After finishing in last place in the Eastern Division of the Eastern Conference last season, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers were hoping that new personnel would help the team get off to a quick start in 2005-06. Although the club did manage to string together six consecutive wins in November, at the Christmas break, the Sound Tigers’ overall record for this season is 12-18-2-1. To put it in perspective, Bridgeport’s 27 total points is 24 behind the division leading Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, and nowhere near vying for a playoff berth.
The New York Islanders currently have nine prospects on the Sound Tigers team, including four players who were drafted by the Islanders in the 2003 NHL entry draft. Four of the Islander prospects are in their rookie AHL season, two played in the Canadian Hockey League last year and two in Europe. All but one of the prospects is a forward.
Bruno Gervais (6’1, 197) is the only Islanders’ defense prospect currently playing in Bridgeport. The 21-year-old was the Islanders sixth round pick (182 overall) in the 2003 NHL entry draft, taken because he was a prolific scorer in juniors. Gervais performed that function admirably in his rookie season in Bridgeport. In 2004-05, Gervais played in 76 games for the Sound Tigers, garnering 30 points (8 goals, 22 assists), while accumulating 58 PIM and an even plus/minus. Now in his second year with the team, Gervais is used in all situations, and has the second highest point total on the Sound Tigers. In the 27 games he has played with Bridgeport in 2005-06, Gervais has nine goals and 13 assists, including three power play and one shorthanded goals. He is still even this year, and he has accumulated 36 PIM. Gervais was called up to the NHL Islanders for four games between December 3 and December 12, 2005, but he did not register any points and was a –2. Gervais is developing well and is a top prospect in the Islanders organization. Barring injuries, he should be ready for the NHL next season.
Robert Nilsson (5’11, 176) was the Islanders’ first pick (15th overall) in the 2003 NHL entry draft. The 20-year-old center began the season with the Islanders, and before he was assigned to the Sound Tigers on December 3, 2005, Nilsson registered six points (2 goals, 4 assists) in 25 games with the NHL team. So far this month, Nilsson has played nine games for Bridgeport, and in that time, he has garnered eight points (5 goals, 3 assists), including one power play goal. Additionally, he has only taken 2 PIM, and has a plus/minus of –3. Nilsson’s fast AHL start may indicate a return to his former scoring prowess in the Swedish Juniors. He spent a disappointing year in the Swedish elite league in 2004-05, only registering 10 points (2 goals, 8 assists) in 30 games. It is hoped that a short stint with the Sound Tigers will give Nilsson the confidence and North American experience he needs for a quick return to the NHL.
Jeremy Colliton (6’2, 195) was the Islanders second round pick (58th overall) in the 2003 NHL entry draft. The 20-year-old right wing is in his first year of professional hockey; in 2004-05, Colliton captained the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League. In a season shortened by a knee injury sustained while playing at the 2005 World Junior Championships, Colliton registered 46 points (16 goals, 30 assists) in 41 games. This season, Colliton has played 30 games for the Sound Tigers, and garnered 20 points (8 goals, 12 assists), with a +3 plus/minus. He regularly is assigned to the first power play unit and has two goals on the man advantage. Since November 21, 2005, he has been called up to the Islanders and returned to the Sound Tigers three times. If he continues his excellent play for the Sound Tigers, he will be a full-time NHLer next year.
Evgeny Tunik (6’2, 200) is the last of the four Islanders’ 2003 NHL entry draft picks playing in Bridgeport this season. The 21-year-old forward played briefly in Russia last season and is rapidly adjusting to the North American game. In 27 games for Bridgeport this season, Tunik has registered 10 points (1 goal, 9 assists), and accumulated 20 PIM. Tunik’s strength is his nose for the net and soft hands. Whether he can translate these strengths into an NHL career remains to be seen.
Sean Bergenheim (5’11, 194) was the Islanders first pick (22nd overall) in the 2002 entry draft. The 21-year-old is in his second full season playing in North America. Last year, Bergenheim played 61 games with the Sound Tigers and registered 29 points (15 goals, 14 assists), with a +1 plus/minus. This season Bergenheim has 6 goals and 12 assists in 30 games for Bridgeport (-5 plus/minus, 54 PIM). Bergenheim’s development has been uneven, but the Islanders have not given up hope that he will still become the prolific scorer that they expected when they drafted him.
Steve Regier (6’5, 195) was selected by the Islanders in the fifth round (148 overall) of the 2004 NHL entry draft. The large-framed 21-year-old forward is playing in his second year at Bridgeport. After a fantastic 2003-04 in Medicine Hat of the Western Hockey League (60 points in 70 games), Regier signed a professional contract and headed for the AHL. He performed well last season (75 games, 22 points), but was not the goal scorer that the Islanders expected. This season, Regier is off to a faster start, in 33 games, he has 17 points (7 goals, 10 assists). He is also sporting a +7 plus/minus, and playing a physical game. Regier still needs to grow into his frame to become the force that he can be around the net. However, his positioning is very good and his offensive game is developing. He therefore remains a very good prospect for the Islanders.
Masi Marjamaki (6’2, 203) was selected in the fourth round (144 overall) in this year’s NHL entry draft, after being drafted but not signed by the Boston Bruins in 2003. Last year in Moose Jaw of the Western Hockey League, Marjamaki played 51 games and registered 46 points (14 goals, 32 assists). After the 20-year-old had an excellent Islanders’ training camp, Marjamaki was a late reassignment to Bridgeport. So far, this season Marjamaki has played in 29 games for the Sound Tigers, and garnered 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists). Although Marjamaki is a viable prospect, his adjustment to the professional game will take time. Expectations for his progress have become more realistic.
Matt Koalska (5’11, 190) was signed as a free agent on August 20, 2004, after playing hockey for four years at the University of Minnesota. He had originally been drafted by Nashville (154th overall) in the 2000 NHL entry draft. In 2004-05, Koalska played 60 games for the Sound Tigers, and garnered 15 points (7 goals, 8 assists). In his second season with Bridgeport, Koalska has picked up his offensive production, registering 17 points (8 goals, 9 assists) in 30 games. However, he tends to take unnecessary penalties, which have hurt the team’s ability to win games. Koalska remains a good prospect, a good skater with a sneaky shot, but it remains to be seen whether he has the ability to move up to the next level.
Cole Jarrett (5’10, 200) is an Islanders free agent, first signed in 2003. The 22-year-old winger is in his third year in Bridgeport. Last season, he registered 20 points (7 goals, 13 assists) in 61 games, and this year has five points (1 goal, 4 assists) in 31 games. Jarrett’s play this year (he is currently –11) has been uneven and has not shown the progress needed to be promoted to the NHL.
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