New York Islanders possess offensive firepower at CHL level

By Kyle West
Photo: Nino Niederreiter will likely bring his physical, energetic style of play to the Islanders in the Fall of 2011. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

The Islanders have six players plying their trade in the CHL this season. Many, such as Calvin de Haan and Nino Niederreiter will be joining the pro-ranks next season with Niederreiter likely making the Isles out of training camp.

QMJHL

Kirill Kabanov, LW, Lewiston MAINEiacs
Drafted 3rd round, 65th overall, in 2010

A Russian winger with slick hands who delights in being the center of attention, Kirill Kabanov has made the most of his high profile in the small city of Lewiston. While recovering from an injury he greeted fans coming into the arena and has been the first in line for any sort of community outreach events in the area, involved in everything from greeting donors at local blood donor clinics to reading to seniors at the local library. Nominated as one of three finalists for the OMJHL Humanitarian Award , Kabanov is clearly enjoying his time away from the rink in Lewiston. On the ice however, his returns of 11 goals and 28 points in 38 games have done nothing to further the suggestion that the Islanders nabbed themselves a third round steal in the 2010 draft. Once tagged as the “next Ovechkin” leading up to his draft year, the enigmatic winger now resembles the Caps star only in his engaging personality and wide grin.

His regular season returns of 11 goals and 28 points in 38 games were disappointing, however Kabanov has elevated his game in the post season and helped Lewiston past Montreal in the second round. With five goals and 11 assists in 11 games, Kabanov has keyed the offense and gone a long way to restoring hopes that the Islanders nabbed themselves a third round steal in the 2010 draft.

OHL

Casey Cizikas, C, Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors
Drafted 4th round, 92nd overall, in 2009

Recently returning to action after missing 13 games with a hand injury, the Major’s captain and inspiration scored and added an assist his first game back, helping Mississauga dominate the Sudbury Wolves in the first game of their second round playoff series. When the injury was first diagnosed, Cizikas was expected to miss most of the playoffs and return for the Major’s hosting of the Memorial Cup , so his early recovery is a testament to his willingness to put his body on the line for his teammates. A key player for the OHL’s top team, Cizikas takes the key faceoffs and leads the penalty killing unit. His scoring totals of 64 points and 29 goals in 52 games attest to his skills with the puck, however his excellence without the puck is what makes him such an exciting prospect for the Islanders.


Calvin de Haan, D, Oshawa Generals
Drafted 1st round, 12th overall, in 2009

The calm and assured de Haan has been a key figure in leading the Generals to their best record of the past 15 years. Wearing the C for Oshawa, de Haan quarterbacks the power play, plays on the top pairing, and he also brings a sense of confidence in his game that benefits his teammates in all situations. Playing in his first OHL playoffs, de Haan has made the most of his first foray into the post season, prompting the attack with 12 points in 10 games games, including three helpers in the must win second game against Niagara in the second round. Already signed to a pro contract, de Haan looks to sign off on his junior career in style and get down to the business of preparing himself to win a spot on the Islanders blue line in the fall.


Tony DeHart, D, Oshawa Generals
Drafted 5th round, 125th overall, in 2010

While his teammate de Haan is known for his coolness and composure, Tony DeHart has earned a reputation as a bit of a hothead. A regular combatant in OHL fisticuffs, De Hart is quick to leap to the defense of teammates. A solidly built 6’2 defender, DeHart likes to throw his considerable weight around and often finds himself out of position after throwing a big check along the boards. Having missed over twenty games due to injury this season, DeHart has made up for lost time with some outstanding playoff performances. In Game five of the first round, De Hart scored twice, added three assists and was a plus-two playing against the top opposition line. Making a strong case to be added to the Islanders contract roster, DeHart has played well in every situation and has learned to channel his aggression in profoundly positive ways.


WHL

Nino Niederreiter, LW, Portland Winterhawks
Drafted 1st round, 5th overall, in 2010

The fifth overall pick in last year’s entry draft could be forgiven a slow start after being returned to his junior club when his nine game stint in the NHL was finished. “El Nino” was a force of nature in the second half of the Winterhawks season however, going on a tear to finish with 41 goals and 70 points in just 55 games. In the playoffs, the juggernaut Winterhawks rolled over the Everett Silvertips in four straight before splitting the first two with the Kelowna Rockets and their Swiss power forward scored four times and added eight assists in those six games. Portland were the top team in the WHL’s Western Conference and are heavily favored to make the WHL final.

David Toews, RW, Brandon Wheat Kings
Drafted 3rd round, 66th overall, in 2008

The younger brother of the man who lifted the Stanley Cup last spring quit the famous University of North Dakota program to play closer to home with the Brandon Wheat Kings. The decision proved to be beneficial for his development, as Toews played on the top line and saw action on all special teams this year while he struggled to get on the game sheet for the Fighting Sioux last year. The younger Toews scored 20 goals in a full season for Brandon, a tally which included nine powerplay goals and five game winners, and also laid on 28 helpers. The decision to switch to the CHL seems to have benefited the younger Toews game and will serve to benefit the Islanders in years to come.