Islanders prospects short on promotions, high on potential

By Christian Litscher
Photo: With top prospects like Michael Dal Colle and Ryan Pulock waiting in the wings, the Islanders can only get better in the years to come. (Courtesy of Ken Andersen/NHLPA via Getty Images)

Photo: With top prospects like Michael Dal Colle and Ryan Pulock waiting in the wings, the Islanders can only get better in the years to come. (Courtesy of Ken Andersen/NHLPA via Getty Images)

 

 

The New York Islanders have moved to Brooklyn this season, and are looking to build off last year’s performance. The pieces are in the system for the Islanders to be an elite team. John Tavares is the face of the franchise and finished second in the NHL in scoring last season, while Kyle Okposo and Ryan Strome provide secondary scoring. The team’s defense is solidified by Johnny Boychuk, and Jaroslav Halak provides stable goaltending for the first time since Rick DiPietro.

After years of rushing prospects, the Islanders have changed their approach which has seen positive results in their player development. They are patient with their prospects and have success bringing them up through Bridgeport. Ryan Pulock, Michael Dal Colle, and Mathew Barzal represent the next wave of players looking to make an impact in the upcoming seasons.

Across the professional, junior, collegiate, and European levels, Islanders prospects will be looking to have big years in 2015-2016.

Pro

Top Prospect
Ryan Pulock, D, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)

Pulock is not only the top professional prospect, he is also the top defensive prospect in the Islanders pool. The skilled defenseman led all Sound Tiger defenseman in scoring last season with 29 points. Pulock’s shot from the point is a deadly weapon and his 13 powerplay goals last year were amongst the AHL leaders.

Pulock will compete to make the team out of camp, but with the recent signing of Marek Zidlicky, Pulock may start the year off in the AHL. If so, he will play in all situations for the Sound Tigers and will be a first call-up when injuries hit the big club on the backend. Keep in mind Anders Lee started in the AHL last season and ended up playing a significant role on the Islanders, so it is still possible Pulock ends up on the everyday roster by the end of the season regardless of what happens in camp. Whether this year or next year, Pulock is poised to be a big part of the Islander’s future.

Offensive Breakout
Sebastian Collberg, RW, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)

This is a make or break year for Sebastian Collberg. The once highly touted prospect is looking to rebound after a disappointing season in which he finished the year with 18 points. The skilled winger never found his groove and injuries limited him to 43 games. The only bright spot to his season was seven points in six games for the ECHL’s Stockton Thunder on a conditioning stint. Collberg will be counted on to be a top six forward and a go-to goal scorer for the Sound Tigers. Collberg has played professional hockey since he was 17 and will be looking to make his mark in his second season in North America. Collberg is signed until 2017.

Unsigned for 2016-2017
Alan Quine, C, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)

Quine is coming off a year where he led the team in scoring, but remains under the radar as far as prospects go. The Windsor native finished with 61 points and will be looking to lead the Sound Tigers again this season. Like Collberg, Quine will be an integral part of the Sound Tiger attack as the only returnee from their top five scorers last season. The former Detroit Red Wings pick will also be someone the Islanders look at calling up when injuries inevitably hit. Quine is in the last year of his contract and will need to continue to make strides in his game to avoid being a career AHLer.

Junior

Top Prospect
Michael Dal Colle, LW, Oshawa Generals (OHL)

For the second year in a row Dal Colle is the Islanders’ top junior prospect. The team’s first pick in 2014 will compete for a roster spot at training camp, but with the Islanders roster mostly set, will likely return to junior. Dal Colle would benefit best from the AHL, but the NHL-CHL Transfer Agreement prevents that from happening. The Ontario native has nothing more to prove at the OHL level, but can use this year to continue to learn how to be a dominant player. A 50-goal, 100-point season and a scoring title are all well within Dal Colle’s grasp.

Dal Colle will make the Team Canada for the World Junior Championships, after being the final cut last season. The skilled forward will undoubtedly play a top-six role and be one of the go-to players on a team looking to defend their title. Dal Colle looks right on track to hit his potential as a top forward who is a threat on the powerplay.

Offensive Breakout
Mathew Barzal, C, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)

Barzal finished last season with 57 points in 44 games in what has an underwhelming season for a potential top-five pick going into the year. His season was derailed by a slow start and an injury that caused him to miss 2 months. Barzal found his game towards the end of the season finishing with 34 points in 22 games over the last two months. He carried that play into the U18 World Junior Championships, where he was an offensive force and led Canada in scoring.

The Thunderbirds should be a top tier team this year, and could be the class of the Western Conference. Barzal will be the focal point of their attack and a 100 point season could be in the cards. Barzal is a potential top six forward whose game compares to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Bounceback Prospect
Josh Ho-Sang, RW, Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL)

Not that Ho-Sang had a bad season, quite the contrary—he finished with 81 points. Ho-Sang does, however, have the talent to improve greatly from last year and put up huge points. The 2014 first rounder has game-breaking ability that will be even more evident in his 19-year-old season. Like Dal Colle, Ho-Sang will challenge for the OHL scoring lead. He is on a great team as the IceDogs have the talent to surround Ho-Sang and are a team with OHL championship aspirations.

Ho-Sang will be in the mix for a spot on Team Canada at the World Juniors. To make it, he will have to prove he can contribute without being a distraction. Ho-Sang will be hungry coming out of the gate after being dismissed from Islanders camp early for sleeping in. The Toronto native has the potential to be a top-six forward, but will need more time to continue to mature his game.

Amateur

Top Prospect
Devon Toews, D, Quinnipiac University (ECAC)

Toews goes into the season as the number-one defenseman on Quinnipiac’s roster now that Justin Agosta has graduated. Entering his junior year, Toews will look to establish himself as one of the best defenseman in the NCAA. Toews improved his point total from his freshman year despite missing a month’s time with an injury from the end of January until the middle of February. The British Columbia native will see time on the top powerplay unit for a Quinnipiac team looking to repeat as ECAC champions. Toews will likely spend all four years of college developing.

Offensive Breakout
Taylor Cammarata, LW, University of Minnesota (NCAA)

Cammarata has posted back-to-back 27-point seasons in his first two years at the NCAA level. Last year he struggled to find the back of the net, scoring only three goals all season, but his 24 assists were second on the team. The former USHL scoring champion won’t be as snake bitten next season, and should be able to at least match his 10 goals from freshman year. Cammarata will be one of team’s most skilled forwards and will look to fill the void left by Kyle Rau. Minnesota should be competitive again this year as far as contenders go for the Frozen Four championship.

Bounceback Prospect
Kyle Schempp, C, Ferris State University (NCAA)

Schempp had a solid 2013-14 season finishing with 25 points leading the Islanders to take a chance on him in the sixth round. Last season was another story as Schempp’s production fell to 16 points on a team that only scored 88 goals all season. Ferris State was mediocre last season, but will look to get back into the NCAA tournament, like they were Schempp’s freshman year when they advanced to the second round. As the only drafted player on the roster, Schempp will need to make strides in his game in order for that to happen.

Europe

Top Prospect
Ilya Sorokin, G, CSKA Moscow (KHL)

Sorokin has the highest ceiling amongst Islanders goaltending prospects. He is athletic in the net and moves from side to side very well. Sorokin is currently the third goalie on the depth chart for powerhouse CSKA Movska behind Stanislav Galimov and former NHLer Viktor Fasth. Working with Fasth will not be a bad thing for Sorokin, but with more than 50 KHL games in his career to date, he needs to continue to play in order to develop. The 2014 third rounder has only appeared in one game so far this season which was a 20 save shutout. Sorokin is signed for the next two seasons in the KHL, before he could potentially come over to North America.

Unsigned for 2016-2017
Kirill Petrov, RW, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (NHL)

Petrov attempted to make the Islanders out of camp after spending the past five seasons in the KHL. There was a lot of competition, and with the signing of Steve Bernier, the Islanders now have 13 forwards under contract. Unfortunately, Petrov failed to make the big club and joined the Sound Tigers for his first professional season. Petrov has the size to play in the bottom six and the skill to play in the top six for small stretches. Petrov signed a one year, entry level deal so he will be looking to play for another contract.

First Year Pro to Watch
Linus Soderstrom, G, Djurgårdens IF (SHL)

Linus Soderstrom’s situation is similar to Ilya Sorokin’s in that he is stuck behind two veteran goalies, except with Djurgårdens IF. Because of this he has been loaned to HC Vita Hästen of the Allsvenskan. The lanky goaltender has already appeared in three games this season in what is Sweden’s second-tier professional league. Soderstrom would play in Djurgårdens IF, if one of Mikael Tellqvist or Mantas Armalis were to get injured. At some point in the season, Soderstrom should see time with the big club as they would likely want to see what they have in Soderstrom since Mantas Armalis isn’t signed for next season. Soderstrom should also be in net again for Sweden at the World Junior Championships in Helsinki.