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August 3, 2011
Top 10 Prospects
New York Islanders

by Corey Pronman

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Full list of NHL Organizational Rankings

The New York Islanders Top 10 Prospects

1. Ryan Strome, Center
2. Kirill Kabanov, Left Wing
3. Nino Niederreiter, Left Wing
4. Calvin de Haan, Defense
5. Scott Mayfield, Defense
6. Kirill Petrov, Right Wing
7. Matt Donovan, Defense
8. Anders Lee, Left Wing
9. Rhett Rakhshani, Right Wing
10. Aaron Ness, Defense

Organizational Ranking: 2nd

System Overview: Through high picks and shrewd late round selections the Islanders have built a heck of a system with great upside and crazy depth. There were several quality prospects I left off the top ten just because of the system's depth. Considering the fact the Islanders have graduated names like Ty Wishart and Travis Hamonic and the other young players on the big club, the young talent in this organization is nothing short of elite. They have upside and depth at both skater positions, and have two quality young goalies in Kevin Poulin and Mikko Koskinen. There is no weakness to this system at all really, and a lot to love.

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1. Ryan Strome, Center
Date of birth: 07/11/1993
Age: 18
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 175
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 65 GP, 33 G, 106 P (Niagara-OHL)
Acquired: First round, fifth overall in 2011 by New York Islanders

The Good: Ryan Strome has true plus puck skills and can at times flash beyond plus and is extremely dangerous when he has the puck. He is able to beat defenders in many ways, be it with superb puck-handling and simply faking them out, he can use his lower body to fend pressure off, and he has the passing skills to make crisp, accurate passes without even looking at his target. Strome gets very low on the puck when he has possession and while he may make himself smaller at times, it makes him a pain to try and strip off the puck. Strome consistently goes to the goal-mouth area and has displayed a notably accurate wrist shot. I'm not in love with his shot mechanics as I've seen at times that he lets the puck get too far up his stick blade, but it's a small nitpick that can be coached out. His skating ability may touch average, but that's mostly due to his balance and agility as he does lack a top gear to threaten pro defenders. However the fact that his stride is good mechanics-wise and you can see the strength coming in his legs in first few steps leaves me unconcerned with how his skating will project at the next level. Strome is about average size but in regards to his physical game it is at the least notable as in viewings he would win his fair share of 50/50 battles and his work ethic is definitely what you want in a pro prospect. He consistently displays impressive vision and creativity, and his offensive awareness carries over to his defensive game. Strome is just a very complete prospect, and it's very hard to find any reason why he won't be a top scorer at the next level.

The Bad: Strome has to get a little stronger and work on getting physically ready for the next level, but there's very little to be concerned about with his game.

Projection: An above-average first line center who makes a few All-Star appearances and safely projects at the least to become a below-average first line center.

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2. Kirill Kabanov, Left Wing
Date of birth: 07/16/1992
Age: 19
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 175
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 39 GP, 11 G, 28 P (Moncton/Lewiston-QMJHL)
Acquired: Third round, 65th overall in 2010 by New York Islanders

The Good: Kabanov is an exceptionally gifted forward with a top-end skill set. He's a plus skater who generates a lot of speed off on a pretty, extended stride and can zoom up the ice. He's exceptionally agile with a great first step, and one NHL source says he may be harder to check at a standstill than when moving in full flight. He's a beyond plus puck handler with what scouts describe as "magic hands" that "can create offense out of nothing". He's a threatening player to go up against one-on-one as he can undress an opponent, protects the puck very well, and has the ability to be a plus distributor if you give him time to see the ice. Kabanov has great offensive instincts, can really think the game well and has the ability to create scoring chances at will. He has an above-average wrist shot and can score from mid-distances. He shows fine on-ice work ethic and will battle for pucks along the boards.

The Bad: Kabanov has a skinny frame, and despite the fact he added about 10-15 pounds of muscle the last year, he still has to bulk up a lot. Defensively, he still has a lot of work to do, as he's a pretty poor defensive forward in regards to covering his assignments. He has a tendency at times to try and do too much and make the flashy play. While he wasn't being used on a top line for a portion of the season, he does need to produce at a level appropriate to his skill set next year.

And now to discuss the intangibles issue which plagued Kabanov during his draft season. The great intangibles debate is not only one in which I ask how much are intangibles worth, but more specifically which intangibles are the most valuable. In the case of intangibles, you can't really quantifiably justify responses, hence the word intangible. This becomes a case of opinion, and here is mine on the issue. I'm not naive enough to discount intangibles; you need them to be a pro athlete. However, we need to be careful about which intangibles we're talking about. Intangibles only really matter if there's a direct impact on your shift-to-shift production. Those intangibles usually are your on-ice work ethic, keeping yourself conditioned/getting gym work done, and making sure you stay on the ice. Aside from the last one, Kabanov has shown no poor indication in the other ones. He works hard on the ice and he gets his off-ice work done. He had a few incidents last season that kept him off the ice, but this QMJHL season nothing happened, and in fact he made a conscious effort this season to try and show he's grown up and was considered by many in Lewiston as a significant off-ice asset to the team and to the community.

There is a major difference between a poor character issue and a maturity issue, even if that maturity issue may be further aided by a rather unique personality. I'm not going to try and play pretend psychologist, but there were only two major on-ice intangible issues I had with Kabanov—the few incidents that kept him from playing hockey and consistently taking bad penalties. This year, neither was a present problem. At the end of the day, he shows proper character and dedication in the right areas. I don't think he's perfect and there is some uncertainty to his game due to intangible flaws that causes a decent amount of variance in his projection, but I also don't think the issues with his character are anything truly significant to his on-ice game and that's where it really matters.

Projection: He has an All-Star level forward ceiling and an above-average second line forward with zone start protection floor projection.

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3. Nino Niederreiter, Left Wing
Date of birth: 09/08/1992
Age: 18
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 203
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 55 GP, 41 G, 70 P (Portland-WHL)
Acquired: First round, fifth overall in 2010 by New York Islanders

The Good: Nino is one of the better scoring power forward prospects in hockey. He gets praise from scouts for his intangibles and how they translate into an above-average physical game. He's a very diligent worker at both ends of the rink who will go full force to the opponents net and then match that effort to be the first man back and prevent a zone entry. He has a great frame that's already filled out quite nicely and he's very strong for his age. He regularly plays a physical style and even at times landing highlight checks. Nino has above-average hands and can display an element of flash to his game although that isn't really his style. He has a plus shot and regularly scores goals from mid-distances, but also has a good scoring touch in front of the net.

The Bad: Nino's skating showed some improvement and he's more than fine going in a straight line, but his first few steps are below-average and he's not the most fluid mover. He needs to get his body ready for the NHL jump and work on his conditioning and overall physical strength. Several NHL sources have said that he looked disinterested at times in the WHL after being cut by the Islanders. Some scouts have also questioned his ultimate upside.

Projection: An above-average second line forward who safely projects as an average second line forward with good two-way contribution, although my money is much more on the former than the latter.

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4. Calvin de Haan, Defense
Date of birth: 05/09/1991
Age: 20
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 189
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 55 GP, 6 G, 48 P (Oshawa-OHL)
Acquired: First round, 12th overall in 2009 by New York Islanders

The Good: De Haan is a smooth skating defender who gets praise from NHL sources for his four-way mobility and first few steps. He's very fluid and can easily stay with his checks even on the fastest of breaks. His speed is fine, but doesn't really threaten defenders with an above-average top gear. He's a true plus passer who is such a tremendous distributor from the back-end. De Haan has a very high panic threshold and simply makes the hardest of breakout passes look effortless. He's very smart and poised when controlling the puck and usually makes very good decisions. He's a prototypical power play quarterback with his distribution skills and hockey sense. De Haan works hard and gets praise from NHL sources for his battle level. His defensive game has shown fine strides, as he's now a good defensive defender who controls his gaps well, is an admirable stick checker and play some tough minutes.

The Bad: Physically, de Haan is behind the curve in terms of his physical growth, and several NHL sources have said he doesn't show a sufficient level of physical play. He has the ability to reach high levels with his possession tools, but is too conservative at times in his attacks.

Projection: An above-average second pairing defender who safely projects onto a top four.

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5. Scott Mayfield, Defense
Date of birth: 10/14/1992
Age: 18
Height: 6'4''
Weight: 200
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 52 GP, 7 G, 16 P (Youngstown-USHL)
Acquired: Second round, 34th overall in 2011 by New York Islanders

The Good: Mayfield skates at a pro level and at times touches above that, but for a 6'4", 200 lb. defenseman, his skating level is notably above-average. Mayfield can rush the puck up and stays with his checks well one-on-one. I've even seen a time where he skated the puck around the entire offensive zone, a feat you don't see normally from 6'4" defenders. His puck skills are decent, but again for his size he's notably coordinated, can handle the puck at top speeds moderately well and has a solid first pass. His low offensive counting statistics were victim of his poor team more so than his talent level. Mayfield's physical game is already above-average and projects as plus or better with a frame that still has some room to fill. At the Junior level, he towered over opposing forwards, won battles easily and didn't shy from stepping up into his checks, although he didn't throw his body around recklessly. Mayfield plays his assignments well one-on-one, closes gaps efficiently, and boxes out the front of the net well.

The Bad: His hockey sense is on and off, and strangely for a young prospect, it was his defensive game that was advanced and his offensive decisions that need work, as he sometimes tries to do too much, be it rushing the puck up when he should make the safe play, trying an unnecessary stretch pass or holding onto the puck too long. Mayfield's hockey sense was really brought into question during the Draft, but several sources have said that was overblown. Mayfield was asked to play 35-40 minutes a night on a poor team, and was asked to be something he wasn't, which led to him acting like something he wasn't. NHL sources say that when Mayfield is put into a proper structure, the hockey sense questions tend to fade away. Based on the positive reports from his play at the Junior A Challenge and Islanders Development Camp, there is some merit to that.

Projection: There is average first pairing pure upside here with a floor projection of a below-average second pairing defender.

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6. Kirill Petrov, Right Wing
Date of birth: 04/13/1990
Age: 21
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 200
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 49 GP, 8 G, 19 P, 15:00 ATOI (AK Bars/Yugra-KHL)
Acquired: Third round, 73rd overall in 2008 by New York Islanders

The Good: Petrov had a decent season in the KHL, and while his counting numbers may seem underwhelming, consider he played on a team whose leading scorer had 30 points in 54 games. Petrov has above-average puck skills, and his technique for a 6'3", 200 lb. forward is very good. He's very good along the perimeter in terms of creating space for himself and evading pressure. Petrov uses his big frame well to protect the puck and his ability to maintain possession is an admirable quality. He's a fine skater who doesn't really explode up the ice, but has a decent top speed and a fluid stride. He's a good distributor with above-average vision.

The Bad: Petrov tries to do too much at times, opting for an extra move instead of making the proper distribution. He has the tools to physically dominate but doesn't always attack the physical areas as much as he should. His defensive game leaves something to be desired as well.

Projection: He has an above-average second line forward ceiling, but may end a below-average second line forward with zone start protection.

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7. Matt Donovan, Defense
Date of birth: 05/02/1990
Age: 21
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 210
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 42 GP, 9 G, 32 P (University of Denver-WCHA)
Acquired: Fourth round, 96th overall in 2008 by New York Islanders

The Good: Donovan is a tremendously skilled offensive defender. He is a solid to above-average skater with a strong, fluid stride and has a top speed that can put some pressure on defenders on the rush. His puck skills are a plus tool and he's a very dynamic defender with the puck, as when he combined with his skating tools he's an extremely dangerous rusher. Donovan has the ability to weave in and out of traffic, and on a nightly basis makes several players miss on a single play. He's gotten quite strong and is more than ready for the pro game in terms of his muscle mass. Donovan has an above-average shot and can fire some hard blasts from the point.

The Bad: Donovan's defensive game came around somewhat this season, and while it's still below-average there was significant improvement in that area. He works hard defensively, but just needs some fine tuning on his positional play. He really needs to rein in some of his superman acts, as he tries to do way, way too much offensively.

Projection: A ceiling of an average second pairing defender with very good counting numbers and zone start protection, with a floor projection of an average third pairing defender who is a great power play weapon.

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8. Anders Lee, Left Wing
Date of birth: 07/03/1990
Age: 21
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 218
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 44 GP, 24 G, 44 P (University of Notre Dame-CCHA)
Acquired: Sixth round, 152nd overall in 2009 by New York Islanders

The Good: Anders Lee is a tremendous physical package with some very desirable tools. He easily projects as a plus physical player if not better in the NHL. He's a horse in the physical game and is dominant in the cycle game. In one viewing of Lee, I saw two opponents try to check him when he had the puck in the corner, and he simply shrugged them both off him and continued holding onto the puck. He regularly wins board battles and is a great presence in front of the net. Lee has very impressive hands for a big man, as he can handle the puck well in tight spaces and can make some decent passes. He shows fine offensive instincts and overall hockey sense . Lee has an above-average shot and can really lean his massive frame into some hard blasts.

The Bad: Lee's skating still need some work. While he's brought it from fringe territory, it's still below-average and his first few steps leave something to be desired. After switching to hockey later than most, he looks a little behind the curve developmentally from an experience standpoint as the pace of the game can sometimes catch up to him.

Projection: Hopefully, an average second line forward. He safely projects as a below-average second to above-average third line forward.

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9. Rhett Rakhshani, Right Wing
Date of birth: 03/06/1988
Age: 23
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 180
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 66 GP, 24 G, 62 P (Bridgeport-AHL)
Acquired: Fourth round, 100th overall in 2006 by New York Islanders

The Good: Rakhshani was an AHL All-Star this past season and led all AHL rookies in scoring. He's a smart offensive player who can control the play very well. NHL sources have said on Rakhshani he is exactly the type of player you want controlling the puck on the half walls on the power play due to his hockey sense and hands. He's a quick, effective passer who can also hold it for lengthy periods and outwait his opponents. Rakhshani is a decent skater, who over the last year has gotten quicker, but he doesn't really threaten with his skating either.

The Bad: Rakhshani has a pretty small frame and while he's shown physical progression, he can get pushed off the puck a little too easily.

Projection: In a perfect world, an average second line forward who is a great power play option. He safely projects as a really good third line player.

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10. Aaron Ness, Defense
Date of birth: 05/18/1990
Age: 21
Height: 5'10''
Weight: 177
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 35 GP, 2 G, 14 P (University of Minnesota-WCHA)
Acquired: Second round, 40th overall in 2008 by New York Islanders

The Good: Ness is a plus passer from the back-end with tremendous technique to his distributions. He needs very little time to operate and can thread mid-distance passes effortlessly. He really sees the ice well and gets regular praise from NHL sources for his hockey sense. His hockey sense carries over to the other side of the ice too with one NHL source describing Ness as "the kind of player who will push the puck up the ice, and then get back and get it done in his own end". He's mobile from the back-end, albeit not fast, but stays with his checks and moves well for a defender. Ness works hard, which is needed for a small defender and he doesn't shy from sacrificing his body blocking shots or getting physical.

The Bad: The size is going to always be a hindrance and he needs to really be on top of his positional game to be an average defensive asset. The production has been a little underwhelming from Ness considering the reports I've gotten on him.

Projection: There is average second pairing upside to Ness, but he more likely projects as a below-average second to above-average third pairing defender.

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The Sleeper: There were quite a few people in the scouting world who were surprised defenseman Robbie Russo was available in the fourth round of the 2011 Draft. He has great puck skills and hockey sense and could really be set for a huge year at Notre Dame.

Extra Notes: 2010 first round pick Brock Nelson was right off the Top 10. There's a lot of tools to his game as he can skate, create with his hands, has good sense at both ends of the rink and can play a physical game. He's a still a little raw, but Nelson has a game to be excited about.

Defenseman Mark Katic has a lot of offensive potential as he's a great skater who can rush the puck up the ice and has the recovery speed to get back on defense. Combined with his desirable puck-moving skills, he has legit offensive abilities. However his poor physical game and an underwhelming defensive game make me wary that he can log significant minutes in the league, but he could still be a specialist and put up the counting numbers.

Justin DiBenedetto doesn't have a lot of upside, but he's a hard working agitating forward whose skating has come around somewhat. He could play a low-tier role in the league.

Casey Cizikas is a great defensive forward who works hard and can kill penalties very effectively. He also has a decent enough skill set that he somewhat threaten at the other end of the rink.

David Ullstrom is a big centerman who is quite strong and effective in the physical game. He has fine hands, but I'm not sure if there's enough offensive upside to his game to project beyond a bottom six role. Once he works out the finer points of his defensive game, he could push for a job.

Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Corey by clicking here or click here to see Corey's other articles.

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