The New York Islanders prospect pool is loaded with talent from top to bottom. General Manager Garth Snow has done an excellent job of stockpiling a deep pool of very promising prospects. At almost every position there is a player with the upside to emerge to the top of the depth chart, which is tremendous for the future of a struggling franchise such as the Islanders. Only time will tell however whether these prospects can put everything together and reach their potential.
1. (1) Ryan Strome, C, 8.0C
Drafted 1st round, 5th overall, 2011
Ryan Strome is one of the most highly touted prospects in hockey today. After returning to the OHL for some seasoning and impressing at the U20 WJC with Canada he has proven that he is a "can't miss" prospect.
He has a great overall skill set including slick hands, outstanding vision and passing ability, as well as great release on his shot. He is also a great skater, with a second gear he can use to blow by defenders.
Strome will be given a long hard look with the Islanders and could very well stick with them for the entire season. He projects as a top line center with a ton of offensive upside.
2. (NR) Griffin Reinhart, D, 8.0C
Drafted 1st round, 4th overall, 2012
Griffin Reinhart possesses the size, skill, and pedigree to become an elite defensemen at the NHL level. Playing for the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL he quickly became their top shutdown defender, stalling the opponents' top lines on a nightly basis. He really came into his own during their run to the Memorial Cup and proved that he can play against the best junior talent there is to offer.
Reinhart has great size standing a hulking 6'4, but only weighs a bit north of 200 pounds. He will definitely benefit from another season in junior bulking up with a very talented Oil King squad. The biggest asset to his game is positioning and using his long stick to stop the opposition. He is a very good skater for his size and has a heavy shot from the point. If he could become a bit more physical and use his big body to intimidate opponents he could live up to the Chris Pronger comparisons.
Reinhart could skate with the Islanders as early as the 2013-14 season, but defensemen traditionally take longer to develop. For now, he will polish his skills in junior and hopefully fight for a spot on the Canadian U20 WJC squad this year.
3. (5) Matt Donovan, D, 7.0B
Drafted 4th round, 96th overall, 2008
Matt Donovan took a big step forward emerging as top-four defensemen with Bridgeport in the AHL. He posted 10 goals and 35 assists in 72 games, and emerged as the top offensive defensman in the prospect pool. For his efforts, he was rewarded with a three game NHL call-up at the end of the season, and while he did not manage any points, he played big minutes and was fairly solid.
Donovan possesses a booming slap shot from the point, which he uses frequently and to good effect. He also sees the ice very well and is able to make crisp breakout passes. He is not the tallest player, but has a solid frame, which helps to knock opposing forwards off the puck.
With the loss of a few key defensemen to free agency, Donovan should start the season with the Islanders. He will not be relied on too much offensively as captain Mark Streit is still in the fold. This should be good for his development by not putting too much pressure on him too quick. Look for this budding young player to become a top-four defensemen in the next year or two.
4. (3) Calvin de Haan, D, 7.0C
Drafted 1st round, 12th overall, 2009
Calvin de Haan has dealt with injuries his entire career, but finally appears to shaken the injury bug once and for all. Last season he played in 56 games for Bridgeport becoming more of a stay-at-home defensemen posting just 16 points in those games. He also finally got his first taste of NHL play with the Islanders.
De Haan is not going to blow anyone away with this physical ability, but he is a very reliable and consistent defender capable of eating up a bunch of minutes. He is very smart with the puck and makes good decisions. He also makes a very good first pass to move the puck out of the zone.
He projects as a top-four defender at the NHL level and should be given a shot to start the season with the Islanders. He has proved he can hold his own at the AHL level so hopefully that can translate into success with the Isles in the near future.
5. (4) Brock Nelson, C, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 30th overall, 2010
After a breakout season with University of North Dakota last season, Nelson joined Bridgeport to end the season playing in four regular season games and two playoff tilts. Though he did not post any points in his six game stint, he did gain some very valuable experience at the professional level.
Nelson has all of the tools to dominate at the next level. He has great size and is a powerful skater. His size allows him to dominate in all three zones and in the faceoff circle. He may need to put on a bit more muscle to compete at the professional level, which is far different than collegiate.
Nelson may get the chance to start 2012-13 with the Islanders, but would be better-suited getting top-six minutes in Bridgeport. Overall, he projects as a top-end forward, and due to the depth at the center may be moved to wing.
6. (2) Nino Niederreiter, LW, 8.0D
Drafted 1st round, 5th overall, 2010
Niederreiter struggled mightily in his first full season with the Islanders posting just one goal in 55 games. For much of the season he was buried in a fourth line grinding role, which is one of the main reasons for his lack of production. When he was placed on a line with skill players he looked like a completely different player.
The Swiss-born forward has all of the skill in the world, but it has yet to translate his game at the NHL level. He has good size, which he uses to protect the puck very well. He also has soft hands and is very creative with the puck.
Next season will be very pivotal to his development. He needs to have a great camp and work hard to earn and keep a top-six role. Though he has struggled thus far in his young career he still has a ton of upside.
7. (10) Kirill Kabanov, LW, 7.5D
Drafted 3rd round, 65th overall, 2010
Kabanov has dealt with the "Russian Factor" and people questioning his character since being drafted. Last year he proved he has been somewhat misunderstood by both signing with the Islanders and leading the Shawinigan Cataractes to the Memorial Cup.
The 20-year-old Kabanov has a hulking frame, which allows him to protect the puck very well. He owns a good shot and a nose for the net as well. He needs to improve his skating ability a bit if he is to keep up at the NHL level.
He should start the season with Bridgeport in a top-six role. He has the skill to become a top-six scoring forward with the Islanders.
8. (6) Casey Cizikas, C/LW, 6.5B
Drafted 4th round, 92nd overall, 2009
Casey Cizikas surprised everyone last season posting 45 points in just 52 games with Bridgeport earning him 15 games with the Islanders. In those 15 games he recorded four helpers, but played fairly well as an energy player.
Cizikas is not the biggest player, but he is a spark plug on the ice making him noticeable on every shift. He proved he has some offensive skill at the AHL level, which will hopefully translate into the same success at the NHL level. He has great skating ability and loves to punish opposing defensemen on the forecheck.
He projects as a third-line energy forward with the ability to chip in offensively and fill a top-six role if needed. He should be able to earn a spot to start with the Islanders this season.
9. (8) Scott Mayfield, D, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 34th overall, 2011
Scott Mayfield had a very solid freshman season at the University of Denver, quickly emerging as one of their most valuable rearguards. He is not going to blow anyone away with his offensive statistics, but he did post 12 points in 42 games last season, which is solid, especially for a freshman.
Mayfield has a massive frame that he is not shy about using to punish opposing players. He also has a bit of snarl to his game, which is always good to see. He still needs to add a few more pounds to his frame and improve his skating as well if he is going to succeed at the professional level.
He will return to Denver for his sophomore season where he will hone his skills. Overall, he projects as a top-four shutdown defensemen a few years down the road.
10. (7) Anders Nilsson, G, 7.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 62nd overall, 2009
Anders Nilsson overall had a good season last year with a few outstanding performances and astounding hot streaks. He recorded nine straight wins in Bridgeport and had a 141:41 shutout streak, which is extremely impressive. He also recorded his first NHL shutout in a very successful season.
Nilsson is a massive goaltender standing 6'5. For his size he has great athleticism and agility. The only real problem with him has been his consistency, which is seen with his wild hot streaks.
Overall, Nilsson projects as a number one goaltender and has a bit more upside than fellow prospect Kevin Poulin. The re-signing of Evgeni Nabokov will give both young goaltenders another very valuable year to develop.
11. (11) Kevin Poulin, G, 7.0C
Drafted 5th round, 126Th overall, 2008
Kevin Poulin had a very successful season with red-hot streaks just like Anders Nilsson. He bested Nilsson's shutout streak, breaking a franchise record by keeping the puck out of the net for 221:54. He also appeared in six games with the Islanders posting a .907 save percentage in his limited action.
Poulin is a much different goaltender than Nilsson as he is much more aggressive in the net. He will do anything to keep the puck out of the net and plays with a ton of intensity. Just like Nilsson he needs to work on becoming more consistent.
Though he does not have the upside of Nilsson, the 22-year-old Poulin still has the capability of becoming a number one netminder given his competitive nature. Look for him and Nilsson to split time in Bridgeport and get some playing time with the Islanders this season.
12. (12) Anders Lee, C, 7.5D
Drafted 6th round, 152nd overall, 2009
Lee posted another very successful season at the University of Notre Dame posting 34 points in just 40 games. Though his point total dropped off a tad, he improved his overall game. Lee made some major strides defensively and in the faceoff circle. He has great size to go along with great speed and loves to crash the net as well.
He will return to Notre Dame for his junior season where he hopes to have another successful season. He projects as a top-six player with power forward potential.
13. (NR) Ville Pokka, D, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 34th overall, 2012
Pokka only managed three assists in 35 games playing for Kärpät in the SM-liiga, but this is not an indication of the offensive skills this youngster possesses as he was playing in a men's league. Pokka had a great showing playing for Finland in the 2012 U20 WJC posting a goal and three assists.
The 18-year-old does not have the size to dominate physically, but he compensates with great skating and high hockey IQ. He will definitely need to bulk up and work on his defensive play before he is ready to come over to play in North America. Hopefully he will be able to earn more ice time next season as he returns to play another year with Kärpät. Overall, he projects as a top-four offensive defensemen.
14. (9) David Ullstrom, C/LW, 6.5B
Drafted 4th round, 102nd overall, 2008
Ullstrom proved that he could play with the big club last season performing admirably in 29 games. In those games he recorded four goals and four assists. He also dealt with a concussion, which he was able to return from without any lingering effects. In Bridgeport he lit the lamp 25 times in 43 games showing he can put the puck in the back of the net.
He has great size, which helps him in his shutdown role, which he was assigned to when given a chance to play with the Islanders. He was mostly played on the third line last season and used his size to his advantage muscling the opposition of the puck as well as protecting the puck. The one knock on his game is his skating ability, which should improve.
Ullstrom should be given a shot to start the season with the Islanders most likely on the third line. He has proven in Bridgeport that he can score in bunches and that he has some offensive upside.
15. (14) Johan Sundstrom, C, 6.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 50th overall, 2011
Sundstrom had a good year last season playing for Frölunda in the SEL. He posted 11 points in 49 games, which is impressive for a youngster in Sweden's top league. He also had a great international showing winning a gold medal playing for Sweden at the U20 WJC. In the tournament he posted five points in six games while serving as an assistant captain.
He has great size and hands. He has no problem going hard to the net. He also has a slick release on his shot and good hockey sense. After signing an entry-level deal with the Islanders, Sundstrom should start the season in Bridgeport. His ceiling is a top-six forward.
16. (16) Aaron Ness, D, 7.0D
Drafted 2nd round, 40th overall, 2008
Ness played very well in his first full professional season posting 27 points in 69 games for Bridgeport. He also appeared in nine games with the Islanders. He does not have the size to be a shutdown defensemen, but has great awareness and can chip in offensively. He also is very smart with the puck making a good first pass out of the zone. His skating ability is above average as well.
The 22-year-old should start next season in Bridgeport and if there are any injuries on the Island he should be one of the first to be called up. He projects as an everyday NHL defensemen in the near future.
17. (19) Johan Persson, W, 7.0D
Drafted 5th round, 125th overall, 2011
After his season with the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL ended, Johan Persson took Bridgeport by storm, recording four goals and four assists in just 12 games. Persson has good size and loves going to the hard areas of the ice. He is the perfect complementary winger to two scoring forwards. He competes and loves to go into the high traffic areas, though he needs to work on his skating if he is going to succeed at the NHL level.
Persson will start the season in Bridgeport where he will look to build off a successful stint to end last year. He projects as a scoring forward with the Islanders in a few years.
18. (20) Andrey Pedan, D, 7.0D
Drafted 3rd round, 63rd overall, 2011
Pedan proved he can score last season posting 40 points in 63 games, emerging as a top defensemen playing for the Guelph Storm of the OHL. He is a hulking Russian rearguard standing 6'4 and weighing more than 200 pounds. He is not afraid of the rough stuff either and loves to muck it up. He will return for one more season of junior hockey before hopefully making the jump to Bridgeport. He has the size and skill to become a solid NHL defensemen.
19. (NR) Robbie Russo, D, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 95th overall, 2011
Russo had a solid freshmen season at the University of Notre Dame posting 15 points in 40 games. He is a very gritty defensemen that loves to compete. He also has great leadership qualities as he captained the US U18 WJC team to gold in 2011. Look for him to fight for a spot on the US U20 WJC team this year and continue to impress at Notre Dame. Overall, he is a project, but he definitely has the upside to become a very good NHL defensemen.
20. (NR) Adam Pelech, D, 7.0D
Drafted 3rd round, 65th overall, 2012
Pelech is a rock solid defensive defensemen that will do anything to stop the opposition from scoring. He has good size, which he uses to punish opposing forwards. He is not going to blow anyone away with his offensive ability, but he did post 20 points in 44 games with the Erie Otters of the OHL last season. The 18-year-old will return to Erie where he will continue to develop his game. He is a few years away from becoming an NHL defensemen, but he has all the tools to be a difference maker down the road.