New York Islanders boast large group of defensemen at CHL level

By Christian Litscher

Griffin Reinhart - New York Islanders

Photo: Griffin Reinhart is one of six defensive prospects the New York Islanders currently have playing at the CHL level. Reinhart was selected 4th overall in the 2012 NHL Draft. (courtesy of Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

The 2013-14 season has so far been disappointing for the New York Islanders. After making the 2013 playoffs, the Islanders were expected to once again compete for a spot in the post-season. Instead, they currently sit at the bottom of the Metropolitan division. The future remains bright however, as the Islanders have many top prospects currently honing their skills at the junior level.

The majority of the Islanders CHL prospects are defensemen, including former first-round picks Griffin Reinhart and Ryan Pulock.

WHL

Griffin Reinhart, D, Edmonton Oil Kings
Acquired: 1st round (4th overall) in 2012

Playing on a strong Edmonton Oils Kings team, Griffin Reinhart brings solid defensive play and the ability to control the game. The hulking defender has also contributed offensively with 11 points in 20 games.

Reinhart will represent Team Canada at the upcoming World Junior Championships. He will be joined by his younger brother Sam, who is a projected as one of the top picks in the 2014 draft. Reinhart also served as an assistant captain for Team WHL in the Subway Super Series this year scoring a goal in a 3-2 losing effort to Russia.

The highest pick by the Islanders since John Tavares, Reinhart has a promising future ahead of him. After making the Islanders out of training camp, the organization decided to it was better for his development to play big minutes in juniors, and eventually returned him to the WHL. Reinhart will most likely play in the NHL in 2014-15.

Ryan Pulock, D, Brandon Wheat Kings
Acquired: 1st round (15th overall) in 2013

Ryan Pulock is playing at about a point-per-game pace this year with 27 points in 30 games. He leads all Wheat Kings defenseman in points and is amongst the WHL scoring leaders from the back-end. The Manitoba native got off to a great start to the season, with four points on opening night and 16 points in 13 October games.

The offensive defenseman also played for Team WHL in their second game of the Subway Super Series, picking up an assist in a 4-2 win. Now wearing the 'C' in Brandon, Pulock serves as the on and off ice leader of the Wheat Kings. Though his offensive instincts are already very good, the 19-year-old is still learning to use his 6'1 frame to his advantage. He will eventually bring much needed offense to the Islander's blue line, but needs a few more years of development. He will likely turn pro next season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Kyle Burroughs, D, Regina Pats
Acquired: 7th round (196th overall) in 2013

Burroughs is having a breakout season offensively this year with 21 points in 28 games after notching 33 points in his draft year. The puck moving defenseman had a strong October, with 11 points in 11 games, and leads the Pats in scoring from the back-end. Although he is not the biggest player, Burroughs uses good puck movement and quick decision making to be effective. He also excels on the powerplay.

The 18-year-old will continue to develop in Regina for the next two seasons. He has improved every year and has handled increased responsibility this year very well. Burroughs will prove to be a solid value pick in the seventh round if his game continues to make strides at the rate it has been.

OHL

Jesse Graham, D, Saginaw Spirit
Acquired: 6th round (155th overall) in 2012

Graham is having another solid season with 27 points on the year. Recently traded to the Saginaw Spirit, the smooth skater will get to showcase his talents for a stronger club. Graham instantly provides a much needed offensive punch from the Saginaw blue line, and already has 10 points through his first 10 games with his new team.

The 19-year-old has a chance to turn pro next season after four strong years in the OHL. He will likely compete for a spot in a depth role for Bridgeport. His elite skating ability should help ease the transition to the professional level.

Adam Pelech, D, Erie Otters
Acquired: 3rd round (65th overall) in 2012

Now in his fourth season of OHL play, Pelech has developed into a rock for the Erie blue line. Through 32 games he has eight goals and 16 assists. He had a particularly strong October, notching points in all 10 games played. He is also has a plus-23 rating, which is among the best on the team.

Pelech suited up for Team OHL in both of their games at the Subway Super Series. Although losing efforts, Team OHL outplayed the Russians in each contest. He will also represent Team Canada at the 2014 WJC, where he will join Erie teammate Connor McDavid, and fellow Islander prospect Griffin Reinhart.

The 19-year-old will have a chance to make the Islander's next year in a depth role or will play heavy minutes in Bridgeport as he develops into a reliable defender every team needs.

Viktor Crus Rydberg, C, Plymouth Whalers
Acquired: 5th round (136 overall) in 2013

Rydberg is faring well in his first OHL season, with 25 points in 33 games. Playing for a weak Plymouth team, the Swedish forward has put his skills on display all season, and current leads the squad in assists. At 18 years old, Rydberg is still raw and his game will continue to progress as he adds more weight to his frame. His game should also improve as he continues to adapt to the North American ice surface.

QMJHL

Loic Leduc, D, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
Acquired: 4th round (103rd overall) in 2012

The only Islander's prospect currently playing in the QMJHL, Loic Leduc plays a physical, stay-at-home style of game. He currently has eight points in 37 games this season, after tallying only two points in 2012-13. He also has 58 penalty minutes on the season, including two fighting majors.

With so many defensive prospects set to turn pro, Leduc may spend an overage season in juniors. The 19-year-old must continue to improve his decision making to get a contract from the Islanders. He projects as an enforcer at the professional level, but will need to fine-tune his defensive game in order to not be a liability in his own end.

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