Youth development has the New York Islanders back in the playoff picture

By Christian Litscher
Photo: Michael Dal Colle led the Oshawa Generals with 42 goals and 93 points in 56 games this season (Courtesy of Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

Photo: Michael Dal Colle led the Oshawa Generals with 42 goals and 93 points in 56 games this season (Courtesy of Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

 

 

The New York Islanders returned to the playoffs this season in large part due to the development of their young players. Recent prospects Ryan Strome, Anders Lee, Calvin de Haan, and Brock Nelson amongst others have all played a big role for the Islanders on their Stanley Cup quest. Reinforcements look to be coming in the near future. Griffin Reinhart is the Islanders’ Top Defensive Prospect for a 3rd consecutive year and Michael Dal Colle is the Prospect of the Year.

Hardest Worker: Mike Halmo, LW, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)

Halmo finished the season with 18 points in 33 games. After going undrafted, Halmo has worked hard to improve every year. He was a top scorer his last season in junior and has developed into one of the Sound Tigers’ best players. Halmo already has NHL experience and has proven to be capable of playing a fourth-line role in the NHL with his feisty style. He will be knocking on the door for a roster spot in coming seasons and will be a first callup at the very least.

Hardest Shot: Ryan Pulock, D, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)

Not only does Pulock have the hardest shot in the Islanders prospect pool, he might have the hardest shot amongst all prospects. He finished tied for second amongst AHL players for powerplay goals with 13, despite missing a large chunk of the season to an injury in January which caused Pulock to miss 22 games. Pulock impressed in training camp last fall and will get another look to make the team this year. His shot will eventually be a deadly weapon on the Islanders powerplay.

Best Defensive Prospect: Griffin Reinhart, D, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)

Reinhart has been long recognized as a top defensive prospect after being selected 4th overall in the 2012 NHL draft. After winning a Memorial Cup last season, he had a successful professional debut with the Sound Tigers this year, scoring 22 points in 59 games. Points will never be a complete picture of Reinhart’s impact, as his presence is most felt in the defensive end. The next step for Reinhart is the NHL. He appeared in eight regular season games this year, and even got into Game 5 of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Washington Capitals due to injuries. He will have a good chance to make the team next year, especially should the Islanders let veteran Lubomir Visnovsky go.

Fastest Skater: Jesse Graham, D, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)

Graham wins the award for fastest skater in the Islanders prospect pool. He has the ability to make things happen from the backend with his skating ability. He can also use his feet to get out of trouble and move the puck up the ice. Graham finished with 19 points in 40 games for the Sound Tigers. He also had 14 points in 23 games in the ECHL for the Florida Everblades. Graham should see an increased role next year for the Sound Tigers.

Prospect of the Year: Michael Dal Colle, LW, Oshawa Generals (OHL)

Dal Colle dominated the OHL this year. He finished with 93 points in 52 games which was good for 12th in scoring in the OHL. He also led the Generals to a first place finish in the Eastern Conference.  Dal Colle then carried his strong play from the regular season into the playoffs, where he has 23 points in 10 games, third only to phenom Connor McDavid and Nick Ritchie. The Generals are currently battling the North Bay Battalion in the Eastern Conference Finals. Dal Colle will be in the mix for a roster spot next fall, but may be best served with another year in junior.

Breakout Player for 2015-16: Linus Soderstrom, G, Djurgården (SHL)

Soderstrom had a solid year in Sweden’s top junior league and even saw time in Sweden’s second professional league playing on loan. The 2014 fourth rounder made a name for himself at the world juniors, appearing in every game for Sweden. He should be back in goal again for Sweden next year. Soderstrom will most likely join the SHL next year. He is still raw, but has a large frame and solid positioning in net which gives him the potential to be an NHL goaltender.

Most Improved Prospect: Robbie Russo, D, University of Notre Dame (NCAA)

Russo finished his collegiate career off strongly for the Fighting Irish. He finished with 41 points in 40 games, second among NCAA defensemen. Russo’s status as a prospect was in jeopardy last season after an academic suspension, but eliminated any doubt with his play this year. Russo will turn pro next season and it will be interesting to see where he fits in with the glut of defensive prospects the Islanders have.

Overachiever: Alan Quine, C, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)

Quine finished the season with 61 points, good for 11th in the AHL and second on the Sound Tigers to Dustin Jeffrey, who was acquired at the trade deadline. Quine was originally a Detroit draft pick in 2011, but was redrafted by the Islanders in 2013 in the sixth round. Detroit’s loss was the Islanders’ gain as Quine was a consistent threat for the Sound Tigers all season long. Quine will compete for a roster spot next fall, but will probably be a victim of the depth in New York—and again be a leader for the Sound Tigers.

Underachiever: Sebastian Collberg, RW, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)

Collberg never found his stride in his first season with the Sound Tigers, as he battled injuries that limited him to 41 games. The former Canadiens second rounder finished the season with four goals and twelve assists. Collberg has struggled to put up points at the professional level since his days in the SHL, although his talent suggests his numbers could get better. His release is amongst the best on the team and he is skilled in one-on-one situations. Collberg still has the talent to breakout in a big way.

Highest Risk/Reward Prospect: Josh Ho-Sang, RW, Niagara IceDogs (OHL)

Ho-Sang is a classic boom/bust prospect. He has the potential to be a playmaking forward at the NHL level, but needs to play a top-six role to have success. Ho-Sang has as much natural talent as any prospect in the Islanders pool, possessing fantastic hands and stickhandling abilities. How he matures in what will be his last OHL season next year will go a long way in determining his future. The 2014 first rounder was good this season with 81 points in 60 games, but still has another level to reach offensively.

 

Prospect of the Month: Michael Dal Colle

Michael Dal Colle - New York Islanders Prospect of the MonthDal Colle has been on fire for the Oshawa Generals in their OHL title and Memorial Cup hopes. The Generals played the Peterborough Petes in the first round of the OHL playoffs, where they won the series in a convincing fashion, 4-1. Dal Colle finished that series with eight points. He turned it up even more in the next series against the Niagara Ice Dogs. Dal Colle had 13 points in the series, including four multi point games and a five point game in Game 4. The Generals also won that series 4-1. They are currently fighting the North Bay Battalion in the conference finals.