Top prospects prevalent among New York Islanders awards

By Christian Litscher
Mathew Barzal - Seattle Thunderbirds

Photo: In leading the Seattle Thunderbirds to the WHL finals, Mathew Barzal was the New York Islanders prospect of the year. (courtesy of Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

 

 

The 2015-16 season has been a season of optimism for the Islanders faithful. The organization has now made the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since the 2004-05 lockout and advanced to the second round for the first time since 1993.

The team’s best days are ahead of them as they have a surplus of bluechip prospects waiting in the wings: Mathew Barzal, Ryan Pulock, and Michael Dal Colle.

Hardest Worker: Mike Halmo, LW, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)

Halmo is again the frontrunner for the hardest worker award. He has now completed his fourth professional season and served as an assistant captain for the Sounds Tigers for the second straight season. After going undrafted, Halmo has had to work hard to get to where he is now in his career. He is a true professional – a leader in the locker room who gives 100 per cent every shift and can play in all situations. When at the top of his game, Halmo provides energy and strong forechecking to the team, while chipping in offensively. With 41 points and 117 penalty minutes this season, Halmo was able to combine both sides of his game.

Hardest Shot: Ryan Pulock, D, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)

Pulock has long been known for his bullet from the point and it will continue to be his calling card as he establishes himself at the NHL level. Pulock is a strong defenseman with NHL size; at 6’2 and 214 pounds, he can get a lot of weight behind his shot. The 2013 first rounder put this on display in front of a national audience in Game 2 of the Islanders first round series against the Florida Panthers, potting a powerplay goal from the top of the circle. With his shot, Pulock has the potential to be a 15-goal defenseman who can play on the top powerplay unit.

Best Defensive Prospect: Ryan Pulock, D, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)

With the offseason trade of Griffin Reinhart, Pulock became the clear top defensive prospect in the Islanders organization. He has the highest potential and is currently the closest to making an impact. Pulock turned some heads in the postseason with three points in four games before an injury forced him out of the lineup. He should make the team next season, but will need to continue to work on his defensive game to reach the next level. Pulock projects as a top four defenseman who can possibly become an internal replacement for Johnny Boychuk.

Fastest Skater: Jesse Graham, D, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)

Graham takes home fastest skater award again for the Islanders. Speed is at a premium in today’s game and that benefits Graham. The 2012 sixth rounder brings a different dimension to the Sound Tigers backend as he has the ability to use his feet to get out of trouble. Graham spent the majority of the season in the AHL, but played 11 games in the ECHL due to the logjam of defenders on the Sound Tigers roster. Graham’s defensive game might prevent him from becoming a full-time NHLer.

Prospect of the year: Mathew Barzal, C, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)

The Islanders have a strong prospect pool that widely ranked among the top 10 in the NHL. Many prospects in the system have had noteworthy years, displaying NHL potential. However, Barzal stood out from the pack from start to finish this year. The Islanders first rounder in the 2015 NHL Draft broke out this year finishing the regular season with 88 points. Barzal continued his strong play into the postseason where he led the Thunderbirds with 26 points in 18 games and has helped lead the team to the WHL championship against the Brandon Wheat Kings. Factor in an exceptional World Junior Championship where he was named a Top 3 player on Team Canada and Barzal is the Islanders’ prospect of the year.

Breakout Player for 2016-2017: Carter Verhaeghe, C, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)

Verhaeghe was one of the pieces acquired from Toronto in the Michael Grabner trade last season. He spent the early part of the season playing in the ECHL for the Missouri Mavericks where he put up 25 points in 20 games. He was called up to Bridgeport throughout the season, but stuck on the team after January. He finished the AHL season with 15 points in 30 games. Verhaeghe started slow, but found his groove after his third callup. With another year of development and a more defined role on the team next year, Verhaeghe is a breakout candidate for the Sound Tigers.

Most Improved Prospect: Doyle Somerby, D, Boston University (Hockey East)

There were many prospects who have improved their stock throughout the 2015-16 season, but Doyle Somerby stands out. His puck skills and decision making have come a long way since coming into BU as a freshman, while his defensive game has continued to progress. Somerby, who had 13 points in 39 games this season, will serve as captain of a reloaded Terroirs squad next year. He has only started to scratch the surface of his potential.

Overachiever: Alan Quine, C, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)

Quine has taken the path less traveled to get to where he has this season. Originally drafted by Detroit, Quine did not receive a contract from the Red Wings organization and re-entered the draft in 2013 where he was selected by the Islanders in the sixth round. The Windsor, ON native has gotten better every season and has become an offensive leader for the Sound Tigers over the past two seasons. Quine got his NHL chance when injuries hit the Islanders roster and has made the most of it. He has found himself predominantly on a line with John Tavares and has played well, with five points in 10 playoff games. The highlight of his call up was when he scored the overtime goal in Game 5 against the Panthers to give the Islanders a 3-2 series lead.

Underachiever: Taylor Cammarata, LW, University of Minnesota (Big 10)

Cammarata’s development has stagnated since he has entered the collegiate level. After back-to-back 27-point seasons as a freshman and sophomore, Cammarata finished the 2015-16 season with 19 points. The Gophers found similar troubles as they failed to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since Cammarata came to campus. The Minnesota native has a high skill level, but will need a big year to continue with the Islanders organization. Cammarata seemed like a solid bet to become a point per game player at the collegiate level, so a rebound next year may be in order.

Highest Risk/Reward Prospect: Josh Ho-Sang, RW, Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL)

The Islanders took a chance in the 2014 draft, trading up to the 28th pick to select Josh Ho-Sang. The Toronto native is immensely talented, but has had concerns with his compete level and hockey sense, which made him drop to the end of the first round. Despite these concerns, Ho-Sang has electric hands and can be an offensive dynamo, amassing 292 career points in 256 OHL games. Ho-Sang’s junior career has now come to a close and the next step will be a major test as he continues to progress towards becoming an NHL player. The skilled forward will turn pro, along with Michael Dal Colle as they represent the next wave of forward prospects.

Prospect of the Month: Anthony Beauvillier, C, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)

Anthony Beauviller - New York IslandersBeauvillier had a strong regular season but has taken his game to the next level thus far in the QMJHL playoffs as he leads the ‘Q’ in scoring with 30 points in 20 games. Shawinigan eased through the first three rounds, winning 4-1 in the first round against Sherbrooke, 4-2 in the second round against Charlottetown, and 4-1 in the third round against Saint John. Beauvillier stepped up with 12 points in the series against the Sea Dogs. The Cataractes lost 4-1 against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the QMJHL championship.

Follow Christian Litscher on Twitter via @ChristianL289