New York Islanders organization loaded up from the blueline back

By Christian Litscher
Photo: Mathew Barzal is 9th in WHL scoring, with 83 points (25 goals, 58 assists) in 52 games. (Courtesy of Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

Photo: Mathew Barzal is 9th in WHL scoring, with 83 points (25 goals, 58 assists) in 52 games. (Courtesy of Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

 

 

The New York Islanders currently sit third in the Metropolitan Division behind the powerhouse Washington Capitals and crosstown rival New York Rangers. The Islanders have established themselves as a yearly playoff contending team as the organization looks assured of making their 2nd straight playoff appearance.

Although the organization has found success, it wasn’t long ago that they were consistently picking in the top five of the NHL draft. This has led to a stable of top prospects that the organization is still waiting to reap the rewards from. Players such as Mathew Barzal, Michael Dal Colle, and Ryan Pulock have the potential to turn the Islanders from a solid playoff competitor to a Stanley Cup contender.

Two players from the fall edition of the Top 20 fell out of the rankings this time around. Ryan Pilon, who decided to retire from hockey, and Kirill Petrov, who had an unsuccessful stint in North America and returned home to Russia to play in the KHL.

Christopher Gibson and Doyle Somerby enter the top 20 for the first time. Gibson was acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs in September and Somerby was a fifth-round pick of the Islanders in the 2012 draft.

The Islanders system is flush with defensemen and goaltenders and features many high-potential forwards.

20. (NR) Doyle Somerby, D, 6.5 D
Drafted 5th round, 125th overall, 2012

Somerby enters the top 20 rankings for the first time. He was drafted as a project but has made great strides over the past three years. Standing at 6-foot-5, he has always been noticeable on the ice, but this season, he has improved his skating and has gained confidence with the puck. This has translated to the scoresheet as Somerby has set a career high with 13 points.

Somerby is on a Boston University team that features many NHL draft picks and has national championship aspirations, which will be good for Somerby’s development. The Massachusetts native has one more season of collegiate eligibility before looking to turn pro.

19. (20) Kyle Burroughs, D, 6.0 C
Drafted 7th round (196th overall), 2013

Now in his first professional season, Burroughs has acclimated well to the next level. Due to the depth of the Sound Tigers defense corps, Burroughs started the season in the ECHL and appeared in 18 games with the Missouri Mavericks, registering a goal and six assists. Burroughs received a call-up to the AHL in early January and has been a staple in the lineup ever since.

In 23 games with the Sound Tigers, Burroughs has a goal and six assists. Like most young defenseman, there has been a learning curve, but he has the potential to become a bottom-pairing defenseman in the NHL.

18. (15) Stephon Williams, G, 7.0 D
Drafted 4th round (106th overall), 2013

Williams made his pro debut this season, after a successful collegiate career. Williams has a .903 save percentage and a 2.78 goals against average, but his play has been better than the stats would indicate as the Sound Tigers have had their fair share of breakdowns in front of him. Williams also had an ECHL stint from January to early February. He has NHL potential, but like all young goaltenders needs to work out the kinks in his game.

17. (NR) Christopher Gibson, G, 7.0 D
Acquired via trade with Toronto, September 2015

Gibson was acquired as one of the pieces in the Michael Grabner trade. He has had a good season, spending the majority it as the number one goaltender for the Sound Tigers. In 27 appearances, the Finnish native has a .904 save percentage and a 2.78 goals against average. In a call-up to the Islanders, he appeared in 29 minutes against the Pittsburgh Penguins, making 16 of 17 stops. Gibson is looking to eventually to fill in the shoes of Thomas Griess as the backup behind Jaroslav Halak.

16. (13) Mike Halmo, LW, 5.5 B
Signed as a free agent, March 2012

Halmo has been a leader for the Sound Tigers, serving as alternate captain for a second straight season. He has registered 25 points in 53 games and has 87 penalty minutes. The Ontario native’s strengths lie in his grit and forechecking ability and he has the two-way game to play in all situations for the team. Halmo turns 25 in May and at this point in his career, is starting to enter his prime. He has shown during the 2013-14 season that he can be a capable fourth-liner when called upon but doesn’t have much potential beyond that.

15. (19) Devon Toews, D, 6.5 C
Drafted 4th round (108th overall), 2014

Toews, now in his junior season, continues to progress well for the number one ranked Quinnipiac Bobcats. The British Columbia leads the team from the backend in scoring with 26 points in 31 games and is also among the NCAA defense leaders in that department. Adding to his dynamic offensive game, Toews has improved his decision making and play away from the puck. Toews has gotten better each season, and will spend one more season in the NCAA before looking to turn pro.

14. (16) Jesse Graham, D, 6.5 C
Drafted 6th round (155th overall), 2012

Like Burroughs, Graham has been up and down between the AHL and the ECHL. With the Sound Tigers, Graham has accumulated 17 points in 40 games but has struggled in his own zone. Because of this, he was sent to the ECHL in late January, where he dominated with nine points in 10 games.

His offensive game has continued to excel this season as Graham’s wheels allow him to create offense from the backend. With his small stature, Graham struggles from time to time in the defensive zone. Graham has the potential to become a sparkplug third-pairing defenseman in the NHL, but will need to improve his all-around game to get there.

13. (17) Kevin Czuczman, D, 6.5 C
Signed as a free agent, March 2014

Czuczman is now in his second season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He has been reliable, as he is the only defenseman on the roster to appear in every game this season. Czuczman plays the penalty kill and is often paired with the Islanders younger prospects in the system. Although he is more of a stay-at-home defenseman, Czuczman has managed to set a career high with 12 points in 55 games. At 25 years old, Czuczman is in his prime and projects to be a depth defenseman at the NHL level.

12. (18) Alan Quine, C, 6.5 C
Drafted 6th round (166th overall), 2013

Quine has been an offensive leader for the Sound Tigers for a second-straight season. The Ontario native has 30 points in 40 games, having an up-and-down season altogether. Quine missed six weeks of the season from the middle of December to the end of January. Upon returning to the lineup, Quine registered points in 11-straight games. Quine has good hockey sense and offensive instincts, but will need to take the next step in his development to avoid becoming an AHL/NHL tweener.

 

11. (14) Linus Soderstrom, G, 7.5 D
Drafted 4th round (96th overall), 2014

Another goaltender in the system, Soderstrom has had a strong season playing in the Allsvenskan of Sweden. He has a 1.78 goals against average and a .932 save percentage, both stats among the league leaders. Soderstrom was phenomenal at the World Juniors, with a 46-save shutout against Team USA highlighting his tournament. He finished with a .947 save percentage and a 1.42 goals-against average and was named top goaltender. Soderstrom should see time in the SHL next year, as he continues to develop his game. Soderstrom is big in net at 6-foot-4, and has strong positioning which gives him great potential at the next level.

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