Playoffs have began in Canadian junior hockey and several Islander prospcts have picked up their games for a big playoff push. Chris Nielsen has recorded 7 goals and 10 points in 7 games and is one of Calgary’s leading contributors as he continues his excellent defensive play as well. Jeff Zehr has also had a strong start to his post season with 3 goals and 7 points in 6 games with 27 PIM to go along. This is Zehr at his best, he plays big and has a nasty mean streak along with a good goal scoring touch.
The NHL trade deadline has come and gone and the Islanders didn’t pull off the firesale that many expected. However their deadline deals did pick up a couple of talnted young players as well as some picks in the upcoming draft. The Islanders obtained Brad Isbister from Phoenix and Mats Lindgren from the Oilers. Isbister is a big physical winger with good hands and a nose for the goal. Phoenix insiders have reported that the Coyotes were reluctant to give up Isbister because some within the organization feel he can be as good as Keith Tkachuk. With the pick up of Isbister, only 21, and Zehr and Rupp in the system, the Isles should have at least one solid power forward who can score some goals while providing Palffy with some protection.
Though Mark Lawrence has bounced around for six professional seasons he was still an NHL rookie entering this season. Since his second call up with the Islanders Lawrence has been one of their best players. He has registered 14 goals and 27 points in only 42 games in his current stint with the big club, good for sixth on the team. Lawrence has good hands and though not overly physical, is willing to bang and uses his 6-4 215 lbs frame effectively. Lawrence has earned himself a spot on the Isles second line and is seeing power play time with the first unit. Mark will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season but has expressed interest in returning to Long Island with the only team who gave him a real chance in the NHL.
In other news it appears that the Islanders absentee owners will sell the club within in the next month to former Madison Square Garden President Bob Gutkowski. The sale is reported to be contigent on an agreement to build a new arena for the team. Gutkowski has been interested in buying the team for several years and would be a great step in the right direction. It is reported that he will raise the teams stingy payroll to about $30 million a season which should increase when the new arena opens.
Recent call ups to the Islanders have included Vladimir Orzagh, Warren Luhning and Steve Valiquette. Orzagh had a solid season with Lowell but hasn’t shown much so far in several call ups. Luhning returned to form after a long injury layoff. Luhning has gotten some great scoring chances but hasnt buried one yet, he was stoned several times by Arturs Irbe. Luhning also plays a good physical game, going up and down his wing and flatteneing anyone in his way to the net. Valiquette was recently promoted when Marcel Cousineau was assigned to Loell for their playoff drive. Valiquette has not seen NHL action yet but should get a look before the seasons end. He was previously one of the top goaltender’s in the ECHL and earned bot rookis and goalie of the month honors.
Another interesting story is that Jorgen Jonsson, brothr of Isles defenseman Kenny, is currently in contract negotiations. Jorgen has been one of the Swedish Leagues top scorers for the past several seasons. Should he sign he would help to shore up the Islanders weak left side along with Brad Isbister’s return from a nagging groin injury.