Blueliners highlight a deep junior prospect pool for the New York Islanders

By Josh Buckingham

Brenden Kichton - New York Islanders

Photo: Defenseman Brenden Kichton is having a brilliant fifth season in the WHL, posting 53 points in 43 games with the Spokane Chiefs. (Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

The New York Islanders have a large group of prospects playing at the junior level, led by former first round picks Griffin Reinhart and Ryan Strome. The Islanders are particularly flush at defense, with eight defensive prospects playing in either the CHL or college prep level. 

WHL

Griffin Reinhart, D, Edmonton Oil Kings
Acquired: 1st round (4th overall) in 2012

Reinhart, son of former NHL defenseman Paul Reinhart, is an imposing defensemen standing at 6’4. He may not be the most physical blueliner but he is very defensively sound. He uses his large frame and long reach to his advantage. His positioning is also a strong point in his game. He makes a good first pass out of the zone and overall is a pretty well rounded defenseman. He is not going to blow anyone away with is offensive abilities, but he does have some upside due to his good vision and shot.

If he is going to be a top four defensemen for the Islanders he is going to need to work on his skating and footwork, which definitely hurt him in the 2013 WJC, receiving minimal minutes playing for a talented Canadian squad. Overall, Reinhart has a ton of upside due to his great size and hockey IQ, which projects him to be a top four shutdown defensemen in the next two to three years.

Brenden Kichton, D, Spokane Chiefs
Acquired: 5th round (127th overall) in 2011

Kichton is once again a dominating offensive defenseman in his fifth season playing in Spokane. Through 43 games he has put up 53 points, which leads his team. He does not have ideal size for a defenseman, but makes up for it with his smart play and great speed. He is a very effective power play quarterback with very good offensive awareness.

With the severe injury to Calvin de Haan, Kitchon could be given a longer look by the Islanders brass. He should join Bridgeport at the conclusion of his junior season. Long-term he has the chance to become an offensive depth defensemen for the Islanders.

OHL

Adam Pelech, D, Erie Otters
Acquired: 3rd round (65th overall) in 2012

Pelech is a very tough blueliner who is amidst a breakout offensive season in 2012-13. In 43 games this season he has already recorded 32 points, shattering his point total of 20 points in 44 games last year. He is by no means considered an offensive defenseman, but the considerable jump in offensive statistics is a pleasant sign for the Isles. He has rock solid size standing 6’2 and weighing north of 200 pounds. He loves to throw his weight around and makes sure opposing forwards know were he is at all times. He is also a very good leader that would do anything to protect his teammates.

Pelech projects as a very good depth defenseman who has a slight chance of cracking the top four in the years to come. 

Jesse Graham, D, Niagara IceDogs
Acquired: 6th round (155th overall) in 2012

Graham has really struggled to get going offensively so far this season posting just 18 points in 44 games compared to 43 points in 68 games the previous year. He is a bit undersized standing 5’11, but he makes up for that with his skating ability. Hopefully he can turn his season around and regain his scoring touch or he will soon be an afterthought for the Islanders.

Ryan Strome, C, Niagara IceDogs
Acquired: 1st round (5th overall) in 2011

Strome has been red hot so far this season after returning to the junior ranks. In 32 games he has already racked up 62 points, which would most likely lead the league had he not participated in the 2013 WJC. In the tournament he did not dominate the way many thought he would, but that was most likely due to a lack of chemistry among the Canadian squad.

Strome really does not have many weaknesses. He skates well, has great hands, outstanding vision, and great awareness. The only knock on him is that he may need to put a few more pounds onto his frame this summer if he is going to endure an entire season against grown men.

Andrey Pedan, D, Guelph Storm
Acquired: 3rd round (63rd overall) in 2011

Pedan is another gigantic Islander prospect patrolling the blue line in the CHL. He has really developed this season, becoming a much more consistent and responsible defenseman. He is capable of filling any role for a team, including that of enforcer. He has a booming slapper from the point and makes an above average breakout pass. His best asset is definitely his size, which he uses to punish and intimidate opposing forwards. He is still a bit of a project, but he has a chance to become a very effective pro player in the next few years.

Mitchell Theoret, LW, Niagara IceDogs/Barrie Colts
Acquired: 7th round (185th overall) in 2011

Theoret is amidst a breakout season in 2012-13. Starting the year with the Niagara IceDogs, he doubled his point total from last year compiling 42 points in 35 games, and received a lot of playing time alongside fellow Islanders prospect Ryan Strome. He was recently traded to the Barrie Colts, where he has continued to be extremely productive, managing four points in three games.

He could be a steal as a seventh rounder for the Islanders if he continues to improve at this rate. His size is above average as he stands at 6’2 and weighs over 200 pounds. He could be given a shot to join Bridgeport at the end of the season to showcase what he can do at the next level.

QMJHL

Loic Leduc, D, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
Acquired: 4th round (103rd overall) in 2012

Leduc is yet another hulking defenseman standing 6’6 and 207 pounds. He is playing on a struggling team, but is receiving lots of ice time, which is good for his development. He has better mobility than most give him credit for, but sometimes tries to do too much. He is most definitely a defensive, stay-at-home defenseman  with little to no offensive upside.

USHS

Doyle Somerby, D, Kimball Union Academy
Acquired: 5th round (125th overall) in 2012

Somerby has really developed his game in his third full prep school season at Kimball Union. His footwork, which was once a knock on his game, has now become a strong point for him. He moves the puck really well and is not afraid to play the body. He possesses monstrous size at 6’5 and 225 pounds. One thing he will need to work on when he moves on to Boston University next season is more wisely picking the times he pinches up ice.

There is a chance that, at the conclusion of his prep school season, he may join a very talent Muskegon Lumberjack (USHL) squad, but due to the Lumberjack’s current success, that is no guarantee.

Jake Bischoff, D, Grand Rapids High School/Omaha Lancers (USHL)
Acquired: 7th round (185th overall) in 2012

An offensively gifted defenseman, Bischoff started the season in the USHL playing for the Omaha Lancers, but due to an injury, appeared in only one game. He is currently healthy and playing for his native high school team posting seven points in six games. He is committed to play at the University of Minnesota for the 2014-15 season.