New York Islanders boast skill and depth at all positions in 2014 Fall Top 20

By Christian Litscher

Ryan Strome - New York Islanders

Photo: Forward Ryan Strome is one of several New York Islanders prospects who will be competing for an NHL roster spot in the 2014-15 season. (courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

 

The New York Islanders have a deep prospect pool and have now accumulated high potential players at every position. General manager Garth Snow has done a good job assembling the Islander’s pool with drafting and shrewd additions. Several of the team’s top prospects, including Ryan Strome, will be vying for regular NHL duties this upcoming season.

The Bridgeport Sound Tigers should also see a huge improvement this year. Most of their top forwards got time on the parent club gaining experience and now are another year older. On the back end Ryan Pulock, Ville Pokka, Adam Pelech, and Jesse Graham should all be great additions to the team.

1. (1) Ryan Strome, C, 8.0B
Drafted 1st round, 5th overall, 2011

Strome had a strong 2013-14 season, splitting time between the AHL and NHL. With Bridgeport, Strome led the team in scoring despite only playing 37 games. Bridgeport was a much better team with Strome in the lineup. The Sound Tigers had a 19-14-1-3 record with Strome in the lineup and a 9-26-1-3 record without. He was named to the AHL All-Rookie team and would have challenged for the scoring lead had he played the entire season. However, due to his strong play, Strome had multiple stints with the Islanders. He was eased into the NHL, but got more minutes down the stretch when key Islanders were out with injuries.

Strome displayed the skills that will one day make him a great offensive thread behind John Tavares at the center ice position. He has only scratched the surface of his potential but he showed flashes of brilliance in his second stint with the big team. Strome is a player who makes his teammates better and is a great asset on the powerplay with his ability to slow down the game. The 2011 first round pick will most likely play wing this upcoming season, possibly in a top six role.

2. (2) Griffin Reinhart, D, 8.0C
Drafted 1st round, 4th overall, 2012

Reinhart finished his junior hockey season on top, winning the Memorial Cup with the Edmonton Oil Kings. This year, he will make the transition to professional hockey. After nearly making the roster last year, there is a good chance Reinhart starts the year on the Islanders’ blue line. He will likely be eased into the NHL in a third pairing role and be given more responsibilities as the year progresses. If not, Reinhart will start the year playing heavy minutes in Bridgeport and will be one of the first call-ups when injuries hit. Reinhart will need some time to adjust to the professional hockey ranks, but he thinks the game well enough that he should make for a fairly smooth transition. Eventually Reinhart, along with Calvin de Haan, will be a cornerstone on the left side of the Islanders’ defensive depth chart.

3. (NR) Michael Dal Colle, LW, 8.0C
Drafted 1st round, 5th overall, 2014

The Islanders added another potential core piece this summer with the addition of Michael Dal Colle. He has all the tools to be a great offensive contributor who can put up his fair share of points next to the proven stars on Long Island. Dal Colle has great hockey sense. He has a sniper’s touch, using a great release to beat goalies from all areas of the offensive zone. Dal Colle has good size at 6’2, giving him good reach and puck protecting abilities.

Dal Colle will likely return to Oshawa for another season in the OHL. He will be the go to player for the Generals again after leading the team in scoring last season. Dal Colle is also all but a lock to make the Canadian U20 team for the World Junior Championships this winter. He needs to focus on getting stronger and rounding out his game this season, but should be in an Islander’s sweater in the not so distant future.

4. (4) Calvin de Haan, D, 7.5B
Drafted 1st round, 12th overall, 2009

De Haan gave Islander’s fans a reason for optimism on the blue line this past season after missing a lot of time because of injury. His progression was an uphill trend that never seemed to fall back down. He improved as the year went along, and by the end of the season he found himself on a pairing with Travis Hamonic playing top pairing minutes.

De Haan still has some untapped potential. His hockey sense and puck moving abilities are what sets him apart, and he also has the ability to quarterback the powerplay. From what he showed last season, de Haan looks like a safe bet to be a top four defenseman through his prime.

5. (5) Ville Pokka, D, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 34th overall, 2012

The next two in the rankings are neck and neck, however Pokka is coming off a more decorated season. In January, Pokka won the gold at the 2014 WJCs while playing a key role for Finland. Pokka continued his winning ways with Karpat, winning the Finnish Liiga regular season and league championships. Pokka had 27 regular season points but took his game to another level in the playoffs with 11 points in 16 games.

After playing his whole career up to date in Finland, there is a good chance Pokka will make the transition to North America in 2014-15. He has played with men for the past three seasons so that should make for a smoother adjustment. Pokka has top four upside as a player who can contribute at both ends of the rink and control the pace of the game.

6. (6) Ryan Pulock, D, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 15th overall, 2013

Pulock is another of the numerous high potential defensemen in the Islander’s system. He has developed as expected with another strong season in the WHL, taking home WHL East First Team Honors. Pulock was among the scoring leaders for defenseman finishing fourth in scoring with 63 points and second in goals with 23. What makes him dangerous is his cannon from the point that always commands respect from opposing teams.

Due to Pulock’s birthday, he is eligible to play for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers this season. He is not too far off from being NHL ready and should only require one or two seasons in the AHL. Pulock projects as a top four defenseman that can complement Travis Hamonic on the right side and play on the top powerplay unit as the triggerman.

7. (9) Anders Lee, LW, 7.0B
Drafted 6th round, 152nd overall, 2009

Lee jumps in the rankings after exceeding expectations this past season. He received a callup at the end of the Olympic break and made the most of it, scoring nine goals in 22 games and showed he may have legitimate top six potential. In his time in the NHL, Lee showed fantastic hands around the net, which is where he scored a good portion of his goals. He also displayed a heavy shot with a goal scorer’s release. Lee was not afraid to throw his body around, dishing out hard clean hits. He has also improved his skating enough that it should not be a problem at the NHL level.

Lee plays the type of power forward game that takes most players a while to develop at the NHL level. He is still developing his game, but there may be more upside than originally thought. Lee has the potential to develop into a 20-30 goal power forward who is very effective on the forecheck.

He will battle for an NHL spot at training camp, but with so many forwards on the depth chart, there is a chance he starts the year off in the AHL despite his strong play down the stretch. Either way, it will not be long until he cements himself as a versatile top-nine forward.

8. (NR) Josh Ho-Sang, RW, 8.0D
Drafted 1st round, 28th overall, 2014

Ho-Sang is perhaps the most intriguing prospect in the Islander’s system. He oozes potential with his flashy hands and the ability to put up points, but has been famously scrutinized for selfish play and attitude problems. His abilities with the puck, however, are rare and when his head is in the right spot, Ho-Sang can be an absolute game breaker.

Ho-Sang will be the undisputed best player on the Windsor as they lose many of their top players to professional hockey. He will again lead the Spitfires in scoring and will challenge for the OHL scoring lead. Although he was not invited to Canada’s World Junior summer camp, there is an outside chance he makes the team with a strong start to the 2014-15 season.

Ho-Sang is a long term project but if his game translates to the next level, he has the potential to be a first line player in the NHL. He is a classic boom or bust player, but the reward is worth the risk.

9. (NR) Sebastian Collberg, RW, 8.0D
Trade with Montreal Canadiens, March 5th, 2014

Collberg was the main piece Garth Snow returned from Montreal in the Thomas Vanek trade. Collberg was a casualty of the depth of Montreal’s system, but he gets a fresh start with a new organization. The Swedish forward still has good offensive upside despite his low point totals in the SHL, a league which is typically tough for younger players to put up points. He has excellent hands and possesses a quick and accurate release on his shot. He also approaches the game with a goal scorer’s mentality and is not afraid to get his nose dirty and go to the scoring areas.

Collberg will come over to North America this upcoming season to play with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He will play a top six forward role and be given every opportunity to succeed. This is a big year for Collberg to get his career back on track and prove that he still has top six potential in the NHL.

10. (10) Adam Pelech, D, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 65th overall, 2012

Pelech finished his OHL career off strong with a career high 54 points. While the point total may not be a true indicator of his offensive potential at the NHL, he projects as a solid depth defenseman who knows his limits and plays within himself. Pelech moves the puck up the ice well and is dependable in his own zone.

Pelech has improved every season since his draft year and his next step is professional hockey. Like many of the other defensive prospects, he will suit up for the Sound Tigers next season. The left side of the Islanders depth chart is crowded at the moment so Pelech can develop at his own pace without having to worry about being rushed into an NHL role.

11. (11) Scott Mayfield, D, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 34th overall, 2011

Mayfield had a solid year making the adjustment to professional hockey after two years at the University of Denver. He was steady for the Sound Tigers, leading the team in games played and playing more minutes as the season progressed.

The big defenseman even got a taste of NHL action down the stretch and played in the final five games of the regular season. He showed his toughness in the season finale, getting in his first NHL fight with Nicolas Deslauriers (BUF) right out of the box after previous matching minors. This is the kind of play that will be Mayfield’s calling card as an NHL player. He adds toughness to the blue line and plays solid in his own zone.

Mayfield has the potential to be a strong and dependable NHL defenseman. He will take time; he is raw and still growing into his body and it takes defensive defenseman time to find their groove before they can make an impact. Mayfield will continue to develop with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers this upcoming season.

12. (NR) Ilya Sorokin, G, 7.5D
Drafted 3rd round, 78th overall, 2014

Sorokin was the youngest starting goaltender in the KHL last season and fared well. He had a .911 save percentage and a 2.99 goals against average. He is a classic Russian goaltender who is very quick and athletic. Sorokin has a chance to be the starting goalie for Russia at the upcoming world juniors as well.

Sorokin is signed until the 2017 season in the KHL, so it will probably be awhile before he makes an appearance in New York. That is not the worst thing, as it gives him time to develop in a strong league that he is familiar with. He has a lot of potential and will be an intriguing prospect to monitor in the coming seasons

13. (NR) Kevin Czuczman, D, 6.5C
Signed as a free agent, March 11th, 2014

Czuczman was signed as a free agent after finishing his third season at Lake Superior State University. He improved his game in his junior season enough to attract attention from NHL clubs. Czuczman was coveted by many teams, but ultimately decided to sign with the Islanders. He stepped right into the NHL playing close to 20 minutes a game mostly on a pairing with Thomas Hickey. Czuczman has good enough size and skating ability to become a reliable defenseman in the NHL. He plays a relatively safe game and never seems to panic with the puck. Czuczman will likely start in the AHL, but may see some NHL time next season.

14. (17) Mike Halmo, LW, 6.0B
Signed as a free agent in March 10th, 2012

Halmo like most others in the Islander’s prospect pool started the year off in Bridgeport, but saw time with the parent club. He improved his play vastly from last season and made an impression in his time with the Islanders. Halmo looks like he can become a solid fourth line player who plays hard and brings energy to the team. Halmo plays feisty and is willing to throw the body despite his smaller frame. His offensive game is still coming around, but he does have some upside in that department. Halmo may start the year in the AHL, but should see some NHL time again as injuries strike.

15. (13) Johan Sundstrom, C, 6.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 50th overall, 2011

Sundstrom is another player who saw NHL ice towards the end of last season, despite a mediocre year in Bridgeport. He fared okay in his 11 games but it was clear that he was not physically ready for the NHL. He got pushed around at times and struggled against the more physical teams. However, Sundstrom did show enough poise to think he can have an NHL future ahead of him.

The big Swede will return to Bridgeport to continue to develop his offensive game. There will be more talent on the team this year so Sundstrom should be able to increase his production. He played some wing with the Islanders, but will return to his natural center ice position with the Sound Tigers.

16. (14) Taylor Cammarata, LW, 7.5D
Drafted 3rd round, 76th overall, 2013

Cammarata had a good freshman campaign with the Minnesota Golden Gophers. He played a top six forward role and enjoyed success both individually and with the team. Cammarata had 27 points and should see an increase in production heading into his sophomore year. As a team, the Gophers were ranked number one for most of the year and made it all the way to the 2014 Frozen Four. They will be a national title contender again this year.

Cammarata needs to overcome his smaller frame and work on his overall game to reach the next level. It is becoming more common to see players of his stature find success at the NHL levels and Cammarata has the hockey sense and offensive capabilities to do it. He has three more years to work on his game at the University of Minnesota before making the jump.

17. (NR) Linus Soderstrom, G, 7.5D
Drafted 4th round, 95th overall, 2014

Soderstrom was the second of two goaltenders taken by the Islanders at the 2014 draft. Soderstrom has good size and is technically sound in the crease. He will continue to develop in Sweden’s junior program with Djurgården and may even see some time in the SHL. He is considered a project and will need time to develop. Like Sorokin, Soderstrom has great potential.

18. (18) John Persson, LW, 6.5C
Drafted 5th round, 125th overall, 2011

Like Sundstrom and Mayfield, Persson made his early NHL debut last season getting a taste of what it takes to be an NHL player. Persson appeared in 10 games, scoring his first NHL goal in a game against the Washington Capitals. He did not look too out of place playing in the bottom six, but still needs time before he is ready for full time responsibilities.

Persson dealt with some injuries last season that set him back early in the year. His offensive game has not developed as well since his draft year, but he can be a contributor in the bottom six. He is strong on the cycle, always looking to create something. His 12 goals in the AHL last year show that he can contribute the occasional goal. Persson will continue to develop in Bridgeport and work on his game before seriously competing for an NHL spot.

19. (15) Jesse Graham, D, 6.5C
Drafted 6th round, 155th overall, 2012

Graham is one of several prospects who will step into the AHL this season. He gained some minor league experience last year, finishing the season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers where he put up a respectable four points in seven games. His speed is what gives Graham an advantage on the opposition. He can create space with his feet and open up lanes in transition. Graham may not be an everyday player for the Sound Tigers due to their depth on the blue line, but he should play in his fair share of games. Regardless of the plethora of defenseman in the Islander’s prospect pool, Graham has NHL potential, though he is far off from ready.

20. (16) Kyle Burroughs, D, 6.5C
Drafted 7th round, 196th overall, 2013

Burroughs, another defenseman, rounds out the Islander’s top 20. He broke out this past season with 40 points in only 58 games. Burroughs was the captain of the team and among the top defenseman in the WHL. This year, he will enter his fourth season with the Regina Pats as the number one defenseman and leader of the team.

Burroughs saw some time with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at the conclusion of his WHL season. He appeared in nine games, but had a minus-six rating to show for it. Burroughs is still a long term project but he is coming along nicely. He is a late developer and will be given time to arrive at his own pace.