The New York Islanders AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers are looking to make a run in the Calder Cup playoffs, and received plenty of reinforcements once the Islanders’ season ended. One of those players is right wing Jeremy Colliton.
Colliton returned to the Sound Tigers last week, along with several of his teammates after New York’s season finale against the Philadelphia Flyers last Tuesday. The 20-year-old winger had a couple of stints with the big club this season, his first year pro after a successful four-year run with the Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL. He says his 19 games spent in the NHL definitely served as a benefit to him now that he’s back in Bridgeport.
“It’s a chance to see what that level is like and see what you have to do to hopefully, one day, play there,” he said of his NHL experience. “When you come back, it gives you a little boost. When you’re up there, it forces you to raise your level, even in practice, and when you come down, you just want to try and keep that going for as long as you can.”
Colliton scored two points in his 19 games with the Islanders. He netted his first career NHL goal on Apr. 15 against Pittsburgh’s Sebastien Caron.
Prior to joining the Islanders, the hard-working and responsible forward had found a great deal of success playing on a line with fellow call-ups Sean Bergenheim and Robert Nilsson. He’ll look to duplicate that success in the postseason, on the reunited top line. But according to his coach, he’d do fine with anyone.
“He’s adaptable enough that he can pretty much go with anybody and he seems to make people around him better,” Sound Tigers head coach Dave Baseggio said. “He’s probably our best two-way forward. He plays well at both ends of the ice. He takes faceoffs, he’s a great penalty killer. He’s going to be a great NHL player for a long time.”
For now though, Baseggio is happy to have Colliton back in the lineup. The versatile forward put up 53 points on the strength of 21 goals and 32 assists in 66 games this season with Bridgeport. The 6’2, 195-pound right wing looks to make similar contributions in what he hopes will be a successful playoff run.
“We feel great about our team,” he said. “We’ve got a great group of guys here and I think it’s a group that’s really hungry, and that’s what you need. You need guys who are willing to lay it on the line. Playoff time is the best part of hockey.”
Facing the top-seeded Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the East Division Semifinals, who they split the regular season series with, the Tigers know they have a tough road ahead of them, but Colliton thinks this team has what it takes to win. While several former Islanders now come in and make a strong Bridgeport team even stronger – with players like Jeff Tambellini, Dennis Grebeshkov, and Bruno Gervais – Colliton understands that finding success against a team as talented as the Penguins isn’t going to come overnight.
“I’m excited that we can make a run,” he said. “But, at the same time, we’re going to get all these guys back and we have to play as a team. We can’t just think it’s just going to happen for us because we’re getting all of these great players back. We have to make it happen.”
While a number of players who recently joined the Tigers will no doubt bolster Bridgeport’s offensive attack, Colliton’s value may be felt in other ways. While he is capable of putting up numbers, chiefly scoring the so-called garbage goals from in tight, the Blackie, Alberta native is a very smart player on both ends of the ice and isn’t afraid to play physical. Used in both power-play and penalty-killing situations, Colliton logs plenty of ice during the course of a game.
Aside, though, from his ability and versatility, what makes him stand out is his willingness to improve and his attitude.
“You’re always trying to get better and help the team win,” he said. “That’s what I always think about. I want to do whatever I can to make the team better and help the team win – that’s what I like to think I’m about.”
Right now, his team is faring well in the first round, leading their opening series against Wilkes-Barre 2 games to 1. With his team-first mindset and gritty play, Colliton hopes to be a big part of what will hopefully turn out to be a long playoff run.
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