THE PB LIST: TOP PROSPECTS IN BRIDGEPORTJesse Joensuu, Trevor Smith have the most upside

More than even any American Hockey League franchise can expect, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers have seen their roster ripped apart daily because of the injury plague with the Islanders. It’s a credit to their players and head coach Jack Capuano and assistants Pat Bingham and Matt Bertani that the Sound Tigers are 30-17-3 and very much in the playoff race.

They won 4-1 at home against Philadelphia on Friday night, getting two assists from a mainstay like Kurtis McLean and also solid performances from the players they have called up in a pinch from the East Coast Hockey League and parts elsewhere. On Sunday they host Norfolk at 4:00 pm at the Arena at Harbor Yard.


As we wrote on Friday, it may be a longshot for a current Bridgeport player to become a full-time contributor on the Islanders next season. (For perspective, you could probably say that about half the AHL teams). Nevertheless, the development program led by Capuano in Bridgeport will be essential to the Islanders’ rebuild for the next few years.


Here is Point Blank’s list of the top Islanders prospects in Bridgeport.


7. Tomas Marcinko – C, 2006 4th round pick: Started slowly in his first year of pro and scored just his fourth goal Friday night. But the former Barrie Colt by way of Slovakia is 6-4 and can skate. If he is relentless in his development, there’s always room for a player like Marcinko.


Upside: Fourth line center


6. Dustin Kohn (left) – D, 2005 2nd round pick: The Islanders are doing the right thing with Kohn. More than anyone, defensemen need time in the American League. Kohn has made solid strides in his second year in Bridgeport and will need a third.


Upside: No. 5 defenseman



5. Andrew MacDonald – D, 2006 6th round pick – Drafted at the suggestion of Ted Nolan, his Quebec League coach in Moncton, the late-blooming MacDonald has a shot at the NHL. If the Islanders trade any defensemen at the deadline, you could see MacDonald in spot duty before the end of this season.


Upside: No. 4 defenseman



4. Jeremy Colliton – C, 2003 2nd round pick: I kissed the kid’s butt enough earlier this week.


Upside: Third-line center and key faceoff man



3. Jack Hillen – D, 2008 college free agent: He’s with the Islanders now, but as an injury fill-in so he qualifies for this list as a true AHL prospect. Hillen is a small puck-moving defenseman who can be erratic in his own end but has the skill and the willingness to learn that make him an organization favorite.


Already a restricted free agent after signing a two-year deal out of Colorado College last year (those two season-ending games against the Rangers were Year One), Hillen will most likely be re-signed and given a chance to win a spot on the Islanders next season.


Upside: No. 4 defenseman



2. Trevor Smith – LW, 2007 college free agent: He’s 6-1, 190 and needs to add muscle and show an increased commitment on a nightly basis if he is to ever max out as a top-six forward in the NHL.


Still, for a free agent signee out of New Hampshire who spent time in the East Coast League last season, Smith has made a lot of strides. He has a team-leading 23 goals in 47 games this season, plus a goal in his cameo with the Islanders. Smith has a high level of offensive ability the organization lacks at the pro level and has a chance of making the big club next season.


Upside: Top-9 forward with a chance for second line



1. Jesse Joensuu – RW, 2006 2nd round pick: Unlike Smith, Joensuu is not a serious candidate to play a regular role for the Islanders next season, but he is the Bridgeport prospect with the most upside potential. His modest stats aside – 14 goals in 47 games – the 6-4, 210-pound right wing has had an outstanding first year of pro after coming over from Finland and dedicating himself to the North American game. He has even had a few scraps with opposing heavyweights.


Joensuu’s education must continue in Bridgeport next season. If his development is a success, he could make the Islanders’ depth chart look a whole lot better in 2010-11.


Upside: Top-6 forward with a chance for first line



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