A quick reminder that all top 10 candidates must be no more than 25 years old as of October 7, 2015. The lists consider all skaters in that age group who have played in fewer than 40 NHL regular season games, with 25 games being the cut-off among netminders.
Could it be? Garth Snow and the New York Islanders organization have been the punchline for many jokes from writers and fans over the past few years, but that has changed now as they are on the verge of becoming an elite team. With a core group of players that all come in under the age of 28 (aside from Johnny Boychuck), the Islanders are ready to compete. Adding the third ranked prospect pool to a core group of players that at such a young age have the capability of making the playoffs and pushing for division titles, indicates that the Islanders are close to taking the next step.
- Michael Dal Colle, LW, Oshawa (OHL) 6-2” 190. 5th overall, 2014
- Mathew Barzal, C, Seattle (WHL) 6-0” 175. 16th overall, 2015
- Ryan Pulock, D, Bridgeport (AHL) 6-2” 212. 15th overall, 2013
- Anthony Beauvillier, LW, Shawinigan (QMJHL) 5-11” 173. 28th overall , 2015
- Josh Ho-Sang, C, Niagara (OHL) 6-0” 170. 28th overall, 2014
- Mitch Vande Sompel, D, Oshawa (OHL) 5-10” 182. 82nd overall, 2015
- Scott Mayfield, D, Bridgeport (AHL) 6-4” 205. 34th overall, 2011
- Ilya Sorokin, G, CSKA Moscow (KHL) 6-2” 167. 78th overall 2014
- Stephon Williams, G, Bridgeport (AHL) 6-2” 190. 106th overall, 2013
- Adam Pelech, D, Bridgeport (AHL) 6-2” 210. 65th overall 2012
Players likely to lose eligibility
- Dal Colle
- Carter Verhaeghe, C, Niagara (OHL) 6-1” 181. 82nd overall 2013
- Kirill Petrov, RW, AK Bars Kazan (KHL) 6-3” 232. 73rd overall 2008
- Parker Wotherspoon, D, Tri-City (WHL) 6-0”168. 112th overall 2015
Rumors are beginning to circulate that the Islanders are looking at moving on from Kyle Okposo. It is not uncommon for teams to move players entering their final year of a deal. Okposo was scoring at a rate of .91 points per game over the past two seasons; that is not an easy production number to replace. So why are the Islanders willing to look at moving John Tavares‘ right winger ? The answer – Michael Dal Colle. Dal Colle fits the mould – he is a very strong skater, had the best shot of all 2014 draft picks, and has the physical makeup to play in the NHL. The Memorial Cup Champion projects to be a first line player by both scouts and analytics. A 35 goal season is a realistic and attainable career high for this future Islander. If he gets the opportunity to slot in beside an elite center like Tavares, he could average over 30 goals per season. With good hands and great body positioning, these two attributes combined in the offensive zone allow the Oshawa Generals star to score in a multitude of different ways and from different positions on the ice. Playing with Tavares will help, but is not necessary for number 71 as he is more than capable of creating his own scoring chances. As this is being written he is still pushing for a final roster position with the Islanders. The media is starting to take note of the leadership skills and maturity he is showing in taking the young players in under his tutelage. Expect to see him in the NHL lineup for at least his nine games before the team is forced to make a difficult decision.
Garth Snow decided to move former first round draft pick Griffin Reinhart to the Edmonton Oilers in order to have the privilege of selecting Matthew Barzal with the 16th pick in 2015. Barzal is an offensive threat when in possession of the puck. His ability to accelerate and change direction in a matter of strides is what gives opposing players fits. When using his great vision and patience, lanes open and players who were once covered become open. The Thunderbirds’ center makes his line mates better players. He is extremely effective when carrying the puck in over the opposition’s blue line or moving left to right. Given his smaller size he will need to become stronger in order to reach his full potential. There are times when he will be separated from the puck during board play. The Coquitlam, BC native will also need to show more consistent effort when defending. Expect him to see top six minutes for the Islanders in approximately two seasons.
Ryan Pulock and Scott Mayfield both played top pairing roles with Bridgeport last season. Now the two are battling for the final spot on the Islanders defensive depth chart. The recent signing of Marek Zidlicky complicates the situation, but both still have an opportunity to make the team. Pulock is the better offensive player and Mayfield is better known for his physical and defensive play. While Mayfield is a good skater, and has good hands, Pulock’s skills are on a different level. Craig Button said in an interview that Pulock has some Al MacInnis like qualities. The one quality that is very close is his shot. Pulock has scored at big rates for a defender in the WHL and in the AHL. He can skate the puck out of his own zone and drive the opposing teams net with the puck. He is a very, very smart player with great timing when shooting and when placing body checks. Pulock will see top unit powerplay time and top four minutes in the NHL. Mayfield’s skating is strong, as he turns well and has good technique. Mayfield will not win races to the puck and will need to rely on his strength and reach to minimize the speed of attacking players. Expect to see Mayfield on the penalty kill and receiving third pairing minutes in the NHL. When reading deeper into the Zidlicky signing, one could assume that a more offensive-minded powerplay player is what Snow is looking for in that final slot. If that turns out to be Zidlicky, expect Pulock to be the first call up. If Zidlicky does not impress, then expect to see Pulock in the blue and orange to start the 2015 season.
Anthony Beauvillier just keeps on producing. A favourite of the numbers crowd, this first rounder had a chance to slide into the second round of the 2015 draft because of his size. He had a 61 point improvement from his rookie season – yes 61 points! – and he has shown balance in his abilities, scoring 42 goals and adding 52 assists for the Cataractes. Beauvillier has great vision and is a fantastic playmaker. His wrist shot is pin point, and comes off the tape fast. The 2014-2015 Shawinigan squad was not a team flush with talent; they are a strong team in the QMJHL and rostered only three players drafted to the NHL, Beauvillier, Denis Yan, and Dylan Labbe. The Cataracts number one center produced huge numbers despite not having a top level wingman. In fact, he led his team in scoring and Yan finished second, trailing Beauvillier by 30 points. This point producing center may be better suited to playing on the wing in the NHL. His shot is already at a pro level, and his passing skills are outstanding, His skating will allow him to win races, and he is good enough on all 200 feet of the ice. He is well positioned to add to the ranks of high end players who would have been considered too small to succeed in previous generations.
Josh Ho-Sang is a gifted player who realizes that he has the talent that far exceeds that of most other players on the ice at any given night. This is demonstrated in his style of play as well as his actions off the ice where the one-time Windsor Spitfire has developed a reputation of being arrogant and difficult to deal with. While his reputation in junior could be chalked up to misunderstanding or heresay, the events that transpired on his first day at the Islanders camp are not open to interpretation. Showing up late for the opening of camp does not normally go over well for any player, let alone a rookie with a negative reputation. He did not set an alarm and missed the team shuttle. Garth Snow decided to send a message and dismissed him from Islanders camp. The Niagara Ice Dogs took a chance and acquired him from Windsor during this past season. The gamble paid off as he produced 62 points in 49 games after the trade. The ability to produce points is created from his elite puck skills. Stylistically he is very creative and patient with the puck. He is not afraid to turn back and reset if he does not see an opportunity. His ability to change direction quickly while maintaining speed whilst in possession of the puck is also very noticeable during play. More than likely Ho-Sang will be found distributing the puck to a line mate, even if observers tend to believe he holds onto the puck too long. One area of major concern is his disinterest in challenging opposing teams’ top players. He is more than comfortable placing a body check when the timing is right, however when in possession he turns away from contact. While that sounds like an asset, he tends to make that decision earlier than necessary and resets the rush. Obviously the Islanders have big expectations of their 2014 first round pick, but he will need to come into 2016 camp with a different outlook. His pure talent alone will not be enough to make the grade in the NHL.
Similar to Josh Ho-Sang, Mitchell Vande Sompel is a gifted offensive-minded player who is lacking at the opposing end of the ice. Vande Sompel helped the Oshawa Generals win the 2015 Memorial Cup along with fellow Islander pick Michael Dal Colle. The Oshawa Generals’ defender produced over one point per game in the 2014-2015 season. He is an absolutely beautiful skater, looking effortless when accelerating, turning, pivoting, or just on a high speed coast. He has the ability to score from the point, but it is not uncommon to find Vande Sompel joining or even leading the rush. His mobility and passing are his best assets. As a good player should, he ensures that once he gains possession in the defending zone he gets the puck out fast. Unfortunately retrieving the puck from attackng players is where he starts to struggle. His ability to decide when to close gaps on attackers or which player to cover are questionable. These bad habits creep in because they can be easily corrected using his speed. They will not be as easily corrected once he is playing at the professional level.
Jaroslav Halak is a good NHL goalie and is now 30 years old. There is no need for a starting goalie in Brooklyn for the next three or four years. Having Halak gives the Islanders time to develop their two goalies who make an appearance in the top ten. Ilya Sorokin is currently honing his skills over in Russia, while Stephon Williams will be much closer to home, starting for the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The Russian born netminder uses the butterfly technique; he is very quick laterally or when getting into or out of the butterfly. Sorokin has a tendency to go down early, which is unnecessary given how fast he can move. He places himself at a good distance outside of the crease to eliminate the shooters’ advantage at optimal angles. Williams is less technical and relies more on his athleticism to make saves. The former NCAA standout put up outstanding numbers in his final collegiate season, posting a .925 save percentage. He carried that over in his first five AHL games stopping pucks at a .936 rate in that limited sample. Williams may see NHL games first, but based on current abilities and potential growth, Sorokin should be the eventual successor to Halak.
Rounding out the top ten prospects for the New York Islanders is Adam Pelech. Pelech is an aggressive, physical defensive defensemen. He is not inept when it comes to offence, but he will not put up large numbers in the NHL. He failed to score a single goal in the AHL this past season, his first as a pro. Pelech has average skating skills that will enable him to play the physical game he needs to in order to achieve success. Having a player of this makeup in the system who is showing improvement in both the mental and physical aspects of the game is part of the reason Snow felt comfortable moving Griffin Reinhart in order to get Barzal.
Among the players receiving honorable mention on this list are one of the newest members of the organization and one of the oldest (among those not yet in the NHL). Carter Verhaeghe – Ho-Sang’s team mate in Niagara – is an underwhelming player. He produced good point totals in junior, but was never a dominant player. Were the point totals a result of playing with a strong supporting cast, or a sign of a potential NHL player? The jury is very much still out. Kirill Petrov just slides into prospect eligibility at 25 years of age. Originally drafted by the Islanders in 2008, it has been a long time since Petrov was part of the organization. A nine year veteran of the KHL, he is what one would expect from a Russian forward; he is a skilled player who has good size and strength. His hockey sense is still an area of concern. Parker Wotherspoon is a supreme competitor. He is a great skater and has a good head for the game. He needs some time to develop an overall skill set. The Islanders are preaching patience with Wotherspoon; If it pays off they may have found yet another a good two way defender.
Garth Snow and the Islanders have put their focus on skill when selecting players. The big and tough players selected still bring good skating skills and some ability in handling the puck. Many of their players are within one to two years of development away from being ready to play in the NHL. If prospect depth is a sign of the future then the Islanders future is looking very bright, indeed.