The New York Islanders Top 20 prospects list is comprised of 14 forwards, largely European, and six defensemen, largely North American. The lack of a good goaltending prospect continues to be a trouble spot for the organization.
Key: Rank, (previous rank), name, position – age – (acquired).
1. (3) Petteri Nokelainen, C – 19- (2004 Draft, 16th overall)
Nokelainen might have been somewhat of a surprise pick to many at the 2004 draft, but Isles fans have to be thrilled about the success that the team’s latest first round pick has had this season in the Finnish Elite league. Considered a very safe pick, Nokelainen showed he can put the puck in the net, as he was second on his team in goals with 15, nearly triple last season’s total. He had 20 points in 52 games. The 6’1 center a strong two-way game, effective in all three zones, which should help him adapt to North American hockey.
2. (1) Sean Bergenheim, LW – 21 – (2002 Draft, 22nd overall)
Bergenheim enjoyed a very good year in the AHL, despite his team having a mostly disappointing season. After coming over from Jokerit of the Finnish Elite league, Bergenheim worked his way onto the roster for the Isles last year, seeing action in 18 games, and also enjoyed a very productive stint in the AHL playoffs picking up five points in seven games. With his impressive speed, lower body strength and solid base of skills, Bergenheim was one of the top players in Bridgeport this season, as he was third on the team in goals (15) and sixth in points (29) in 61 games.
3. (6) Robert Nilsson, RW – 20 – (2003 Draft, 15th overall)
Nilsson saw limited ice time with the influx of NHLers to the Swedish Elite league, and while his production wasn’t great, there’s little doubt of the natural skills he has. Once again Nilsson played for more then one team in a season, as he played with Djurgardens, and he also moved down to the tier-2 league to play seven games with Hammarby, one of the top teams in that league. He had six points in 23 game with Djurgardens.
4. (4) Justin Mapletoft, C – 24 – (1999 Draft, 130th overall)
After spending time with the Islanders last season, Mapletoft was back with Bridgeport for his fourth season in the AHL. Mapletoft was third on his team in scoring with 35 points, but didn’t have the same success he had with Bridgeport two years ago. A more competitive league and his teams’ troubles creating offense at times made things difficult.
5. (7) Jeremy Colliton, C – 20 – (2003 Draft, 58th overall)
If Colliton hadn’t missed a chunk of the season due to injury, he would have had an even better year with Prince Albert, and would have been able to play a bigger role with Team Canada at the World Junior tournament as well. As it was, he played only 41 games, but did score over a point a game for the first time in his junior career. Colliton should make the jump to the AHL next season, where he can display his solid base of skills, two-way play and work ethic.
6. (19) Chris Campoli, D – 20- (2004 Draft, 227th overall)
Campoli jumps up the rankings after enjoying an outstanding rookie season in the AHL. As a late pick of the Isles, he’s looking like a solid pick-up, exploding this year as the top scoring rookie defenseman in the league and second on his team in scoring with 48 points in 77 games. After enjoying a good career with Erie of the OHL, Campoli jumped right into the AHL and displayed his offensive skills as well as leading his team in plus/minus at +13. He was named to the 2005 AHL All-Rookie Team.
7. (17) Wes O’Neill, D – 19 – (2004 Draft, 115th overall)
Once considered a potential first round pick for the 2004 draft, O’Neill saw his stock drop, and the Isles they were able to pick him up on day two of the draft. O’Neill comes off a big season in his sophomore year at Notre Dame as he led his team in scoring for parts of the season and tripled his goal totals. Even though his team had a tough season, O’Neill was one of the few bright spots for coach Poulin with 20 points in 38 games.
8. (5) Ryan Caldwell, D – 23 – (2000, 202nd overall)
Caldwell drops a few spots in the rankings after a disappointing rookie year in Bridgeport in which he had the worst plus/minus on the team at -17. Expectations where a higher after his solid career at Denver in which he helped win a national championship in his senior year. Things should pick up for Caldwell next season, as he has shown he’s got a lot of natural skills and already has NHL skating ability and size at 6’3, 195 pounds.
9. (8) Bruno Gervais, D – 23- (2003 Draft, 182nd overall)
Gervais rounds out the top ten off of a successful rookie season in the AHL, fifth on the team in scoring with 30 points in 74 games, 22 of them assists. He was even on the year. Gervais looks to have bounced back from his injury-shortened year last season while playing for Acadie-Bathurst of the QMJHL, which caused him to only play 23 games.
10. (13) Igor Volkov, LW – 22 – (2003 Draft, 246th overall)
Volkov moves up the rankings coming off another career year in the Russian Super league. He had an impressive year last season and was able to follow it up with an even better performance this season. He had 28 points in 53 games in the RSL. While not the biggest guy, Volkov has shown steady improvement year over year, while getting a lot of experience playing in one of the top leagues in the world. Volkov changed teams, going from Ufa Salavat Yulayev to Moscow Dynamo, who won the last RSL championship.
11. (9) Frans Nielsen, LW – 21 – (2002 Draft, 87th overall)
Nielsen didn’t out perform last year’s strong season, but with the NHL lockout making the level of play more difficult, he was still able to put up similar numbers this year in the Swedish Elite League, 15 points in 49 games. Known for his soft hands, vision and passing skills, Nielsen isn’t the biggest guy at 6’0, 180 pounds, but he can help a team with his offensive skills and smart play.
12. (11) Evgeny Tunik, C – 20 – (2003 Draft, 53rd overall)
Tunik may have been affected by the NHL lockout, as he saw only four games in the RSL this year after spending most of last season playing in Russia’s top men’s league. Most of this season was spent in the High league, where he seems to have had some trouble scoring, as he picked up six points in 17 games while with two different teams in the High league. After signing with St. Petersburg SKA, one would think he will see more time with them next year, as the big forward has made good impressions with the coach of SKA.
13. (NR) Sergei Ogorodnikov, C – 19 – (2004 Draft, 82nd overall)
Ogorodnikov enjoyed a successful season, making his Super league debut with CSKA and enjoying a decent amount of offensive production with 5 points in 17 games. He also saw time this year in the first league where he was very productive.
14. (18) Blake Comeau, RW – 19 – (2004 Draft, 47th overall)
Comeau was considered a surprise pick as he wasn’t expected to be picked so high according to most scouting agencies, but he could end up proving many wrong. He enjoyed a very successful that saw him more then double his goal production from 10 to 24 with the Kelowna Rockets. He had 47 points in 65 games in all. The 6’1, 198-pound Comeau brings a strong physical presence to the line-up.
15. (NR) Cody Blanshan, D – 21 – (2003 Draft, 238th overall)
Blanshan left the NCAA after one season to join Medicine Hat of the WHL, a league known for producing solid physical defensemen like him. He had 27 points in 69 games in his final season in the WHL, along with 115 penalty minutes. The 21-year-old will likely be signed after his improved play this season.
16. (12) Dmitri Chernykh, RW – 20 – (2003 Draft, 48th overall)
Chernykh saw limited action in the High league, spending most of the season playing in the Russian junior league for CSKA-2. After spending more then half of last season in the Super league, where he enjoyed some success playing for the legendary coach Victor Tikhonov. The skinny winger will need to add some bulk and improve his strength as he can be physically outmatched.
17. (20) Steve Regier, LW – 20 – (2004 Draft, 148th overall)
Regier enjoyed a solid rookie season with Bridgeport this season, coming from Medicine Hat of the WHL. The 6’5 winger isn’t afraid to mix it up physically and get his nose dirty, and he can also put the puck in the net. He was in the top ten in scoring for Bridgeport as a rookie with 21 points in 73 games, and stayed positive with a +4.
18. (10) Stefan Blaho, LW – 19 – (2003 Draft, 120th overall)
Blaho entered his second year in North America with hopes of improving from his solid rookie season with Sudbury of the OHL. But goals were hard to come by, even on the defensive-minded team. He had seven goals and 15 assists in 64 games. Blaho has a willingness to play a physical game as well as drop the gloves if need be.
19. (14) Arto Tukio, D – 24 – (2000 Draft, 101st overall)
Tukio made the move from the Finnish Elite league over to the Swedish Elite league this year and enjoyed a decent season with eight points in 48 games. Not the biggest defenseman at 6’0, 189 pounds, but he is known for his vision and playmaking abilities.
20. (NR) Jason Pitton, RW – 18 – (2004 Draft, 244th overall)
Pitton makes his debut to the top 20 after a successful season with the Greyhounds of the OHL, where he was fifth on his team in scoring with 42 points in 68 games. He was able to more than double his goal production as well as assists and points.
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