THE MORNING SKATE — Replacing CDH

Kevin Schultz

With Calvin de Haan now out for the season, that frees up a spot on what was originally a very crowded blueline in Bridgeport. There are still 7 defenders on the roster — de Haan was the eighth — so there’s no immediate worry or need defensively. But of course if there’s an injury in the short term or an end to the lockout that sends Travis Hamonic (and another, possibly) to Long Island later on, the Sound Tigers are going to have to fill the void.

The short list of candidates to step in is, well, short. The Sound Tigers were great last year at pulling strings and finding ECHL players to step in and fill spots as many of their players were called up to the NHL. If the team wanted instead to look to its own farm system, there are a few candidates. Excluding the seven defenders drafted in 2012 (we’ll leave them out for brevity and the obvious assumption that they need more time), the Islanders top defensive prospects not already in Bridgeport are Robbie Russo, Andrey Pedan, Scott Mayfield, and Brenden Kitchon. All four were draft picks in 2011.

The prime target to step up to the AHL — when, not if they’re needed — is likely Brendon Kitchon. Kitchon, currently in his fifth year with Spokane of the WHL, would have been really interesting to see at training camp. As it was, with the backlog of d-men in Bridgeport and lockout, Kitchon was sent back with no ELC and no tryout. Dominik over at LHH writes that Kitchon isn’t just ready for a pro shot, he’s due for it:

One way or another, an end to the NHL lockout will mean the need for at least one more not-locked-out and not-AHL-assigned defenseman either at the NHL or AHL level.

If given the opportunity, would the Isles sign and recall Kichton — a player whose reassignment forced Spokane to deal one of its overagers, but who they were all too happy to take back for a bonus year? And if the Isles could do this when play resumes and agreements are signed … hell, would there be any reason not to?

Kitchon’s currently 3rd among WHL defenders in scoring, with three goals and 12 assists in 12 games. Either way, the Islanders have a decision to make on him by the end of the season, as they’ll lose him if they don’t sign him.

For the other players I mentioned, they’re all probably another year or two away from getting a pro look. Both Russo and Mayfield are in their sophomore seasons in college. There’s not much to update on them statistically, as their seasons are only a couple games old. As for Pedan, he’s 19 and in his third year for Guelph of the OHL. He’s 10th among OHL defenders in points, with four goals and six helpers in 10 games — a great start for the third rounder. Add in the seven defenders drafted this year, the players already in Bridgeport, and the Islanders blueline prospect pool is fully stocked.

YOU STAY CLASSY, SAN DIEGO MICHAEL GRABNER
Frustrated with the lack of progress in CBA negotiations, another Islander took to the internet to voice his opinions. Michael Grabner wrote a blog post with his thoughts and feelings on the lockout earlier this week. So now the lockout’s trickle down effects have kicked in as locked out players start to take jobs from locked out bloggers… Kidding, of course. But I’ve been inspired by Grabs; I may have to start ending all my blog posts with Anchorman quotes.

THE FIRST PLACE ISLANDERS WITH THE LEAGUE’S 2ND BEST GOALTENDER
The folks over at EA Sports, like us, are bored and trying as best they can do get through this lockout with their sanity intact. To pass the time, they’re doing a virtual simulation of the 2012-13 season with their NHL 13 game. And it’s got some wonderful results.

The Virtual Islanders currently sit atop the Virtual Atlantic Division with a 5-2-1 record, with the rest of the division a combined virtual 10-14-5. A far cry from the real life Atlantic powerhouse.

As far as virtual individual players go, the simulation has Rick DiPietro second in the Virtual NHL in both GAA and save percentage while Evgeni Nabokov has two shutouts. If the virtual Islanders win a Stanley Cup, it counts for real too, right? Right?

h/t dangluck721

ALSO: The story of a 12-year old hockey player who is 6-foot-5 [Deadspin]
A son’s wish to watch one more Oilers game with his dying father [CTV]