Trio of New York Islanders prospects ready for prime-time

By Christian Litscher
Griffin Reinhart is one of the best defenseman not playing in the NHL this year. (Image courtesy of Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)

Photo: Griffin Reinhart is one of the best defenseman not playing in the NHL this year (courtesy of Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)

 

The Islanders have become a top team in the Eastern Conference this season after years of finishing low in the standings. The team’s success on the draft floor has built a talented core that looks primed to be competitive for years.

The Islanders prospect pool is among the NHL’s best, with three blue-chip prospects leading the way. The top three of Griffin Reinhart, Michael Dal Colle, and Ryan Pulock all project to be impact NHL players. Recent graduations have made the depth chart more top heavy than it has been in the past few seasons, but there are still many players that have NHL potential—if they can fix the holes in their game.

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

With the graduation of Ryan Strome, Griffin Reinhart slides into the number one spot as the top prospect for the New York Islanders. He has spent the majority of the season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers playing a top-four role. Reinhart’s offense has translated well to the AHL level with 19 points in 37 games. The former fourth overall pick also appeared in his first eight NHL games this season, averaging 14:10 of ice time while filling in for injuries. Reinhart will make a push for a full-time roster spot next season and projects as a minute-eating top-four defenseman.

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

Michael Dal Colle has lived up to his draft position, becoming one of the most dangerous scoring threats in the OHL this season. He leads Oshawa with 79 points in 45 games, which puts him at 10th in league scoring. He has also been a clutch sniper for the Generals, leading the OHL in game winning goals with 11. Dal Colle’s frame combines with his skill set to make him a potential top-six NHL forward.

3. (6) Ryan Pulock, D, 8.0 C
Drafted 1st round, 15th overall, 2013

Ryan Pulock’s jump in the rankings should be no surprise. He has performed admirably this year, taking on a top pairing role with the Sound Tigers despite being one of the younger players in the AHL. Pulock is among the league-leaders in powerplay goals this season with 10–despite being limited to 29 games due to injury. Like Reinhart, Pulock has the potential to be a top-four defenseman and may get his chance as soon as next season.

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

Ho-Sang got off to a fast start to the season with Windsor, notching 19 points in 11 games. Since being traded to Niagara in November, he has settled in nicely as one of the team’s top forwards. He has improved his point production from last season, scoring at a 1.40 point-per-game clip compared to last year’s 1.26.Ho-Sang will more almost assuredly spend the next year at the OHL level before turning pro. Ho-Sang is the definition of a project, but if he can mature as a player he has the potential to put up major points in the NHL.

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

Scott Mayfield is a tough, stay-at-home defenseman. He plays hard and is willing to stand up for his teammates. The former second-rounder has been solid for the Sound Tigers this season, taking on a defensive second-pairing role—and has been a fixture on the penalty kill. His physical, no-nonsense game will complement the more skilled defenseman on the Islanders blueline nicely.

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

The cerebral 2012 third-rounder has made a smooth transition to the professional ranks with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, using positioning and hockey sense to make an impact. The Toronto native has a good first pass, but is unlikely to be the point producer he was in junior. Pelech will need a few more years to develop before he is ready to see NHL ice.

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

Halmo has spent the entire season in the AHL after spending time on Long Island last season. He has been limited to 22 games due to an upper-body injury sustained in mid-December. In the games he has played in, he has 12 points to go along with 65 penalty minutes. The feisty winger has been versatile playing both powerplay and penalty kill. Halmo proved last season that he can play at the NHL level on the fourth line as an energy player, and will be knocking on the door for a roster spot in the upcoming seasons.

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

Sorokin has had an up-and-down season. He hasn’t had the success he had last year in the KHL and has even spent some time in the MHL. Sorokin was solid but unspectacular for Russia at the world juniors in a backup role. He appeared in three games and finished with a 2.66 goals against average and a .962 save percentage. Sorokin is a long term project, but has the potential to be a starting goaltender in the NHL down the line.

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

Soderstrom has developed well this year, starting in 13 games for Djugården J20 of the SuperElit as well as making appearances for Södertälje and Almtuna of the Allsvenskan. Soderstrom started every game for Sweden at the World Junior Championship this year, finishing with a 2.31 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. Soderstrom is still very raw and will continue to fine-tune his game in Sweden. He has good size, is positionally sound in net and should see time in the SHL next season.

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

This offense-minded defenseman enjoyed a successful professional debut, with 19 points in 39 games with the Sound Tigers. Graham has high-end speed that allows him to push the pace of the game and join the rush. He will need more development time at the AHL level before he is ready to advance.

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

Czuczman is older than the other defensive prospects for the Islanders, but still has NHL potential. Like Halmo, Czuczman didn’t look out of place in his time in the NHL at the tail end of last season. He has spent this season in the AHL, taking on a third-pairing role. He even played a game at forward on February 8th. Czuczman will continue to develop in the AHL until the Islanders need cheaper replacements for Brian Strait and Matt Donovan.

12. (NR) Devon Toews, D, 6.5 C
Drafted 4th round, 108th overall, 2014

Toews is in the midst of a breakout season at Quinnipiac University. He has 16 points in 22 games this year after scoring 17 last season. Toews has become a team-leader for the Bobcats, and leads all defenseman in points. The British Columbia native will likely finish out college before turning pro. As a 1994-born player, he is in the same age range as many of the other Islanders defensive prospects after the 2012 draft—where all of the team’s selections were defenseman.

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

Sundstrom has exceled in a bottom-six role for the Sound Tigers this season, making his presence felt on the defensive side of the puck and penalty kill. His size and smarts are reminiscent of David Steckel. The Islanders currently have the worst penalty kill in the NHL so Sundstrom should be able to help improve that. He doesn’t have much upside as a scorer at the NHL level, but Sundstrom has the potential to be a solid fourth-line center that does the little things coaches covet.

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

In his last WHL season, Burroughs has maintained his status as a high end junior defender. The Medicine Hat Tigers recognized this when they traded for Burroughs before the trade deadline. The 2013 seventh-rounder has a goal and 11 assists in 15 games so far with his new team after posting 22 points in 36 games with the Regina Pats. This should be his last season of junior hockey and he will turn pro next season.  

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

Persson retains his spot in the rankings after an up-and-down year. He was struggling to get in the lineup in December, but has been on a tear since the New Year. The former fifth-rounder has 13 points in 17 games, including eight goals in 2015. Persson already has some NHL experience under his belt and has the potential to make an impact as a fourth-liner down the road with his size and goal-scoring ability.

16. (9) Sebastian Collberg, RW, 7.0 D
Trade with Montreal Canadiens, March 5th, 2014

Collberg has had a frustrating North American debut. He has nine points in 22 games for the Sound Tigers and has struggled to uphold a top-six forward role. His season has been derailed by various nagging injuries, and is currently sidelined with an arm issue. Collberg still has elite tools to become an offensive star, particularly the release on his shot. He will have next season to prove his worth, but if he doesn’t start producing he will be passed in the organization.

17. (16) Taylor Cammarata, LW, 7.0 D
Drafted 3rd round, 76th overall, 2013

Cammarata retains his ranking from the fall edition. He is similar to Collberg in that he is a “boom or bust” type of prospect—and needs to be put in a scoring role to help the team. Cammarata started the season hot with 11 points in his first eight games before struggling to get points through December and January. He has picked his play back up with eight points in his last six games to give him 22 on the year.

18. (NR) Alan Quine, C, 6.5 D
Drafted 6th round, 166th overall, 2013

Quine has had a great year for Bridgeport, playing a top-six forward role. The original Detroit pick has 39 points in 50 games which is second on the Sound Tigers. He has picked his play up after cooling off from a hot start, with 12 points in 14 January games. Quine is currently tied for 14th in league scoring in the entire AHL. Originally projected as a career minor leaguer, if Quine can continue this level of improvement an NHL future in a middle-six role is not out of question.

19. (NR) Robbie Russo, D, 6.5 D
Drafted 4th round, 95th overall, 2011

Russo reenters the top 20 for the first time since fall of 2013. He has rebounded well after missing the second half of last season due to an academic suspension. Russo currently sits fifth in scoring among NCAA defenseman with 27 points in 30 games. It will be interesting next season to see where Russo fits in with the deep group of defensive prospects the Islanders possess at the professional level.

20. (NR) Stephon Williams, G, 6.5 D
Drafted 4th round, 106th overall, 2013

Williams finds himself back in the rankings at the final spot. He has rebounded from a poor sophomore season to win back the starting job for Minnesota State University. He is 19-4-2 with a 1.64 goals against average and a .926 save percentage. The Mavericks currently sit atop the WCHA and are ranked #1 in the country—and Williams is a major reason for the success. He will likely return to school next season for his senior year.