Islanders AHL/ECHL prospects 2009-10 review

By Omair Taher

Forwards

Trevor Smith, C
Acquired: Free Agency, 2007

In his third AHL season, Smith continued to be one of Bridgeport’s top players. Although his numbers were down from last year, he was still second on the team in goals with 21, and third in points with 47 in 77 regular-season games. The 6’1, 195 lbs forward also had a goal and two assists in five playoff games. At the age of 25, he is slated to become a restricted free agent this summer, so he will likely be after the elusive one-way contract. While that won’t guarantee a spot on the Islanders next season, he should at least get a good look during training camp. As an offensive forward, a spot on the top two lines would be ideal for Smith, but he may have to work his way up from the third or fourth line.

Jesse Joensuu, RW
Acquired: 2nd round, 60th overall, 2006

This was Joensuu’s best season in North America since he arrived two years ago. The 6’4, 207 lbs Finn posted 14 goals and a team-high 34 assists in 70 regular-season games, and had two assists in five playoff games. His strong performance also earned him a call up to the Islanders. Though he only scored one goal in 11 games, it’s still a positive sign. He didn’t have the best training camp last fall, and was one of the early cuts. However, the Islanders have obviously liked what they’ve seen from him, so he should have a good opportunity to make the big club this fall.

Justin DiBenedetto, C
Acquired: 6th round, 175th overall, 2008

DiBenedetto’s first AHL season was a bit of a disappointment as the 6’0, 195 lbs center had a tough time transitioning from juniors to the pros. After leading the Sarnia Sting in scoring last year, he recorded just six goals and eight assists in 67 regular-season games. He also didn’t see any action during five playoff games as he was out with an injury. Still, there’s no cause for alarm just yet. DiBenedetto averaged 2.5 shots per game and was third on the team in shots on goal. Although the 22-year-old had trouble finding the score sheet, the effort was there.

Matt Martin, LW
Acquired: 5th round, 148th overall, 2008

Martin had a solid rookie season with the Sound Tigers this year. The 20-year-old left winger recorded 12 goals and 19 assists in 76 regular-season games, and three points in five playoff games. He also got a chance with the Islanders following the Olympic break, and picked up two assists in five games. At 6’2, 192 lbs, Martin is a big forward who doesn’t shy away from using his size. He loves to play the body and doesn’t hesitate to drop the gloves in defense of his teammates, but isn’t strictly an enforcer either. He has the ability to chip in offensively, and though he needs to improve certain aspects of his game, like his skating, he could develop into a gritty, two-way forward.

Sean Bentivoglio, LW
Acquired: Free Agent, 2007

The only Sound Tiger to dress in all 80 games, Bentivoglio was one of Bridgeport’s top offensive players this year. He finished the regular season with 19 goals, 26 assists, and a plus-nine rating. In the playoffs, he recorded a goal and an assist in five games. The 5’11, 185 lbs left winger will be a restricted free agent this summer. Though he’s been a steady contributor for the Sound Tigers over the past three years, he will be 25 shortly after the start of next season, and his window to make the NHL is closing.

Robin Figren, LW
Acquired: 3rd round, 70th overall, 2006

Figren wasn’t very impressive in his first full season with Bridgeport. The 22-year-old Swedish left winger had just three goals and four assists in 62 games. Consistency has been his biggest issue. While he’s shown flashes of brilliance, he hasn’t found a way to play up to his full potential on a nightly basis. Next season will be crucial for him as he will be in the last year of his entry-level contract. If he is unable to elevate his game, he may have no choice but to return to Europe.

Joel Rechlicz, RW
Acquired: Free Agency, 2008

The massive 6’4, 220 lbs Rechlicz bounced back and forth between the Sound Tigers and Islanders this season. Though he didn’t record any points in the AHL or NHL, he did spend a lot of time in the penalty box. In six games with the Islanders, he spent 27 minutes in the box and picked up three fighting majors. With Bridgeport, he accumulated 128 penalty minutes, 50 of which were for fighting. Now 22, he most likely won’t be more than an enforcer.

Tomas Marcinko, RW
Acquired: 4th round, 115th overall, 2006

Marcinko hasn’t shown any improvement in his second AHL season. The Slovakian forward’s numbers dropped as he registered four goals and six assists in 54 regular-season games, and had just one point in the playoffs. Standing at 6’4, 207 lbs, he’s a big forward with some decent talent and creativity. However, he hasn’t played up to his potential since turning pro. Though he has a heavy shot, he doesn’t use it often, and only got 64 shots on goal this season. He also doesn’t use his size to his advantage, particularly in front of the net and along the boards. He will most likely return to Bridgeport next season, or perhaps even spend some time in the ECHL. He’s entering the final the year of his contract, so it could be his last to salvage his career in North America.

Tony Romano, C
Acquired: Trade with New Jersey, 2009

Romano started the season with Bridgeport, but after recording only one goal and one assist in 21 games, he was demoted to the Utah Grizzlies of the ECHL. There, his production improved significantly. The Long Island native had nine goals and 15 assists in 34 games. He was reassigned to Toledo in March, but continued scoring at a steady pace, and finished the season with a total of 15 goals, 21 assists, and a minus-six rating in 46 games. The Devils’ sixth-round pick in the 2006 draft, Romano was always a long shot to make the NHL, so the Islanders will just have to wait and see how he develops. Although he is a bit on the small side at 5’11, 185 lbs, he’s a very talented, but must be more committed defensively.

Bobby Hughes, C
Acquired: Trade with Carolina, 2009

It’s been a rough season for Hughes, both on and off the ice. The 5’11, 180 lb center began the season in the AHL, but failed to register a point in five games. Then in early November, he was arrested in Bridgeport on sexual assault charges dating back to an incident that occurred while he was an Albany River Rat. Shortly thereafter, he was demoted to the Islanders ECHL affiliate in Utah. There, he had two goals and three assists in 17 games. In March, he was reassigned to the Wichita Thunder of the CHL, where he recorded five goals and four assists in 11 games. While he showed some signs of improvement toward the end of the season, he is expected to stand trial in June. Therefore, his future in hockey is uncertain.

Defensemen

Andrew MacDonald
Acquired: 6th round, 160th overall, 2006

MacDonald started the season in the AHL, recording two goals and six assists in 21 games for the Sound Tigers. However, he was called up to the Islanders in November, and quickly established himself as a mainstay in the lineup. The 6’1, 188 lbs blueliner scored his first NHL goal against the Rangers on Dec. 17 and posted seven assists on the season to finish with eight points and a plus-four rating in 46 games. Although he returned to Bridgeport for the playoffs, putting up three goals and an assist in five games, he will have a permanent spot on the big club next season. The 23-year-old averaged 20:05 per game and impressed the Islanders enough to earn a four-year contract extension in February.

Dustin Kohn
Acquired: 2nd round, 46th overall, 2005

In 45 games for Bridgeport this season, Kohn had two goals and 15 assists. He was called up to the Islanders in late January and stayed with the team for the remainder of the season, posting four assists and a minus-two rating in 22 games. However, the 6’2, 182 lb defenseman’s season was cut short after a hit to the head in a game against the Rangers on March 25. Kohn will be a restricted free agent this summer, and if the Islanders do bring him back, he will likely serve as a depth defenseman, splitting his time between the Bridgeport and Long Island.

Dylan Reese
Acquired: Trade with Columbus, 2010

The former Rangers prospect began the season with Syracuse where he had four goals, 18 assists, and was a plus-12 in 51 games. He played one game in Bridgeport after being traded in March, but spent much of the remainder of the season with the Islanders. In 19 NHL games, he scored two goals, two assists, and finished a plus-four. At 6’0, 195 lbs, the 25-year-old blueliner has some decent size and can chip in offensively. However, at this point in his career, he will likely remain a sixth or seventh defenseman in the NHL.

Goaltender

Mikko Koskinen
Acquired: 2nd round, 31st overall, 2009

Koskinen only played in two games for the Sound Tigers before suffering a torn hip labrum that forced him to miss the entire the season. The Finnish netminder finished with a 1-1-0 record, .902 save percentage, and 2.45 goals against average. At 6’5, 185 lbs, he’s a big presence in net, and is great at playing the butterfly style. However, his game still requires some fine-tuning. Losing this season has been a setback for the 21-year-old and the Islanders will likely want him to get at least a full season of North American hockey under his belt before he sees any action in the NHL.