Prospects season end report
With the regular season coming to a close in most leagues, many Islanders prospects put the finishing touches on strong seasons. The Isles boast top 15 scorers in all three major junior leagues as well as in the Swedish junior League.
The Isles hottest prospect has been without a doubt Taylor Pyatt. After a slow start the year he has really come on and has been on a tear to end the regular season. Pyatt posted 10 points in 3 games earning him player of the week honors and finished the season with 40 goals and 89 points in 68 games, good for 8th in the league in scoring. He also led the league in plus/minus at +47. Pyatt is showcasing all the skills that will make him an elite power forward in the NHL.
Justin Mapletoft currently stands 7th in the WHL in scoring with 3 games to play. He leads his team in every offensive category and has earned praise for his outstanding defensive play. His totals stand at 37 goals, 91 points, and 131 PIM in 69 games.
In the QMJHL, Juraj Kolnik was dominant all year. Despite missing time with a shoulder injury and to play at the WJC, Kolnik finished 15th in scoring. In only 47 games he lit the lamp 53 times and had 106 points. His shooting percentage has been around 30 percent all year and is a true sniper. His skating still needs a little work, but he has a nose for the net and a tremendous release.
Other prospects who finished strong were Mike Rupp and Chris Nielsen. Rupp finally showed some scoring prowess as well a mean streak and has had a very consistent season. He broke the 30 goals plateau and has 31 goals, 52 points, and 134 PIM in only 56 games. Nielsen continued to be a force on a very good and very deep Calgary team. With one game to play Nielsen has 38 goals and 68 points. Nielsen has a decent shot to make the Isles next season but may need some seasoning in the minors. He is very versatile, outworks everyone on the ice, and is a great defensive player. He figures to be a solid 3rd or 4th line player who plays in key defensive situations and can chip in offensively.
Over in Sweden all eyes continue to be on Mattias Weinhandl. Since returning to action Weinhandl has continues to score consistently and has 3 goals in 4 games so far in MoDo’s playoff run. Reports say that he still only has 10 percent vision in the injured eye. SEL correspondent, Peter Westermark, reports that he can only make out contours and shifts in light and that he’ll never pass a medical exam to play in the NHL. How is he playing at all, yet alone scoring if he was playing with basically one eye. Everyone will continue to monitor Weinhandl very closely as his career is still uncertain.
Elsewhere in Sweden, Johan Halvardsson had a strong season as a rookie in the Elite League. He is a big solid stay at home defenseman who is more suited to the North American game. There is some talk that the Isles will sign him over the summer and bring him over to the AHL. Winger Bjorn Malin finished first on his team and 13th in the U-20 League with 19 goals and 35 points in 24 games.
In the AHL, two of the Islanders’, and the league’s, best prospects are settling in for the playoff experience. The Hockey News recently ranked Roberto Luongo the number prospect in hockey for the second straight year. Luongo was reassigned to Lowell due to a lack of playing time and defence in front of him on the Island. The original plan was to keep Luongo in the minors for the whole year, but do to injury he got his chance in the NHL. It was his stellar play that allowed the Islanders to trade Felix Potvin in the deal that returned Dave Scatchard, Bill Muckalt, and Kevin Weekes, all of whom have performed very well in the Islanders uniform. Luongo needs to play right now more than anything and will see playoff action for the third straight year.
Many are wondering about the future of Eric Brewer. He still has a very bright NHL future. He came into camp with a little bit of a big head and was under pressure to perform well and log minutes. He struggled early and suffered some injuries which kept him out of action. Keep in mind he’s still only 20 and should have been in juniors last year. Once a talented young player like Eric loses his confidence it’s very difficult to regain it. He was sent down to find his game but was once again injured and only is now rejoining the lineup. He should come into camp next year with a bit of a chip on his shoulder and something to prove. He is extremely talented but tried to do too much this year. Once his defensive coverage improves his confidence will skyrocket. He has the potential to be a top blueliner and a two way threat.
Luongo’s reassignment provided an opportunity for Steve Valiquette to see some NHL action. His appearance gives the Islanders both the tallest skater, Chara 6-9, and goalie, Valiquette 6-5, to ever take the ice in the NHL. Valiquette has played well is spot duty and won his first start against Atlanta. Forward Jason Krog has found his scoring touch in Providence after a streaky year. Krog was named AHL player of the week with a performance that included 6 goals and 11 points in 4 games.