New York Islanders boast small, high-end group of juniors

By Christian Litscher
Photo: Mathew Barzal will graduate to the Canadian U20 team this winter after competing in the U18 World Junior Championships for the last two tournaments. (Courtesy of Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

Photo: Mathew Barzal will graduate to the Canadian U20 team this winter after competing in the U18 World Junior Championships for the last two tournaments. (Courtesy of Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

 

 

The New York Islanders have a small, but supremely talented group of junior prospects. They have looked to the CHL early in the NHL draft, as four of the six juniors have been first round picks; two in 2014 in Michael Dal Colle and Josh Ho-Sang, and two in 2015 with Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier.

Two defenseman, Mitchell Vande Sompel and Parker Wotherspoon, round out the group. Ryan Pilon is still in the Islanders system, but is no longer playing as he lost his passion for the game.

All six players are standouts in their respective leagues, three of them Islanders in the OHL, two in the WHL, and one in the QMJHL. The team does not currently have any prospects playing at the junior-A level.

OHL

Michael Dal Colle, LW, Oshawa Generals
Acquired: 1st round (5th overall), 2014

Dal Colle got off to a slow start to the season, with four points in his first ten games. While discouraging, it doesn’t change Dal Colle’s standing as a top prospect. He is playing through a season where he has nothing to prove after winning the Memorial Cup last spring, and is without longtime linemate Cole Cassels.

Dal Colle has found his game as of late and has 15 points in his last 10 games to give him 19 points in 20 for the season.  Now serving as captain for the Generals, Dal Colle will be looking to make the Canadian U20 team this year after he was the final cut last winter. Dal Colle skated for Team Ontario in its second game against Russia for the CHL Canada Russia series in a 2-1 winning effort. Although he had no points, he was an offensive threat throughout the game.

This will be Dal Colle’s last season of junior hockey. After years of rushing players to the big team, the Islanders have shown patience with recent first rounders Ryan Strome and Ryan Pulock. So far it has paid dividends, and it is likely they do the same with Dal Colle. Eventually, he figures to be a fixture among the team’s top six forwards.

Josh Ho-Sang, RW, Windsor Spitfires
Acquired: 1st round (28th overall), 2014

Ho-Sang has continued his OHL success this year with 29 points in 20 games, leading the Niagara IceDogs in scoring and placing 10th in the entire OHL. The skilled winger has points in all but three games this year and is currently riding an 11 game point streak. Ho-Sang is a dynamic player who is one of the best one-on-one threats in the league.

Like Dal Colle, Ho-Sang is eligible to turn pro next season. The AHL will be a big test for Ho-Sang. His talent level will never be a question, but whether his game translates to the next level is questionable. If Ho-Sang can find success, he has the potential to be a top-six forward in the NHL.

Mitchell Vande Sompel, D, Oshawa Generals
Acquired: 3rd round (82th overall), 2015

Vande Sompel had missed two months of hockey before making his season debut on October 30th. He has taken a little bit of time to get back to speed and has four points in the eight games he has played. The offensive defenseman has given the powerplay an improved look now that he is back in the lineup and will continue to prove that he is one of the best puck movers in the OHL.

Like Dal Colle, Vande Sompel dressed for the second game of the CHL Canada Russia Series for Team Ontario. The London native was invited to Team Canada’s Development  Camp this summer, but is a longshot to make the final cut. Vande Sompel will spend the rest of this season and next season developing at the OHL level. He still needs to work on his play away from the puck to eventually earn a spot on an NHL roster.

WHL

Mathew Barzal, C, Seattle Thunderbirds
Acquired: 1st round (16th overall), 2015

Barzal is in the midst of a breakout season, showing why he was such a highly-touted prospect at last June’s draft. He is one of the WHL’s leading scorers with 30 points in 17 games. The skilled center has racked up the assists as he is amongst the top in the league with 25 helpers. He has been particularly dominant at times, registering five assists in a game versus the Brandon Wheat Kings on October 27th.

Barzal skated for both games of the CHL Canada Russia Series for Team WHL. They won both games handily by scores of 7-3 and 4-2. Barzal had an assist in each game. He was invited to Team Canada’s development camp this summer and will be in the mix for a roster spot come December.

Barzal was impressive in preseason and has the Islanders brass excited for the future. The British Columbia native projects as a top-six forward with elite vision and dynamic scoring ability. He will also be a huge asset on the powerplay. Barzal still has another year in the WHL after this year before he is eligible for the AHL.

Parker Wotherspoon, D, Tri-City Americans
Acquired: 4th round (112th overall), 2015

Wotherspoon got off to a great start to the season posting 12 points in 13 October games. Although offense is not his calling card, Wotherspoon’s hockey sense and puck moving abilities get him his fair share of points. The British Columbia native is also a standout defensively, as he is a great skater  and positionally sound.

Wotherspoon’s game projects well to the NHL level. Skating and hockey sense are desired traits of defenders in the NHL nowadays. He has the potential to be an intelligent two-way defenseman if his development continues to go well. He will take some time to get there as he is still raw and growing into his body. Wotherspoon represents the next wave of defense prospects along with Mitchell Vande Sompel.

QMJHL

Anthony Beauvillier, C, Shawinigan Cataractes
Acquired: 1st round (16th overall), 2015

Beauvillier has picked up right where he left off last season by scoring 34 points in 17 games. The skilled center has points in 14 of 16 games this season and has 12 multipoint games. He has done it all for the Cataractes, playing on both the powerplay and the penalty kill leading them near the top of the QMJHL standings.

Beauvillier skated for both games of the CHL Canada Russia Series for Team QMJHL. He had an assist in a 3-2 loss and a goal and an assist in a 6-4 win. Like Barzal and Dal Colle, Beauvillier will be in the mix for a spot on Canada’s world junior team. The Quebec native plays with enough grit that he could reasonably play a bottom-six role which will help his cause.

Beauvillier, captain of the Shawinigan Cataractes, still has another year of QMJHL before he is eligible for the AHL. He impressed the Islanders in training camp with his smarts and versatility. Beauvillier is a safe bet to play in the NHL and can fill nearly any role needed.

Top Performing Non-junior Prospects

Alan Quine and Ryan Pulock have been leaders for Bridgeport this season. Quine has been a steady point producer all season long with 16 points in 16 games. Pulock has 11 points in 14 games, including two powerplay goals. Both players are a major reason for the resurgence of the Sound Tigers in the standings.

Devon Toews and Kyle Schempp have gotten off to good starts in their respective seasons. Toews has eight points in 10 games. Schempp, now serving as team captain, has broken out with 11 points in 12 games. Both players figure to be leaders for their NCAA teams this season.

Ilya Sorokin has been lights out in the KHL this year. In 11 games played he has a spectacular 0.97 goals against average and .957 save percentage. Sorokin is signed in the KHL through 2018.

Prospect of the Month: Anthony Beauvillier

UNIONDALE, NY - SEPTEMBER 17: Anthony Beauvillier of the New York Islanders poses for his official headshot for the 2015-2016 season on September 17, 2015 at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Anthony Beauvillier

Anthony Beauvillier has been the best Islanders prospects to start the season. The 28th overall pick in last year’s draft is dominating the QMJHL with 16 goals and 18 assists in 17 games. He had a five point night on October 9th against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and later followed that up with four points against the Phoenix Sherbrooke on October 19th.

It is not just the offence that makes Beauvillier special; he plays both sides of the puck well and has grit to his game. The skilled center has two game-winning goals, two shorthanded goals, and is winning 60-percent of his faceoffs. Unfortunately for his QMJHL opponents, Beauvillier has another year in the QMJHL before he is eligible for the AHL. Beauvillier will be a staple of the Islanders forward group in the future.