As always there have been many recent development among Islanders’ prospects. The Islanders had seven players representing four countries at the recent World Junior Championship. Mathieu Biron led the way as an assistant captain on the Bronze medal Canadian team. Biron logged almost 30 minutes a game, seeing time in all situations. Mathieu’s all around play was stellar and he was honored as a member of the All-Tournament Team. Fellow Canadian Chris Nielsen was also played a key role. He was extremely versatile, was excellent defensively and scored huge goals including the game tying goal in the bronze medal game that forced a shoot-out. Nielsen was among Canada’s leaders in plus minus at plus 4.
The Isles had three players on the Slovakian team, Juraj Kolnik, Kristian Kudroc, and Branislav Mezei. Kolnik has a quiet tournament until erupting in the final game with two goals and three points to finish second in team scoring. Kolnik and Kudroc led the Slovak squad with plus 4 ratings. Kudroc was a dominant physical force while playing solid in both ends. Mezei scored a rare goal for the Slovaks and was their top defenseman.
Rounding out the Islanders representatives were Swede Bjorn Melin and American Brett Henning. Melin started off strong with three points in his first two games then did not register another point. Henning performed well in a checking role for the US squad, but failed to get on the scoring sheet.
A hot topic around hockey circles has become the development, or lack there of defenseman Eric Brewer. The 5th overall pick in 1997 made the Islanders out of camp last year and had an impressive rookie campaign. However, he came to this years camp and didn’t put forth the effort that Butch Goring and Mike Milbury were expecting. Brewer struggled early and was sent to the AHL. He was shortly recalled only to miss time with an assortment of injuries. After recovering Brewer returned to the lineup and still struggled. Milbury brought in Islander great and current scout Ken Morrow to work with Eric as well as the rest of the young defense. With the return of Kenny Jonsson from a flu bug and the strong play of call up Vladimir Chebaturkin, Brewer was once again demoted this weekend.
I would like to dispell these trade rumors of Eric Brewer to the Devils for Brendan Morrison. I have received many emails from people concerning this rumor. Firstly, the Islanders have not given up on Brewer as Milbury maintains that all of his problems are between the ears. Brewer needs to regain his confidence and is still a major part of the organization. Secondly, the Islanders already have too many centerman that need to develop and find their place in the organization (i.e. Connolly, Jokinen, Lindgren, Scatchard, Nabokov, Krog, Nielsen). This rumor was made up by Stan Fischler who has a bad habit of making up this insane trades and blabbing them between periods. He similarly claimed a deal of Zigmund Palffy, Zdeno Chara, and a first round pick for Pavel Bure was close to being finalized last year. Brewer is still only 20 and its tough for kids that age to rebound from a rough start. I expect Brewer to have a strong camp next season once he regains his confidence. He should be fired up with something to prove to himself as well as the Isles management and the rest of the hockey world.
One Islander prospect on the rise is Mike Rupp, who is finally blossoming in the OHL. Rupp has emerged as a bruising winger that the Isles envisioned when they used their 9th overall pick on him in 1998. To add to his increased physical play Rupp seems to have found his scoring touch, a recent hot stretch and 8 game scoring streak including during which he posted 16 points. This run has brought Rupp up to almost a point a game on the season. Rupp feels very loyal to the Isles and hopes to sign with them soon.
Fellow OHL left winger and top 10 selection Taylor Pyatt is also heating up with 9 goals and 21 points in his last 14 games. Pyatt also had 6 pp goals to go along with 4 shorthanded goals, a team high. In the WHL, centerman Justin Mapletoft continue to tear it up and is currently 5th in the league in scoring.
As mentioned earlier, Vladimir Chebaturkin has made it back to the big club. Chebaturkin plays solid defensively and is physical and chippy with a nice mean streak. He also continues to have a positive +/- rating, a rarity on the Islanders and scored his first NHL goal last week. Vladimir performed well with the Isles late last year and was a favorite to make the team before he came to camp out of shape.
Included in this update is a new stats pack which contains current stats for all the Islanders prospects. You can check it out at Prospect Scoring as well as on the Islanders team page.