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July 19, 2012
Top 10 Prospects
New York Islanders

by Corey Pronman

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Full list of NHL Organizational Rankings

New York Islanders Top 10 Prospects

1. Ryan Strome, Center
2. Kirill Kabanov, Left Wing
3. Brock Nelson, Center
4. Matt Donovan, Defense
5. Calvin de Haan, Defense
6. Griffin Reinhart, Defense
7. Scott Mayfield, Defense
8. Johan Sundstrom, Right Wing
9. Anders Lee, Left Wing
10. Ville Pokka, Defense

Organizational Ranking: 2nd

System Overview: There's a reason why fourth overall pick Griffin Reinhart is slotted at #6, fast rising Casey Cizikas is at #11 and notable goalie prospects Kevin Pouin and Anders Nilsson don't make an appearance on the top 15, and that is due to the depth and quality of the prospects in this system. The Islanders have significant talent and depth at every position with no real weakness to point out.

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1. Ryan Strome, Center
2010-11 Ranking: 1st
Date of birth: 07/11/1993
Age: 19
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 183
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 45 GP, 30 G, 68 P (Niagara-OHL)
Acquired: First round, fifth overall in 2011 by New York Islanders

The Good: Strome is a very high-end puck possession weapon that threatens regularly with his plus puck skills and hockey sense. Scouts consistently praise his ability to dazzle with his creativity and on-ice vision. Strome is able to quarterback a power play from the half walls and will be the kind of player that the Islanders look to be a starting point of offense and someone to control the play. Strome's offensive skills were never a concern, but this year he really addressed his off-puck play, showing much better defensive play, and more willingness to dig out pucks in defensive-end board battles and to pressure opponents on the forecheck. His acceleration is solid, too.

The Bad: Strome's strength level is still his main issue. While it's better than last year, he's still not at the point where he can play physically with pro-level players. His speed is only average and may be the sole offensive element that keeps him from becoming a true star-level player.

Projection: He could an average first-line center.

Extra Notes: With John Tavares playing on Long Island, a common question I get is can Strome play the wing. He can, he has, but based on my observations and from many people I've asked in the industry, he projects to be and is much more effective as a center.

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2. Kirill Kabanov, Left Wing
2010-11 Ranking: 2nd
Date of birth: 07/16/1992
Age: 20
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 199
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 50 GP, 21 G, 55 P (Shawinigan-QMJHL)
Acquired: Third round, 65th overall in 2010 by New York Islanders

The Good: Kabanov is a high-end puck possession player who NHL scouts praise for his "tremendous hockey sense on and off the puck." One scout said on him "He's got great vision with the puck, but he's always around the play because he senses so well without it and always knows where the puck will be." Kabanov has plus puck skills and can really dangle defensemen. He's an above-average skater who can generate good power from his stride. The interesting thing about Kabanov was the praise I heard this year for his all-around game. One scout said, "He's very competitive on and off the puck, and plays a good team game. He's been solid defensively." I don't buy the character issues with him that are widely discussed, and everything I've heard from scouts this year points to him having good on-ice work ethic and getting his off-ice work done. I've written about how I feel those issues were overrated, and NHL sources I talked to this year echoed that.

The Bad: Kabanov still needs to get stronger, but scouts have mentioned that he is growing well into his frame, with one saying "he could get to 215 pounds in about a year." Considering his talent level, even though Shawinigan spread out ice time, his production has continued to be a concern especially for a 19-year-old player in the QMJHL.

Projection: He has all the tools to be a first-line winger although at some point he needs to really start lighting up the scoreboard.

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3. Brock Nelson, Center
2010-11 Ranking: Unranked
Date of birth: 10/15/1991
Age: 20
Height: 6'4''
Weight: 192
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 42 GP, 28 G, 47 P (Univ. of North Dakota-WCHA)
Acquired: First round, 30th overall in 2010 by New York Islanders

The Good: According to many scouts, Nelson was one of the best players in college hockey this year after taking big steps forward in his development. He really grew into his frame and projects as a legit high-end physical player due to his size, strength level, and willingness to use his body. He's a smart defensive player who showed very advanced awareness in his own end. Nelson's best offensive trait is his hockey sense, as he has good vision and overall offensive instincts to combine with solid puck skills. He looks like a do-it-all forward who can play center or wing, log tough minutes, and still score at the top level.

The Bad: His skating has improved, at times flashing pro-average but more improvement in that area could help. Nelson has no glaring hole, but he also lacks any true wow-caliber tool.

Projection: He could be a good second-line center who can also check top players.

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4. Matt Donovan, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: 7th
Date of birth: 05/02/1990
Age: 22
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 203
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 72 GP, 10 G, 44 P (Bridgeport-AHL)
Acquired: Fourth round, 96th overall in 2008 by New York Islanders

The Good: Donovan is a high-end offensive defenseman with an explosive combination of puck skills and skating, although the former is much more impressive. He has the ability to hit with a quick strike scoring chance and is also dangerous controlling the puck from the offensive blue line. He had a very impressive first pro season, and his offensive numbers look better when you consider the fact he was not being sheltered in offensive roles.

The Bad: Defense has long been Donovan's issue, but it took major strides forward this season. He was given tougher defensive minutes versus good players and used on the PK, partially due to this improvement and also to try and push him. He still needs some work on his defensive reads and positioning. His physical game is still only okay, although his body did thicken out this year.

Projection: He could be a good second-pairing defender who is used on a top PP unit with slight defensive sheltering.

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5. Calvin de Haan, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: 4th
Date of birth: 05/09/1991
Age: 21
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 187
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 56 GP, 2 G, 17 P (Bridgeport-AHL)
Acquired: First round, 12th overall in 2009 by New York Islanders

The Good: De Haan started off the year with some struggles adjusting to the pro level, but by the end of the season he regularly looked like Bridgeport's best defenseman. He has high-end hockey sense on offense and defense and really stands out with his poise and reads on and off the puck. De Haan is a very effective outlet passer who moves the puck around fine on the power play, and a player scout said this year that he "got a lot of third assists." De Haan shows the ability to excel as a tough minutes shutdown defenseman who can also put up a fair amount of points.

The Bad: De Haan has improved his physical play, showing better output in his one-on-one battles, but still needs more strength. I once saw De Haan as a potential good power play guy, but it looks like I may have overstated his offensive skills as he looked average offensively in the AHL. He injured his shoulder twice as well.

Projection: He could be a good second-pairing defenseman.

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6. Griffin Reinhart, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 01/24/1994
Age: 18
Height: 6'4''
Weight: 197
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 58 GP, 12 G, 36 P (Edmonton-WHL)
Acquired: First round, fourth overall in 2012 by New York Islanders

The Good: Reinhart has a unique skill set for a 6'4" player. He has good puck possession skills, showing the hockey sense to make plays under pressure and he can be quite an effective puck mover. He has good instincts at both ends, as he knows when to join the attack and he makes good reads on defense. Reinhart has above-average puck skills and very good hands for a big man. His physicality used to be an issue, but as the year progressed, he got much better in that area and projects easily a high-end physical player.

The Bad: His skating has improved but I wouldn't say it's at an average level yet. As a nitpick, he lacks real dynamic qualities to his game.

Projection: He could be a good second-pairing defender.

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7. Scott Mayfield, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: 5th
Date of birth: 10/14/1992
Age: 19
Height: 6'4''
Weight: 200
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 42 GP, 3 G, 12 P (Univ. of Denver-WCHA)
Acquired: Second round, 34th overall in 2011 by New York Islanders

The Good: Mayfield is a very intriguing prospect who struggled to start off his freshman year, but by the end of the season was being used on the top PP and PK for Denver while checking tough opponents. He's a huge, strong defenseman that scouts describe as having a natural mean streak due to his big hits and the edginess of his game. He's an average skater but well above-average for a player his size and pretty mobile in all directions. Mayfield shows flashes of good puck-moving skill, and did so more consistently towards the end of the season.

The Bad: His puck skills are just okay, and he looks a little awkward at times when trying to handle the puck. He had issues with the speed of the NCAA game for most of the year, although towards the end of the season that started to get somewhat better.

Projection: The safe money is his ceiling being a decent second-pairing guy, although he could get to another level if he continues his good play.

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8. Johan Sundstrom, Right Wing
2010-11 Ranking: Unranked
Date of birth: 09/21/1993
Age: 19
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 201
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 49 GP, 6 G, 11 P, 12:06 ATOI (Frolunda-SEL)
Acquired: Second round, 50th overall in 2011 by New York Islanders

The Good: Sundstrom was pretty impressive this season and even got to play the top line on Sweden's WJC team that won gold. He's a smart player who has above-average vision and offensive creativity and is able to possess the puck at a desirable level. I think he's a solid skater although I've heard scouts praise it as a high-end skill and his best tool. He's a versatile enough to play wing and center effectively; he played the former this year but prefers the latter. Sundstrom is also a pretty good defensive player who doesn't mind playing physical.

The Bad: It's hard to find a true weakness in his game other than lacking a dynamic skill although I've heard scouts disagree with me on that front.

Projection: He could be a second-line forward.

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9. Anders Lee, Left Wing
2010-11 Ranking: 8th
Date of birth: 07/03/1990
Age: 22
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 218
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 40 GP, 17 G, 34 P (University of Notre Dame-CCHA)
Acquired: Sixth round, 152nd overall in 2009 by New York Islanders

The Good: Lee has a plus if not better physical game and is an absolute beast on the ice. His huge frame makes it so hard for players to strip the puck from him as he is a prototypical power forward you put in front of the net on a power play. He's got a high-end shot and can rip bombs from a distance and show accuracy doing so. Lee has above-average puck skills as well and is pretty coordinated for a big guy.

The Bad: Lee is more of a shoot-first player, and while his off-the-puck hockey sense is decent, he's not much of a playmaker. His skating is still notably below-average too. His production dropped off this year, however he was getting a ton of chances and seemed like a case of sample size where should he have gotten another 40 games to play with the same level of chance creation he would've had much better scoring rates.

Projection: He could be a below-average second-line forward.

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10. Ville Pokka, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 06/03/1994
Age: 18
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 196
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 35 GP, 0 G, 3 P (Karpat-SM-Liiga)
Acquired: Second round, 34th overall in 2012 by New York Islanders

The Good: Pokka is a pretty advanced player who has above-average and arguably plus hockey sense. He's so calm under pressure and is a very effective breakout passer and someone who can control a power play. He's a smart player in his own end who closes gaps well and tends to not make defensive blunders. Pokka was a standout in international play this year and I barely if ever saw him play a bad game.

The Bad: His physical game is below average due to size and his strength level. He's also an underwhelming skater who can get pressured by faster forwards and he doesn't have the speed to lead a rush in the pros.

Projection: He could be an average second-pairing defender.

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The Next Five

11. Casey Cizikas, Center: He put up surprising offensive total this year in the AHL and showed he's certainly not just an energy player. He's a gifted skater with some skill who plays good defense and has an elite on-ice work ethic. He could be ready for full-time NHL duty next season and could ascend quickly into a third liner.

12. Aaron Ness, Defense: He defends well for a small defender due to his great skating and hockey sense. Ness won't be an offensive guy, but those two skills could turn him into a third-pairing defender.

13. Brenden Kichton, Defense: His puck-moving skills are certainly top-four quality and he's a good competitor. Kichton is a tad undersized and while his defense has improved, that area still needs work. As of this writing, he remains unsigned by the Islanders after his fourth WHL season.

14. Robbie Russo, Defense: He tailed off a bit at the end of the year due to fatigue, but at points in the season, he would be one of the best players on the ice. Russo has very desirable hockey sense and could have a big sophomore season.

15. John Persson, Left Wing: He's a smart, gritty player with an okay skill level who needs to work on his skating.

The Sleeper: Mike Halmo, Left Wing

Halmo was signed out of the OHL as an undrafted free agent by the Islanders. He surprised scouts with the skill and hockey sense he showed relative to prior years. He plays an edgy, physical style but will need to bulk up to play that way in the AHL over a full season.

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New York Islanders Organizational Top 10

Players 22 or under as of 09/15/2012 or still considered a prospect as defined here.

1. John Tavares, Center
2. Travis Hamonic, Defense
3. Ryan Strome, Center
4. Kirill Kabanov, Left Wing
5. Nino Niederreiter, Right Wing
6. Josh Bailey, Left Wing
7. Brock Nelson, Center
8. Matt Donovan, Defense
9. Calvin de Haan, Defense
10. Griffin Reinhart, Defense

I went way out on a limb with the first player and while Hamonic may not have the upside of Ryan Strome or Kirill Kabanov, the level of his performance against top competition has been very impressive at his age. Niederreiter ideally should have been in the AHL this year and despite his struggles I'm not worried about his future as a top-six forward in the NHL. One day, they'll fix that CHL-NHL agreement thing…I hope. Josh Bailey is only going to turn 23 so theoretically there is hope for him, but with the quality of players the Islanders have in their system, it was somewhat hard to put a 22-year-old third-line player on a lottery team with 291 NHL games in front of them. I certainly still see a path where he becomes a second-line forward especially based on how he looked when the Islanders converted him to wing this season and the fact he is still pretty young, but it's got to happen soon if it ever will.

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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