanned AHL team thinks enough of his ability to send him over the boards in all situations, including the top power play and penalty killing units. And yet, on the rebuilding-with-youth Islanders, he has received the call for six games this season – only when the big club’s injury plague warranted it.
He is Jeremy Colliton, the Islanders’ prospect who seems to have fallen through the cracks.
The determined but humble good ol’ Western Canadian kid would be the first to try and put the breaks on this story. In fact, when I called the 23-year old forward yesterday, his only motivation was not to pump himself up but to underline (about a half-dozen times) that he’s happy to be with teammates and a coaching staff he likes in Bridgeport while fighting for a regular chance in the NHL. So let us do the bloviating:
Somehow, someway, the Islanders need to find the room in their lineup to give Jeremy Colliton at least the final 20 games of this NHL season. Isn’t that what rebuilding teams do?
Colliton was taken by the Islanders in the second round of 2003 and remains as advertised: a heart-and-soul, tenacious, big-bodied potential No. 3 center you can build teams with. (He also wins faceoffs!) He earned the honor of a roster spot for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships not once, but twice. Colliton won a gold medal at 17 as a depth center. Before his injury-shortened second term, Colliton was so highly-regarded by Team Canada coach Brent Sutter that he was placed on a line with Sidney Crosby and Patrice Bergeron.
After an excellent first year of pro in Bridgeport (21-32-53 in 66 games), Colliton’s next two seasons included injuries and inconsistent play. This season, he has excelled in the new franchise-wide system and has been the Sound Tigers’ best two-way player. In limited icetime, he did not look out of place in his six games for Scott Gordon. “Scott’s style is fun to play and I think it’s a great fit for my game,” said Colliton. “Generating speed on the forecheck…I enjoy playing our system in Bridgeport and hope to get the chance to play it some more with the big club.”
With the Islanders already scratching two forwards nightly – Jon Sim and Jeff Tambellini – Colliton’s opportunity does not seem near. Another 4-6 week injury for hard luck fourth-line center Nate Thompson – whose waiver wire acquisition dropped Colliton down the depth chart – doesn’t appear to alter the outlook. It may seem odd to think there’s a logjam at forward with the league’s last-place team, but for now the reality is that there is.
Nevertheless, if the Islanders want to look like a rebuilding team, act like a rebuilding team, a roster spot for Colliton should be cleared by the March 4 trade deadline. We’re not saying a regular shift for Colliton is a season-saver, nor are we proclaiming him to be the next Brent Sutter. Colliton is what he is: a home-grown Islanders prospect who would bring size to a disturbingly small NHL team, has worked hard, fits the system and deserves an opportunity. He hopes it is in New York.
“My attitude is that you control what you can control,” said Colliton, who signed his one-year qualifier last summer and will be a very-restricted free agent again in July. “For me, that means doing the best I can for my team in Bridgeport. We have struggled to score goals the last few weeks, but that’s going to change. I really like our team , so – unless I’m fortunate enough to get the call – my complete focus and dedication is with the Sound Tigers.”
Discuss Colliton and other prospects in Comments. Our first response to the inevitable: Trevor Smith can wait. He’s a second-year pro who played in the ECHL last season and still needs to show consistent effort. Colliton is a fourth-year pro who brings it every night. Comment Guidelines.