Many New York Islanders prospects had exceptional seasons in 2013-14. Multiple pro prospects exceeded expectations and their junior, collegiate, and European prospects all took strides in their development.
Ryan Strome, Anders Lee, and Calvin de Haan had great years proving they can have success at the NHL level. Griffin Reinhart, Ryan Pulock, and Adam Pelech were amongst the best defenseman in the CHL last season, and Ville Pokka had a banner year playing in the Liiga. Taylor Cammarata also played an important role for the University of Minnesota.
Expectations are high now for this prospect pool after the success of last season. Strome and de Haan should play important roles for the Islanders. Reinhart, Pulock, Pokka are being counted on to have successful professional debuts. Josh Ho-Sang and Michael Dal Colle should both challenge for the OHL scoring lead. The prospect pool should have another strong year across the board at all levels.
Top Pro Prospect
Ryan Strome, C, New York Islanders (NHL)
Strome has been recognized as a top prospect around the NHL for some time now and the 2014-15 season may be his coming out party. After getting his feet wet last year, Strome has a good chance to earn a top six role on the team out of training camp. The Islander’s struggled to get secondary scoring last year and it was apparent they needed more depth in their lineup when injuries hit. They signed Mikhail Grabvoski and Nikolai Kulemin to address this issue and Strome will provide offense as well, possibly on a line with the aforementioned players. Strome has been able to put up a lot of points at every level he has played and should continue to in the NHL.
The Islanders are deep down the middle but there are open spots on the wing that Strome will have a chance to earn. He has nothing more to prove at the AHL level and he looked ready to be a full time NHL player at the end of last season. With another off season of training, Strome looks ready to show why he was the fifth overall pick three years ago.
Calvin de Haan, D, New York Islanders (NHL)
De Haan appeared in 51 games for the Islanders last season and looks to be a lock to make the team again this year. If he can build on the progress he made last season, de Haan is going to make a name for himself around the NHL. He is only scratching the surface of his potential, and he improved in every game he played last season. The Islanders are thin on the blue line so de Haan could be playing 20 or more minutes a night in all situations. If de Haan sees time on the top power play unit, there is the potential for him to double his production from a year ago. De Haan’s progression also allows the Islanders to ease Reinhart into the NHL, as he is set to make his debut this year.
Sebastian Collberg, RW, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)
Collberg comes to North America for the first time with a fresh start after a disappointing season in the SHL. He has not put up the numbers he is capable of in Sweden, but some of that can be attributed to him being stuck on lower lines. This season, Collberg should get top six minutes for a Bridgeport team that needs more skilled offensive forwards, as the Sound Tigers finished in the bottom five in goals last season. He will be given powerplay time and counted on to be one of the offensive leaders on the team. There are numerous Swedes on the Sound Tigers roster which could also help ease the transition.
Top Junior Prospect
Michael Dal Colle, LW, Oshawa Generals (OHL)
Dal Colle broke out last season for the Generals, finishing fifth in the OHL in scoring. With Scott Laughton (PHI) gone this season, this will be Dal Colle’s team to take over. He could be one of the top players in the OHL this upcoming season and a 100 point season should be well within his grasp. He also could represent Canada at the world juniors.
Dal Colle biggest strength is his release on his shot and ability to pick corners. He is a pure sniper, something the Islanders lack on their current roster. He also has the hockey sense to gel with other skilled players. He still needs to improve his game on the defensive side of the puck, but that is a problem for most 18-year-old offensive forwards and can be improved in time.
Viktor Crus Rydberg, RW, Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
Crus Rydberg was considered one of the top players in his age group coming out of Sweden a few years before his draft. After having strong years in Sweden, Rydberg had a disappointing season for a skilled forward, only finishing with 37 points. It can be written off as a year for Rydberg to adjust to the North American game on a rebuilding Whalers team. Rydberg is best when he is setting up his teammates, but there was not much talent to work with last year in Plymouth. He will return to the OHL this year and the team should be much better. They are bringing in 2014 first rounder Sonny Milano (CLB) who will be an impact player right off the bat. If Crus Rydberg ends up on a line with him, he should be able to rack up the points. If not, he can provide secondary scoring from the second line while opposing teams focus in on Milano.
Josh Ho-Sang, RW, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Ho-Sang already broke out last season leading the Spitfires with 85 points. He improved significantly from his rookie year in his all around play. Ho-Sang was less turnover prone and was better at using his teammates. This year the key to Ho Sang’s game will be keeping his focus and composure. He is at his best when he is slowing the game down and not trying to force plays. With his hands and offensive abilities he can break a game wide open. Ho-Sang has the ability to put up points in bunches although playing on a weak Windsor team may hurt his overall totals. He was better in the second half of the season last year, so if he can continue that and hit the 100 point mark, it would be a successful 2014-15 season.
Top Amateur Prospect
Taylor Cammarata, LW, Minnesota Golden Gophers (Big 10)
Cammarata is under the radar as far as New York Islander prospects go. He quietly had a solid freshman season playing a top six role for the Gophers. He finished with 27 points and should be able to build on that total this season. Cammarata has high end hockey sense and has the ability to find the soft areas of the ice to put up points. He should also be able to enjoy great success from a team standpoint again in 2014-15. The Gophers were ranked number one for a large portion of last year and should be a powerhouse again as they return most of their roster. Cammarata has lost in the finals at both the USHL and NCAA levels in the past two seasons, so he should be coming out hungry this year.
Stephon Williams, G, Minnesota State Mavericks (WCHA)
Williams had a fantastic freshman season for Minnesota State being named the All-WCHA First Team as well as the All-WCHA Rookie Team. He was one of the top goaltenders in the country with a .924 save percentage and a 2.00 goals against average. Last year was one to forget for Williams as he took a major step back. His save percentage dropped to a .862 and his goals against average rose to 3.23. Cole Huggins took over as the starter and ran away with it, leaving Williams to get little playing time down the stretch. This year is a fresh start and the better goalie is going to play for the Mavericks. Look for Williams to get his game back to his former level and show why the Islanders thought highly enough of him to select him with a fourth round pick.
Kyle Schempp, C, Ferris State Bulldogs (WCHA)
Schempp established himself last season as a freshman. He was recognized across the NCAA after being named to the WCHA all-rookie team. This year, Schempp will take an even larger role on the team. Ferris State graduated many of their top scorers from last season and Schempp will be counted on to produce for the Bulldogs. Schempp should be able to find more consistency in his game this year after having a full season under his belt to get adjusted to the NCAA game. He started last year off strong, but his totals fell off as the year progressed. If he can find more month to month consistency, Schempp will be amongst the WCHA scoring leaders. If Ferris State makes the NCAA tournament again, Schempp will be a major reason why.
Top European Prospect
Ilya Sorokin, G, Metallurg Novokuznetsk (KHL)
With Pokka headed to North America, the newly drafted Sorokin becomes the Islanders top European prospect. He is very athletic and has the most potential of any goaltender in the Islanders system. Sorokin is advanced for his age as a goaltender, already proving his worth in the KHL last year and will be the starter for Metallurg Novokuznetsk again this season. He should also make the Russian World Junior team, possibly as the starting goaltender.
Sorokin is still growing into his 6’2 frame. As he puts on more weight and continues to work on his positioning he is going to be tough for shooters to beat with his quick reflexes and side to side movements. He is under contract until 2017, so he will have plenty of time to fine tune his game. There is some talk of the “Russian factor” with Sorokin, but he is best off playing in the KHL for now anyway.
Unsigned for 2014-15
Kirill Petrov, RW, Ak Bars Kazan (KHL)
Despite past rumors of coming over to North America, Petrov is again set to play in the KHL next season. He is under contract with AK Bars Kazan, where he spent parts of the past eight years, until 2016. The Islanders still own his NHL rights and will until Petrov turns 27 years of age. Petrov was drafted six years ago though, so his time is starting to run out. It is not completely unheard of for a player to come over to NHL after spending a large amount of time in the KHL. The Montreal Canadians were in a similar situation with defenseman Alexei Emelin. He was drafted in 2004 and stayed in Russia until 2011 until making his NHL debut. It worked out for Montreal as Emelin recently signed a four-year extension.
First Year Pro to Watch
Linus Soderstrom, G, Djurgården J20 (SuperElit)
Soderstrom was the younger players selected in the 2014 NHL Draft, only a few weeks away from being eligible for 2015. He had success with Djurgården J20 last season and will likely start the season there again this year, but will have a chance to make the parent team. Djurgården is back in the SHL after being relegated in 2012 and has all new goaltenders from last season. Soderstrom is currently listed on their roster and even if he gets sent back to J20, he will get some games with the SHL team throughout the season. It would be a great opportunity to learn from former NHL goaltender Mikael Tellqvist. Soderstrom is still developing though and needs to play games, not sit on the bench.