The New York Islanders currently sit fifth in a tight Metropolitan Division. Although the Washington Capitals are running away with the division, just eight points separate the second place New York Rangers from the seventh place Philadelphia Flyers.
The Islanders have remained relatively healthy this season, so there haven’t been many opportunities for the prospects in Bridgeport to get a chance with the big team. The organization saw an abundance of young players making an impact in the lineup last season, like Anders Lee and Ryan Strome, but the next wave of forwards are developing at the junior level.
Two of the organization’s most promising defensemen, Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield, have performed well in their respective call-ups when they filled in for injuries on defense. Christopher Gibson and Jean-Francois Berube have each made an appearance in net for the Islanders as starter Jaroslav Halak has dealt with a few separate injuries throughout the year.
The next six months will be an interesting time for the franchise with the future of Travis Hamonic and Kyle Okposo being up in the air. Travis Hamonic has requested a trade to move closer to his hometown in Manitoba, and Kyle Okposo is set to reach unrestricted free agency.
If either or both are no longer in the organization next year, some of the top prospects coming up through the ranks in Ryan Pulock, Michael Dal Colle, and Josh Ho-Sang may be looked at to fill these holes.
Adam Pelech, D, 21
Pelech was called up to the Islanders in mid-November when injuries hit the defense. He appeared in two games, playing limited minutes before being returned to Bridgeport. It wasn’t long before he was called up to the Islanders again in early January. This time up, Pelech appeared in another five games for the team, registering his first two NHL points against the Rangers on January 14th. He earned more responsibility with every passing game and played a season-high 22:21 against the Washington Capitals on January 7th.
It was announced that Pelech is likely out for the season with tests being done to diagnose a rare injury to the young defenseman. He finished the season with two points in seven games and a plus-1 rating. In his time with the big club, Pelech impressed, and he should have an inside track to make the roster next season.
Scott Mayfield, D, 23
Mayfield also received a call-up to New York in early January. This is his third separate stint with the team over the past three seasons. Mayfield has been a healthy scratch on most nights but has gotten into the lineup in two games for the Islanders playing third pairing minutes. Although he has no points, Mayfield played well in his role defensively. With the Islanders in the midst of a playoff hunt, the coaching staff has preferred to go with proven veterans over the inexperienced Mayfield. The St. Louis native will have to continue to earn the coaching staff’s trust to crack the lineup more often. Like Pelech, Mayfield looks to be an important piece of the future on the team’s blueline.
Christopher Gibson, G, 23
Gibson has made one appearance in an Islanders sweater this season. He relieved Thomas Greiss in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on January 2nd. Gibson made 14 saves on 15 shots in 29:03 of action. Gibson’s play in the AHL has been strong and he looks like he is the closest to making the Islanders roster in a backup role amongst the organization’s goaltending prospects.
Jean-Francois Berube, G, 24
Berube was claimed off waivers in the preseason from the Los Angeles Kings. He made one start for the Islanders against the Chicago Blackhawks on October 10th where he let in four goals on 34 shots. Berube was recently sent down to Bridgeport for a conditioning stint.
2016 World Junior Championships Update
The Islanders had three prospect playing at the World Junior Championships this year, a tournament where the team’s youngsters have had success in recent years.
Mathew Barzal, the Islander’s 16th overall pick in the 2015 draft, had an impressive tournament for Team Canada playing mostly as the third line center. The British Columbia native opened the scoring for Team Canada in the tournament, putting the puck into a gaping USA net off a broken play. Later in the tournament, Barzal added a powerplay goal and an assist on an Anthony Beauvillier tally in a round robin game against Denmark. Barzal finished the tournament with three points in five games.
Anthony Beauvillier also played for Team Canada, often on a line with Barzal. He forced his way onto the roster with his strong play in the QMJHL this season. Beauvillier’s versatility was attractive to the team, as he could play any position in the bottom six as Canada mixed and matched lines trying to find the right chemistry. Beauvillier finished the tournament with one goal in five games.
Linus Soderstrom made his second appearance in net for Team Sweden. He was fantastic, finishing the tournament with a 1.42 goals against average and .947 save percentage. Soderstrom took home Goalie of the Tournament honors, with a 46-save shutout against Team USA highlighting Soderstrom’s outing.
Prospect of the Month: Michael Dal Colle
Michael Dal Colle got a fresh start in the new year, as he was traded to the Kingston Frontenacs before the OHL trade deadline passed. Since arriving in Kingston, Dal Colle has been outstanding, finding his form from last season. He has 15 goals, 16 assists, and is a plus-14 in his 14 games in a Frontenacs sweater.
The 2014 fifth-overall pick exploded for five points against his old team, the Oshawa Generals, in a game on January eighth. Kingston is 9-4 since they traded for Dal Colle and currently sit first place in the East Division. Concerns over Dal Colle’s early season play have now seemed to be put to rest and Dal Colle is gunning for second straight Memorial Cup.