Islanders junior prospects 2009-10 review

By Omair Taher

Forwards

Casey Cizikas, C
Acquired 4th round, 94th overall, 2009

The Islanders took a bit of a gamble when they drafted Cizikas with their fifth pick last June. He was awaiting sentencing on a manslaughter charge after a rugby tackle in 2007 resulted in the death of a 15-year-old opponent, and there was some uncertainty about his future as a result.

However, he ultimately received one year of probation, and so far, the Islanders risk appears to be paying off. Cizikas’ third year with the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors has been an impressive one. The 5’11, 194 lb center finished the regular season with a career-high 25 goals and 37 assists in 68 games, and led the team with a plus-37 rating. His solid play has continued into the playoffs as he has recorded seven points in nine games.

At 19, he won’t be eligible to play in the AHL next season, so he’ll return to juniors. He should have a future in the pros. Cizikas plays both ends of the ice well, has soft hands, and is a good skater. He’s still a few years away, but he projects as a two-way center who can be move between the second and third lines.

Anders Lee, C
Acquired 6th round, 152nd overall, 2009

Lee is having a good first season with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL. The 19-year-old led the team with 35 goals, 66 points, and a plus-38 rating in 59 games. At 6’2, 216 lb, he’s a big center and a good skater.

“He’s just a horse out there,” Green Bay assistant coach Jon Rogger told Hockey’s Future. “(He’s) hard to knock off the puck, and he’s scoring the points we expected him to.”

In the playoffs, he has a goal and an assist in two games so far.

Lee plans to play collegiate hockey at Notre Dame next year, and that will be a real test of his potential. Lee lacks the dynamic dimension, and will have to use his body more to score goals as he moves up.

Defensemen

Travis Hamonic
Acquired 2nd round, 53rd overall, 2008

Like several other Islanders prospects, Hamonic missed a significant amount of time due to injury this season. The 6’2, 215 lb defenseman separated his shoulder in Canada’s semi-final game against Switzerland in the 2010 World Juniors, and was subsequently sidelined for about seven weeks. Still, this has been a breakout year for him. He was shipped from the Moose Jaw Warriors to the Brandon Wheat Kings at the trade deadline and finished the regular season with 11 goals and a career-high 45 points in 41 games. He also impressed at the World Juniors, where he logged big minutes on the top pairing and was tied for a team-high plus-nine rating through six games.

With Brandon being a serious contender for the WHL championship, and hosting the Memorial Cup this year, Hamonic should be getting some big-game action. In eight playoffs games, he has six points.

Hamonic will likely turn pro this summer. The 19-year-old is very responsible in his end, and has exhibited a fair amount of offensive flair. He should develop into a solid shutdown defenseman at the very least.

Calvin de Haan

Acquired 1st round, 13th overall, 2009

As a first-round pick, expectations were high for de Haan. However, his season was plagued by injuries and ended prematurely when he had to undergo surgery to repair a torn left shoulder labrum suffered in February. The 6’0, 184 lb blueliner managed to score five goals and 19 assists in 34 games for the Oshawa Generals. He also represented Canada at the 2010 World Juniors, but was rather ineffective, recording one point in four games. Still, there’s no doubt that he will rebound next season.

A month shy of his 19th birthday, he still has plenty of time to develop before he turns pro. With his level of skill, his potential remains high. de Haan is an excellent skater with very soft hands, and plays a very disciplined game. He rarely gets caught out of position and stays out of the penalty box. He could stand to add some more strength though, as his recent injuries have raised some questions about his durability.

Jared Spurgeon
Acquired 6th round, 156th overall, 2008

Spurgeon continued to make steady progress as an overager with the Spokane Chiefs this year. In 54 regular-season games, he recorded eight goals and 43 assists, for a career-high 51 points. Although his offensive production has been solid since his draft year, the Islanders haven’t shown any urgency to get him signed. Part of this may be due to his size. Listed at 5’9, 185 lbs, there is some doubt that he’ll be on the score sheet as often at the professional level. Although he hasn’t missed quite as many games in recent years, he does have a tendency to get injured.

Though his size is a cause for concern, his offensive potential is high enough that the Islanders just might take a chance and sign him this summer. The 20-year-old has led the Chiefs in scoring among defensemen for the past four seasons. He has a strong shot, good mobility, and can make sharp passes. As of now, he projects as a bottom-pairing offensive defenseman similar to Cory Murphy, but could surprise if given the opportunity.

Jyri Niemi

Acquired 3rd round, 72nd overall, 2008

The big Finnish defenseman put up solid numbers in his third season with the Saskatoon Blades. He finished with eight goals and 21 assists in 50 games. Standing at 6’2, 202 lbs, Niemi’s major assets are his size, immediately followed by his canon of a shot. He’s fairly effective in the offensive zone as a result. Representing Finland at the 2010 World Juniors, he put up three goals and two assists in six games. However, his defensive play needs a lot of work as he ended the tournament with a team-low minus-eight rating. In the WHL playoffs, he has two goals in eight games.

Turning 20 in June, he needs to start rounding out his game in order to make it to the NHL. His defensive positioning and awareness leave more to be desired, and he isn’t a very smooth skater. Though he has produced offensively at various levels, his lack of mobility may make that difficult in the pros. The Islanders have until June 1 to sign him.

Goaltenders

Kevin Poulin, G
Acquired 5th round, 126th overall, 2008

This has been a career year for Poulin. The 6’2, 210 lb netminder posted 35 wins, 2.63 goals-against average, and .916 save percentage in 61 regular-season games. However, he has really turned his game up in the playoffs, winning eight of 10 games and recording a 1.86 GAA and .943 save percentage thus far.

Poulin didn’t play up to his potential the past two seasons, but picked a good time to elevate his game. He will be turning 20 this month, and therefore will be eligible to play in the AHL next season.

Holly Gunning contributed to this article.