Many top prospects coming of age for New York Islanders

By Christian Litscher

Anders Lee - New York Islanders

Photo: Forward Anders Lee was a standout in his first full season of professional hockey. Lee appeared in 22 games for the New York Islanders this season, where he managed nine goals and five assists. (courtesy of Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The New York Islanders got a glimpse of their future at the end of the 2013-14 NHL season. Decimated with injuries, the Islanders had many rookies in their lineup by the end of the year, including Anders Lee and Ryan Strome.

More prospects could be on their way in the near future too, as the organization has amassed a strong group of prospects across the professional, junior, and collegiate levels.

Hardest Worker: Mike Halmo, LW, New York Islanders (NHL)

Halmo has continued to prove the doubters wrong. After spending four seasons in the Owen Sound of the OHL, where he led the Attack in scoring his final season, Halmo worked his way to the professional ranks and carved out a role as a depth forward for the Sound Tigers. With more work put in, Halmo impressed in a scoring role this season which ultimately led to a call-up to Long Island. After going completely undrafted, Halmo would appear in 20 games in the NHL, scoring his first goal April 1st versus the Florida Panthers. Halmo is a fan favorite type player who provides energy to the lineup.

Hardest Shot: Ryan Pulock, D, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

Pulock has a bomb from the point. It has been said that his slapshot has already been clocked at over 100 mph at the young age of 19 years old. His ability to generate offense from the point was on display this season as he finished second in goals by a defenseman in the WHL. He will soon be an impact blueliner in New York and a major asset on the powerplay.

Best Defensive Prospect: Griffin Reinhart, D, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)

Reinhart is the cream of a deep and talented group of defense prospects in the Islander's cupboard. He has all the tools necessary to be a shutdown defenseman at the NHL level. Reinhart has great size, is a strong skater, and has good hockey sense. Physically, he is NHL ready and has a good chance to play on the big team next season after nearly playing this year.

Fastest Skater: Jesse Graham, D, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)

Graham is known for his elite skating ability, which was considered among the best in the OHL over the last few seasons. His speed allows him to be an effective puck moving defenseman whether he rushed the puck up ice or used a crisp breakout pass. His skating allows him to smoothly transition to the AHL level where Graham had four points in seven games after Saginaw got knocked out of the OHL playoffs.

Prospect of the Year: Ryan Strome, C, New York Islanders (NHL)

The Islander's possess numerous prospects that had fantastic seasons. Ville Pokka starred in Finland, Calvin de Haan made an impact on the Islander's blue line, but Ryan Strome takes the cake as prospect of the year. Starting the season in the AHL, Strome was one of the league's most dangerous players. He finished the season with 49 points in 37 games and would have contested for the AHL scoring lead had he played the full season. However, Strome's strong play led to multiple call ups to the big team. He got his real chance when John Tavares went down with a knee injury at the 2014 Olympics, giving Strome a larger role on the team. The skilled center finished the season with 18 points in 37 games displaying fantastic offensive skills and vision. Strome still needs to work on his defensive play but he looks to have solidified a roster spot heading into next season.

Breakout Player for 2014-15: Anders Lee, C, New York Islanders (NHL)

Lee has had an excellent first year professional season. He was one of Bridgeport's top offensive players and led the team in goal scoring. Towards the end of the season, he got called up to New York and exceeded all expectations with his play. He showed a goal scorers touch and always seemed find himself in the scoring areas around the net, putting home nine goals in 22 games. Lee looks to have played his way onto a roster spot for next season and it is not out of question that he plays on a line with Tavares. He is very athletic and may have more upside than originally thought. Look for Lee to make a name for himself around the NHL next year similar to the way Brock Nelson did this season.

Most Improved Prospect: Calvin de Haan, D, New York Islanders (NHL)

At this time last season there were questions whether de Haan would ever make it out as an NHL player after dealing with various injuries. He missed large chunks of the previous two seasons, and it would have been considered a success had he simply remained healthy for the entire 2013-14 campaign. De Haan would do that and much more. The 2009 first rounder started the season in Bridgeport but after an early call-up to Long Island, he never looked back. De Haan used great hockey smarts and strong positioning to be an effective defenseman. He got improved as the season went along to the point where he can be considered a core defenseman going forward.

Overachiever: Adam Pelech, D, Erie Otters (OHL)

Pelech had a tremendous season playing on a high powered Erie Otters attack that featured the OHL's two leading scorers as well phenom Connor McDavid. Pelech was the anchor on the blueline playing strong defense as well as effectively moving the puck up the ice. Although Pelech projects as more of a steady defense-first defenseman, he finished tied for third with fellow Islander prospect Jesse Graham for defenseman scoring with 54 points. His plus 52 mark was also tied for third in the league.

Underachiever: Matt Donovan, D, New York Islanders (NHL)

After making the team out of training camp, Donovan was supposed to bring offense from the backend as well as run the powerplay. He struggled to do that, finishing the season with only 16 points in 52 games. Donovan struggled with his decision making at times and often got lost in his defensive zone coverage. The young defenseman has proven he can provide offense at the NCAA and AHL levels, so he may need some more time to adjust to the NHL pace.

Highest Risk/Reward Prospect: Sebastian Collberg, RW, Frolunda HC (SHL)

Acquired at the trade deadline, Collberg has the potential to be a top-six forward in the NHL. He has great offensive tools but has struggled to put it together so far. Collberg is a finisher that possesses a great release and has a knack of being in the right spot to score goals. The 2012 second rounder has had mediocre numbers playing in the SHL, but the Islander's brass will probably want to get him to North America for next season to adjust to NHL sized rinks. Collberg is not close to NHL ready but still has tons of upside.