In the junior, college and European ranks, the Islanders have built an unspectacular but very solid collection of prospects. Since their respective draft years, most of the youngsters have not surprised the scouting community and become much more than they were projected to be. Of course, in the case of the 2009 picks, it is still very early.
The Islanders’ first picks in 2006 (Kyle Okposo), 2008 (Josh Bailey) and 2009 (John Tavares) are regulars with the big club. What you can expect from the 16 players listed below is for six of them to emerge over the next 2-5 years as important contributors to the completion of the Islanders’ rebuild.
The Islanders’ prospect pool is still shallow when it comes to size and strength.
Other than Kirill Petrov – who is very hit or miss - do any of the Islanders’ prospects have the potential to break out as all-stars? Doubtful. But after inheriting little, Ryan Jankowski and the scouts have added significant depth to the roster via the 2006, 2008 and 2009 drafts.
A note about “Maximum Upside”: To be clear, this is a projection of what the prospect maxes out as if he completely fulfills his potential on a contending Islanders team. In other words, the best-case scenario.
LW Jason Gregoire: 8-4-12 in 16 games at North Dakota, sophomore; will likely play all four seasons at UND, giving the Islanders plenty of time to decide whether to sign him.
D Blake Kessel: 5-12-17 in 15 at New Hampshire, sophomore; not “the better Kessel” – to paraphrase Don Maloney – but the dman could earn a contract in a year or two.
C David Toews: 4-8-12 in 15 at North Dakota, sophomore; not “the better…” – you get the point – but a fair try with a third round pick. Has a ways to go.
C Casey Cizikas: 12-15-27 in 29 for Mississaugua St. Mike’s (OHL), 18 years old; doing his best to overcome the last two years of personal turmoil and play solid hockey.
C Anders Lee: 13-11-24 in 22 for Green Bay (USHL); still a year away from joining Jeff Jackson with the Fighting Irish, but standing out in the USHL.
G Stefan Ridderwall: 1.93 GAA, .928 save pct. for Djurgardens (SEL); just when it looked like injuries might do him in, Ridderwall is playing the best hockey of his career – giving the Islanders’ yet another option in goal, or the ability to move another goalie propsect as a trade chip.
Your top ten Islanders prospects in junior, college and Europe:
10. Corey Trivino: 2008 second round pick is sinking like a stone in the prospect rankings – others have developed significantly better, while Trivino has only been average in his sophomore year at Boston University with increased opportunity. He is 3-6-9 in 15 games this season.
Maximum Upside: Third-line center
9. Anders Nilsson: 6-5 Swedish goaltender playing well with Lulea of the Swedish Elite League and will be the No. 2 goalie for his country at the WJC. Islanders surprise 2009 third round pick is ahead of schedule, but will eventually need time learning the angles in North America.
Maximum Upside: No. 2 goaltender
8. Matt Donovan: 2008 fourth round pick is in the final 11 for 8 spots for Team USA at the WJC. Defenseman looking sharp (2-5-7 in 13 games) as a freshman this year at University of Denver, where the Islanders have seen another player on this list develop extremely well.
Maximum Upside: No. 4 defenseman
7. David Ullstrom: 20-year old Swedish forward continues to progress impressively in Swedish Elite League. Told Point Blank last summer his goal was to join Islanders organization for 2010-11. The 2008 fourth-round pick (3-9-12 in 23 games) appears to be on his way.
Maximum Upside: Third-line forward
6. Kevin Poulin: The fastest-rising, most-improved prospect in the Islanders’ system. The fifth round pick from 2008 is 16-6 with a 2.36 GAA and .917 save percentage with Victoriaville in the Quebec League. Impressed Scott Gordon at team’s prospect camp.
Maximum Upside: No. 1 goaltender
5. Aaron Ness: His slow progress doesn’t have to be anyone’s fault. It just appears to be time for Ness to depart the University of Minnesota after his sophomore year and begin developing with Bridgeport in the AHL. The speedy, smart, skilled but very small and slight defenseman did not even make the last round of auditions for Team USA. Time for a change before it’s too late for Ness, 1-4-5 in 16 games this year with the Gophers.
Maximum Upside: No. 3 defenseman
4. Rhett Rakhshani: Passed up chance to join Bridgeport this season so he could be captain at Denver in his senior year, and move is paying off. 5-11, 190-pound right wing is 11-9-20 in 16 games this season with the Pioneers. The 2006 fourth-round pick will be with the Sound Tigers next season.
Maximum Upside: Second-line right wing
3. Kirill Petrov: Just as Ness needs to say farewell to Minnesota, the Islanders will try to get Petrov out of the Kontinental Hockey League. The 6-3 forward is as skilled as ever – he’ll play for Russia at the WJC – but Kazan Ak Bars does not seem interested in developing the 19-year-old. After playing few minutes for them, Petrov was sent to the KHL’s second tier. The 2008 third round pick still has this season and two more on his Ak Bars contract. The Islanders should not wait that long.
Maximum Upside: Second-line right wing
2. Travis Hamonic: In his fourth year with Moose Jaw of the Western League, the 2008 second round pick continues to add offense from the blueline (7-28-35 in 30 games). In the NHL, he projects as a very good defensive defenseman with 30-point potential. The Islanders and Hamonic did not come to terms on an entry level contract last April, so he only worked out with Bridgeport for a week and his agent held him out of playing in games.
Maximum Upside: Shut-down defenseman
1. Calvin de Haan: Excellent hockey sense and skill, now adding strength as he continues to fill out. He is 3-14-17 in 25 games this season in Oshawa, behind last year’s pace, but he also no longer has John Tavares as a teammate (for the time being).
Will 100% be on the Islanders’ blue line by 2011-2012. Only question is whether de Haan over time becomes a top-pair defenseman or just a solid part of the corps. Considering the Islanders gave up five draft picks to move from 26 to 12 and draft him, de Haan must become an impact player.
Maximum Upside: No. 2 defenseman
Comments. Comment Guidelines. The Islanders have today off. As per Twitter must-follow Mike Fornabaio, DiPietro starts Friday in Springfield. LIer Matt Gilroy demoted to Hartford. Conversation continues on the current squad and the Islanders’ real estate situation in the following threads.