Though the New York Islanders currently only have a single prospect
playing in the NCAA, the team must be fairly pleased with Notre
Dame defenseman Wes O’Neill. The Islanders, who selected O’Neill in
the fourth round with the 115th overall pick in 2004, took him at a spot considerably later than most expected.
O’Neill is currently tied for the Fighting Irish team lead in goals (6)
and points (14), and is the lone leader in power play goals (5), and
shooting percentage (.109). On the down side, however, he is putting up these team-leading numbers for the struggling Notre Dame offense, which is last in the nation in scoring, currently averaging a mere 1.5 goals per
game. It is sometimes difficult to accurately assess the development of a player on such an offensively sluggish team. However, when taken
along with his size (6’4, 207 lbs) and strength, O’Neill’s production can only be seen as a plus, especially considering that he is still in his sophomore season with the Fighting Irish.
O’Neill figured prominently in Notre Dame’s early season upset of
Boston College–to date, the team’s most important win. He scored the first goal of the game, and also added the assist on the winner, a break-out pass that led to the short handed goal that sealed the game with a mere 15 seconds on the clock.
Hailing from Essex, Ontario, O’Neill made his way to Notre Dame
through the USHL, playing for the Green Bay Gamblers. In 2003-04, his
freshman season at Notre Dame, O’Neill had 2 goals and 10 assists for 14 points in 39 games. He was named as an honorable mention to the CCHA All-Rookie team.
Recent NCAA products in the system include standout
University of Denver goalie Wade Dubielewicz, who led the AHL in 2003-04 with a 1.38 GAA and was named as the rookie of the year. Thus far in the 2004-05 season, Dubielewicz has posted a 2.67 GAA and .909 saves percentage for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. At defense for Bridgeport, Ryan Caldwell, a college teammate of Dubielewicz and member of the 2003-04 National Champion DU Pioneers team, has 1 goal and 5 assists in 36 games. Former University of Minnesota forward Matt Koalska also suits up for the Bridgeport squad. Koalska, who was released by the Nashville Predators last
Summer and signed by the Islanders, has tallied a goal and 4 assists in 28 games. Defenseman Cody
Blanshan, who played a single season for Nebraska-Omaha in 2002-03, has
moved to the WHL for the past two seasons. So far, in 2004-05, he
has amassed 22 points and 78 penalty minutes in 49 games for Medicine Hat.
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