Islanders 2007-08 junior prospects review

By Peter Prohaska

Jason Gregoire, LW

Lincoln Stars, USHL
2007 3rd round 76th overall

Gregoire had a remarkable sophomore season with the Lincoln Stars, posting 69 points (37 goals) in 54 games.  This performance won him the USHL Player of the Year award.  Headed to one of the top NCAA programs, the University of North Dakota, Gregoire looks to keep his development steady, add some muscle to his 175 pounds, and learn to play at the next level of competition.  Gregoire is a very exciting prospect, but playing against the highly physical and skilled players in the WCHA will certainly challenge him.

Blake Kessel, D

Waterloo Black Hawks, USHL
2007 6th round 166th overall

Kessel had a great sophomore season, and was named the Defenseman of the Year for the USHL (recent winners include LA’s Tom Preissing and San Jose’s Matt Carle), and was selected to the All-USHL First Team.  He put up 57 points, including 19 goals, but finished a +2.  He tied for the most points among defensemen in the USHL playoffs with 11 (1 goal), although his Black Hawks lost the championship to Omaha in overtime.  Kessel showed that he could dominate at this level, unleashing nearly 200 shots over the course of the season.  He will look to continue his development as a freshman at the University of New Hampshire (Hockey East), nearby brother Phil in Boston.  He already possesses good size, an admirable work ethic, and offensive skills, but will need to work on defense to continue a positive trajectory.

Troy Mattila, LW

Tri-City Storm, USHL
2006 7th round 190th overall

Mattila was top five in scoring on a sub-par Storm squad that failed to qualify for the post-season.  He put up respectable scoring numbers (30 points, 13 goals), but was also a -21, in his second year in the USHL.  He is now headed for a freshman season in the Ivy League, at Dartmouth. The quality of competition isn’t as high in the ECAC as it is elsewhere in Division I hockey, but Dartmouth recently produced Lee Stempniak (STL) and David Jones (COL), both of whom contribute regularly for their NHL teams.  Mattila has good size (6’2, 185), and played in every game for the Storm this year.  Mattila, at 20 years old, should be considered a long-shot at this point.

Robin Figren, LW

Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL
2006 3rd round 70th overall

Figren became the first Oil King in modern franchise history to sign an NHL contract.  His three-year entry-level deal with the Islanders involves playing a year in his native Sweden before returning for a tryout with affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL.  Some injury trouble (broken wrist, sports hernia) held him to 35 games with the WHL club, but he put up 18 goals and 31 points during that time.  Figren is not a large player (5’11, 180), but at 20 years of age, he has definite upside as a scoring threat with solid defensive skills.  The Swedish Elite League has been turning out plenty of top NHL talent, so keep an eye on his progress with Djurgardens over the next year.

Mark Katic, D

Sarnia Sting, OHL
2007 3rd round 62nd overall

Katic finished strong in Sarnia this season, with 31 points (5 goals) in 45 games, plus three playoff assists.  He was also a +11 on the season.  These numbers are a step back from 2007, but a shoulder injury played a role in keeping him out in the early part of the season.  Katic is still one of the top defensive prospects in the system, although playing with someone of Steven Stamkos‘s caliber helps too.  He has been garnering strong reviews for his intense play and dedication to every shift.

Tomas Marcinko, C

Barrie Colts, OHL
2006 4th round 115th overall

Marcinko had a very nice campaign in Barrie, putting up 45 points (19 goals) in 48 games.  The 6’4 winger missed some time early with a fracture of the tibia, but contributed all year long, and added seven points in nine playoff games to lead his team.  The Slovakian is said to lack some offensive acumen, but his numbers indicate a solid scoring touch.  The Colts captain’s 54 penalty minutes speak to a solid physical game, and 14 more in the playoffs shows that he has good intensity.  The Islanders signed Marcinko to a three-year entry-level contract in April.

Max Gratchev, LW

Rimouski Oceanic, QMJHL
2007 4th round 106th overall

Gratchev had a fall from his tremendous 2006-07 season with Oceanic (70 games, 35 goals, 77 points), putting up 29 points (9 goals) in 39 games, due to a broken left foot.  Gratchev is a Russian who came to the United States in 1993, and has made use of his time in the North American system to develop a fine two-way game.  Scouts like his intensity and work ethic, and note his strength and puck skill. By continuing to focus on these positives, Gratchev can continue his course toward the NHL.  He is old for his draft class, and has become depended on for his leadership skills as well as his scoring.

Simon Lacroix, D

Shawinigan Cataractes, QMJHL
2007 7th round 196th overall

Lacroix took a bit of a step back this year in Shawinigan, putting up 34 points (5 goals) in 52 games, and finishing a -13.  He certainly had raised eyebrows the prior year with 38 points in 60 games, playing 30 minutes a night.  His drop in numbers may have been due to the emergence of fellow rearguard Adam Bourque-Leblanc helping with the heavy minutes, but it could also be attributed to a mediocre Shawinigan squad on which he was the only drafted player.  A right-handed shot, Lacroix has the attributes to become a regular NHL rearguard, including natural vision and good size that still requires a bit more muscle.

Notes

Twenty-year-old former QMJHLer Joel Rechlicz was signed to an entry-level contract by the Islanders in early May.  The Islanders have been in need of some extra grit due to the loss of Chris Simon, Sean Hill, and Arron Asham over the past few seasons.  Rechlicz split time last season between Kalamazoo of the IHL and Albany of the AHL, registering a single point for each (1 goal, 1 assist) and 206 combined penalty minutes.  Rechlicz is a very tough fighter, nicknamed "The Wrecker," and turns 21 next month.