Islanders 2008-09 NCAA prospects update

By Peter Prohaska

The Islanders are notably stacked with former NCAA products (Doug Weight, Mike Comrie, Bill Guerin, Rick DiPietro) and have also filled the cupboard with prospects doing some time in the United States college system.  Kurtis MacLean, Jack Hillen, Peter Mannino, and newly-acquired Hobey Baker winner Junior Lessard are also in the system. For many young men, a year or four of college hockey provides intense off-ice training, allowing slower-maturing bodies to catch up with early athletic promise.  Given the Islanders’ long-term building plans, it makes a good deal of sense to stash prospects in top programs where they can develop as people as well as hockey players. 

WCHA

David Toews, C
Freshman, UND
2008 3rd Round, 66th Overall

Jonathan’s younger brother is having a respectable first year at the powerhouse University of North Dakota.  He has 11 points in 21 games. There’s not a lot of pressure to perform given the number of talented veterans on the squad.  This allows Coach Dave Hakstol to move guys along naturally and patiently and it pays off.  Note that Toews won’t be 19 until June, so his development so far is encouraging. 

Jason Gregoire, LW
Freshman
2007 3rd Round, 76th Overall

After being named player of the year in the USHL, Gregoire’s expectations in Grand Forks were a little bit higher than young Toews’s.  And the offensively-talented Gregoire is finding himself fitting in nicely.  While the older players go up against tougher opposition, Gregoire has scored nine goals, nine assists in 28 games, playing on the second and third lines.  He’s gotten power play time, though, and he has scored against good players too.  A very good start to his collegiate career.

Aaron Ness, D
Freshman, Minnesota
2008 2nd Round, 40th Overall

Ness is following a familiar career trajectory that could bode well for the Islanders.  A Mr. Hockey from one of Minnesota’s best hockey towns (Roseau), Ness was highly-regarded prior to the season and has been putting up good numbers as the college season hits its most intense point.  With 13 points (12 helpers) in 22 games, that’s quite good for a freshman defenseman.  The Golden Gophers are stocked with bluechippers as usual, but the 18-year-old Ness is holding his own.  He’s second in blueline points behind Blues prospect Cade Fairchild, and that is well within his range of expectation.  He’s still shy of 180 pounds though, and will certainly need to bulk up to match his defensive assignments in the next year or two.

Rhett Rakhshani, RW
Junior, Denver
4th Round, 100th Overall

Rakhshani sits second on the WCHA-leading Pioneers in scoring with 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists) in 24 games.  Denver’s sucess comes from having 10 players with 15 or more points though, but Rakhshani’s leadership is part of it.  The California product gets plenty of praise for his character, but also brings physicality to his game.  Rakhshani was one of the top producers for Team USA in the past, and is still one prospect to watch as Denver pursues another national championship.

Jase Weslosky, G
Sophomore, St. Cloud State
2006 4th Round, 108th Overall

Weslosky’s Huskies have had a tough time this season.  The WCHA is always competitive, and St. Cloud State has struggled to prevent scoring.  Still, although his GAA is edging toward three (2.87), his save percentage is a decent .912.  The Huskies are a youngish squad, and offensively-oriented, giving up a lot some nights.  Weslosky’s numbers were better last year, but he’s doing well given the situation.

Corey Trivino, C
Freshman, Boston University
2008 2nd Round, 36th Overall

This highly-regarded pick who put up over 100 points in two Junior A seasons has run into some injury problems in his first year with Boston University.  The team is having a strong season however, and with a lot of good young players, they can afford patience.  Trivino has put up seven points (2 goals, 5 assists) in his 16 games and, like most college players, puts the focus for this year more on conditioning, building mass, and maturing mentally than on game play.  As the season progresses, Trivino will likely have the chance to step up in some big games. His tremendous vision and playmaking will serve him well until then.

Blake Kessel, D
Freshman, UNH
2007 6th, 166th Overall

The Wildcats are settled into the middle of their conference currently, but players like Blake Kessel are a reason for optimism.  The smooth-skating defenseman has transitioned pretty well to Division I hockey.  He’s not putting up the points like he did in the USHL, but has two game-winning goals so far along with seven points in 22 games.  Coach Dick Umile has praised his one-on-one game, and since his defensive play was the area of major concern coming in, that is a good sign for his progress.  Kessel was a surprising choice for the 2009 WJCs. The team will probably lose scoring leader James vanRiemsdyk (PHI) to the pros next season, and there will be a big opportunity for Kessel to assume a large leadership/scoring role in his sophomore season. 

Doug Rogers, C
Junior, Harvard
2006 4th Round, 119th Overall

Rogers has scored just 11 points in 19 games for a Harvard squad that hasn’t won since mid-November.  The good news is that this puts him second on the team in scoring (defenseman Alex Biega leads the Crimson with 12).  After a very strong sophomore season (almost a point a game) this has been a letdown. Rogers is a gifted scorer who has been effective in his leadership role in the past.  Good on the dot, with good speed too, he is on a lackluster team.

Shea Guthrie, C
Senior, Clarkson
3rd Round, 76th Overall

Clarkson has been better lately, but sits in the middle of the ECAC standings.  Shea Guthrie started the season off strong, and currently sits at 14 points (7 goals) in 18 games.  In the last two weeks, he was named ECAC Player of the Week after scoring game-winning overtime goals in games against Union and RPI.  With a resurgence of hard work, plus his natural goal-scoring skills and good speed, Guthrie is looking to finish his collegiate career on an up note after a mediocre junior year.  He has the body for a pro career.

Tyrell Mason, D
Senior, Clarkson
6th Round, 180th Overall

Mason is serving as captain of the Clarkson squad for his senior year.  As mentioned, the team has played a little better lately, but Mason’s numbers haven’t followed suit with just one assist in 19 games. He has a defensive role, but given the solid numbers he put up in junior, certainly a bit more offense was expected.  Tall, but not bulky, a good, but not great, skater, Mason seems like a longshot at this point.

Shane Sims, D
Sophomore, Ohio State
5th Round, 126th Overall

Sims is the leading defenseman scorer for a recently hot Ohio State squad this season, with 3 goals, 14 assists in 26 games.  He has even managed a nice shorthanded goal.  Touted for a good right-handed point shot, Sims has diversified his game for the Buckeyes, setting up impressive offense out of his own end.

Brian Day, RW
Sophomore, Colgate
6th Round, 171st Overall

Colgate is also having a year where they struggle to win games, but Day is one player who’s contributing.  He’s scored 10 goals (3 assists) in 21 games, good for third on the team, but well behind scoring leaders David Mcintyre and Austin Smith.  He seems also to have toned down the physical side of his game a bit.  Still just shy of 200 pounds, his contributions involve making space for his teammates.