Next wave of talent starting to come of age for New York Islanders

By Christian Litscher

Mike Halmo - New York Islanders

Photo: Undrafted forward Mike Halmo is having a strong year with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, where he has managed 12 goals, 12 assists, and 85 penalty minutes in 38 AHL games. (Courtesy of Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)

The New York Islanders have built an impressive pool of prospects at the professional level. The team has done fairly well at the NHL Draft over the past several years and has found a lot of good talent in the middle and later rounds.

The Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Islanders AHL affiliate, have had a mediocre year and currently sit 14th in the Eastern Conference. The team struggled out of the gate and their problems were only exasperated when players such as Matt Donovan and Ryan Strome were recalled to the NHL.

NHL

Kevin Poulin, G, 23

Poulin made the Islanders out of camp as the backup to Evgeni Nabokov and for the first time in three seasons as a pro, is getting a chance to show off his abilities at the NHL level. The talented goaltender has appeared in 22 games posting a 9-13 record. He has a 3.12 goals against average and .895 save percentage to go along with it. Although his numbers are not great, he has often been left to out to dry behind a bad Islander's defense.

Poulin has a chance to be the starter as soon as next season with Nabokov set to reach unrestricted free agency. Like all young goaltenders, he needs to work on his consistency. He has the tendency to let in soft goals that can be deflating to a team.

Ryan Strome, C, 20

Strome has had no problems adjusting to the professional ranks after amassing 296 points over four OHL seasons. The rookie pro has torn apart the AHL this year posting 33 points in 23 games and has been a standout on an otherwise below average Bridgeport team. The Islanders' brass took notice and on December 9th, Strome was recalled to the NHL.

Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano has had Strome playing sheltered minutes centering Brock Nelson and Cal Clutterbuck. Strome has shown flashes of his offensive prowess and as he adjusts to the NHL pace, he will start to put up big points.

As Strome develops, he will provide secondary scoring that the Islanders desperately need after superstar John Tavares.

Brock Nelson, C, 22

After getting a taste of NHL action in last year's playoffs, Brock Nelson has established himself as a regular on Long Island. The University of North Dakota product has exceeded expectations this year and is a bright spot on a weak Islanders team. He has mostly played on the third line but has showed enough to get top-six looks. When Thomas Vanek was injured on November 9th against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Nelson got a chance to play on the first line with Tavares and Kyle Okposo and did not look out of place.

Nelson brings solid forechecking and good size to the Islander's lineup. He is capable of being a contributor offensively and can play a variety of roles. He currently has six goals and seven assists through 38 NHL games.

Matt Donovan, D, 23

The offensive defenseman impressed enough in training camp to make the NHL opening night roster. After an up and down start on the big team, Donovan was sent down to work on his overall game, but has since been recalled to the NHL.

The Islanders lack a true powerplay quarterback with Lubomir Visnovsky missing most of the season due to injury. Donovan can be that player for the Islanders in due time as he adjusts to the pace of the NHL and gets more comfortable. The Oklahoma native still needs to round out his defensive game to avoid being no more than a third pairing powerplay specialist.

He currently has five points in 26 games for the Islanders and 14 points in 17 games for Bridgeport.

Calvin de Haan, D, 22

It has been a successful season for de Haan as the offensive defenseman has remained healthy all year. After a 2012-13 season which was derailed by injuries, de Haan has gradually found his form this season. He started the year in Bridgeport, where in 17 games he put up a goal and two assists. The Carp, Ontario native finally got back in an NHL uniform on November 30th and has held his own in 22 NHL games.

The poised defenseman has been a pleasant surprise and has his development back on track. He moves the puck well and holds his own in the defensive zone. He started the season slow on the offensive side of things, but has been red hot in January, with seven points in his last five games.

AHL

Anders Nilsson, G, 23  

Although Nilsson's numbers are down from last season, his stats don't tell the whole story. Nilsson has played well for an inexperienced Bridgeport team that is leaky on defense and struggles to score goals. The young goaltender has even gotten some games on in the NHL, most recently on December 9th against the Anaheim Ducks. He has also served as a backup to Poulin when Nabakov has been injured.

A former third-round pick in 2009 NHL Draft, Nilsson still is a very talented goaltender; he just is not quite ready to play in the NHL yet. He did not receive much help defensively in his four starts or much goal support. Nilsson still possesses a rare combination of size and athletic ability that gives him intriguing long term upside.

At the AHL level this season, he has a 5-12-2 record, a 3.08 goals against average, one shutout, and a .893 save percentage. In his five NHL appearances, he is 2-2 with a 3.63 goals against and .873 save percentage.

Kirill Kabanov, RW, 21

The former third-round pick has bounced between the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL and Bridgeport so far this season. Kabanov started the season in Bridgeport, but after being late to a team meeting, he was sent down to Stockton. There, he displayed his offensive skills with eight points in nine games. Now back in Bridgeport, the Moscow native has had trouble staying in the lineup and has often been a healthy scratch. He has three goals in 16 games on the year for the Sound Tigers.

A once highly touted prospect, Kabanov is still very young and has time to turn it around. He needs to work on his game to game consistency to earn a regular role for the Sound Tigers.

John Persson, LW, 21

Persson had a strong start to the season before going down with separate injuries that forced him to miss time on the season. The Swede currently has five goals and one assist in 17 games this season. Persson has mostly played on the third line for the Sound Tigers. At 6'2, he adds nice size to the Bridgeport lineup.

Persson has struggled with injuries this season limiting him to four November games and five December games. He plays a grinder style of game, but has enough ability to occasionally appear on the scoresheet. With more work on his skating, Persson could be an effective two-way, bottom-six forward player at the NHL level.

Mike Halmo, LW, 22

Undrafted forward Mike Halmo has come a long way in a short time. He has been a key piece to the Sound Tiger offense this year after playing a depth role last year. His 24 points place him third on the team in scoring.

The Kitchener native plays an agitators game and is willing to stick up for his teammates. Halmo is however fairly skilled too, has good hockey sense, and is an above average skater. He positions himself well on the ice and plays well in the corners. The 22-year-old could likely play a fourth-line role for the Islanders with a couple more years of development.

Johan Sundstrom, C, 21

The young Swede has quietly had a great year for the Sound Tigers. The 21-year-old is capable of playing any forward position and can contribute to the team in many ways. He is also defensively sound and can kill penalties.

Sundstrom could one day find himself as a third-line forward in the NHL. He has great size and plays a power forward's game. He also brings a fair amount of offensive to the table, and has four goals and 10 assists in 26 games.

Anders Lee, C, 23

Anders Lee is amidst a breakout season in Bridgeport. After a solid career at Notre Dame that saw him put up 116 points in 125 games, the Edina native has had no problems translating his offense to the professional level. Lee's 29 points are good for second on the team next to Strome. He also plays the defensive side of the rink well and is a player any coach can count on.

Lee still needs to improve his skating to reach the next level. Playing wing for Bridgeport, Lee is great along the boards and tends to win the 50/50 puck battles. He is not too far off from being able to step into the Islander's lineup for good.

Jason Clark, C, 21

The Eden Prairie native has bounced between the AHL and the ECHL so far this season. He has one assist in eleven AHL games and no points in fourteen ECHL games. Clark has never been known for his offensive prowess after only having two assists in his two seasons at the University of Wisconsin.

Often a healthy scratch, Clark is most effective when he plays a physical game. He is young and has good size and although he does not have much NHL upside, he has established himself as a solid pro.

Joey Diamond, C, 24

The undersized forward has been a solid contributor this season with six goals and two assists in 22 games. Diamond plays a scrappy style that has seen him amass 49 penalty minutes to go along with his six points.

Diamond will likely be a career minor league player as he does not have the size or offensive ability to sustain a spot on an NHL club. That being said, he is still very early into his pro career.

Scott Mayfield, D, 21

After spending the last two years at the University of Denver, Mayfield turned pro last year and so far has adjusted well playing against bigger faster competition in the AHL. Mayfield has a respectable one goal and six assists on the season, which is solid for a defensive minded player. Mayfield also has 67 penalty minutes and is not afraid to play a tough style of hockey.

The massive defenseman plays with a mean streak that makes him tough to play against and is at his best when he plays a simple game. He is capable of killing penalties and is a character player that sticks up for his teammates. Still raw, Mayfield could play a third-pairing role for the Islanders with a few more years of development.

Andrey Pedan, D, 20

The Moscow native turned pro this season after finishing out his career with the Guelph Storm. Pedan got a taste of AHL action at the end of last year and put up two points in eight games. He came back to Bridgeport this year with a fantastic start, putting up two goals and three helpers in nine games. He has since missed considerable time with an injury after his great start.

Pedan has good offensive skills and plays a tough game. He is a player who can do a little bit of everything and brings size to the lineup. He has the talent to be a very solid defenseman in the NHL, but is still very raw and needs a lot of time to develop to reach his potential.

Aaron Ness, D, 23

Ness had a chance on Long Island this year, appearing in 20 games on the season and managing a goal, three assists, and a minus-13 rating. The undersized defenseman has had his ups and downs, but showed flashes of good puck moving abilities. He got sent down to Bridgeport midway through the season where he has put up three goals and four assists in 14 games.

Although he will never be a big point producer, Ness can fill in well in a depth role. He will now serve as one of the better defenseman for the Sound Tigers. The former Mr. Hockey winner still has the potential to be a bottom pairing defenseman in the NHL.

Marc Cantin, D, 23

The journeyman defenseman has worked his way onto a full time roster spot for the Sound Tigers. After going undrafted, Cantin has bounced between the ECHL and AHL the previous two years after finishing his OHL career. He has appeared in 25 games so far this year.

Cantin plays a sound defensive game and often matches up against the other team's best players. The Ontario native is also a solid penalty killer. He has limited offensively with one assist on the season, but should continue to be a dependable player for the Sound Tigers.

Alan Quine, C, 20

Playing as one of the younger players in the AHL, Quine has provided some depth scoring with 14 points in 33 games so far this season. The 20-year-old is a very talented skater who has great speed. He is at his best when he gets in on the forecheck and uses his speed to create problems for the opposition. Quine plays both end of the rinks well, but still needs to bulk up to survive the rigors of the NHL.

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