Islanders AHL/ECHL prospects update

By Jeffrey Bausch

The New York Islanders have 10 players in the minor leagues in 2006-07. Nine are with the Islanders’ AHL affiliate, Bridgeport Sound Tigers and one player is with the organization’s new ECHL affiliate, the Pensacola Ice Pilots.

The most interesting fact to note regarding these players is that given the early season trade of Ryan Caldwell to the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Islanders currently have no defensemen in the minors. None of the goaltenders are of prospect age either.

AHL

Bridgeport Sound Tigers
Record: 11-9-1-3
5th in the Eastern Division
11th in the Eastern Conference

Robert Nilsson, C
Islanders 2003 first round draft pick (15th overall)

After an unexpected early exit from the Islanders training camp this summer, Robert Nilsson has put his head down and worked hard to prove his worth to the organization. On Nov. 20, Nilsson won AHL Player of the Week honors after netting four goals and three assists in three games. His play has been fairly consistent, averaging nearly a point per game this season.

On Nov. 29, Nilsson sat out a game due to stiffness in the back. It hasn’t much affected his overall play. In 21 games played this season, Nilsson has scored seven goals, tallied 12 assists for 19 points with a +2 rating to go along with 16 penalty minutes. He’s proving to be the complete package – at the AHL level, that is. The question on everyone’s mind is if he has the drive to become the premier NHL player previously expected of him.

Petteri Nokelainen, RW
Islanders 2004 first round pick (16th overall)

Touted as being the ultimate defensive forward, something the Islanders have greatly needed since the departure of former captain Michael Peca, much was expected of Petteri Nokelainen. However, Nokelainen is returning from having surgery last year for patella tendonitis of the knee, resulting in his sitting out a game here and there and sometimes for a couple of games in a row to rest his knee.

The Finnish forward has worked with great determination to get past this physical predicament, playing in 18 games total this season. He has not changed his game due to the injury and has continued to make the big hits and block shots necessary to help his team win. Nokelainen registered his first AHL point, an assist on Nov. 15 against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, and has since gone on to record four assists, a -3 rating and 14 penalty minutes. While the statistics may not speak well for Nokelainen, the fact that he is competing at this level has drawn praise by many in the organization.

Jeff Tambellini, LW
Kings 2003 first round draft pick (27th overall) – Acquired, along with defenseman Denis Grebeshkov and a conditional third round draft pick, by the Islanders in 2006 for Mark Parrish and Brent Sopel.

Arguably the Sound Tigers’ most valuable forward, Jeff Tambellini has continued to bury pucks against his AHL opponents. The University of Michigan alumni lead the Sound Tigers offensively in the month of November, scoring eight goals while adding six assists for 14 points in only 11 games.

Tambellini impressed Islanders coach Ted Nolan at training camp, enough so that he was able to earn a spot on the team’s opening night roster. However, he failed to deliver immediately and, surrounded by already-proven NHL veteran talent, was sent down. He’s proven his value and has remained at the top of the organization’s list of prospects to be called up. In 21 games played this season for the Sound Tigers, Tambellini has scored 12 goals, 11 assists for 23 points with a +6 rating and 18 penalty minutes. He’s also recorded a noteworthy 80+ shots on net.

Jeremy Colliton, C
Islanders 2003 second round draft pick (58th overall)

Jeremy Colliton’s season has been spotty. This special teams specialist has found his play called into doubt. At one point, Colliton went 12 games without a point, a streak that extended all the way back to the second game of the season. He also went 16 games without scoring a goal. However, in the last two games of the month of November, the 21-year-old forward (he will be 22 in January) exploded for five points.

The one thing Colliton has been consistent with is his play on the special teams. While the puck hasn’t exactly been bouncing his way, the coaching staff has felt comfortable putting him out there in critical situations. Colliton will have to even out his game in order to reach the next level, but the bursts of offensive domination have proven that despite the statistical inconsistencies, there is definitely talent there. To date, Colliton has six goals, eight assists for 14 points along with a -1 and 24 penalty minutes in 24 games played.

Frans Nielsen, C
Islanders 2002 third round draft pick (87th overall)

One of the more intriguing cases for the Islanders organization is forward Frans Nielsen, who is trying to become the first Danish player to make it to the NHL level. He has skated hard in his freshman season with the Sound Tigers, this following five seasons playing in Sweden. He made his AHL debut on Oct. 8 and scored his first AHL goal – the game-winner.

So far this season Nielsen has skated in good company, with linemates like Tambellini and Nilsson. And with this being his first season, Nielsen is proving to be quite the quick learner. In 24 games played so far this season, he has scored six goals, five assists for 11 points, with a +2 rating and just two penalty minutes.

Masi Marjamaki, LW
Bruins 2003 second round draft pick (66th overall) – Re-entered 2005 draft and was chosen in the fifth round by the Islanders (144th overall)

One of the biggest mysteries on the Bridgeport Sound Tigers roster is what ever happened to Masi Marjamaki. Considered by many to be the very definition of a character player – tremendous work ethic, tenacious physical play and the man to put in front of the opponents’ net – he has been anything but the player that lead the Sound Tigers team in the playoffs the season before. Marjamaki was held scoreless for 12 games straight during the month of November – a streak that saw his plus/minus dip to a -4, earning him a scratch from the Nov. 10 game.

Marjamaki scored an assist in each of the first two games of the season and has recorded a single assist since then. He has a plus/minus of -7 and 21 penalty minutes in 23 games this season. This is an unfortunate turn of events for the young, likeable Finnish forward and the Sound Tigers have sought to rectify the situation by trying him on various lines.

Sergei Ogorodnikov, C
Islanders 2004 third round draft pick (82nd overall)

Russian-born Sergei Ogorodnikov is coming along nicely for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Following a solid training camp with the Islanders, Ogorodnikov was sent down to the AHL where he earned a spot on the team’s opening night roster. He played in six out of the team’s first seven games, going scoreless. It wasn’t until Nov. 1 that the young Russian finally notched his first AHL goal.

Ogorodnikov is showing more and more maturity on the ice as he continues to get acclimated to the league. His skill has earned the coach’s trust to put him in the shootout lineups and his clutch performances thus far in this category have made him the go-to guy when the team needs the all-important game-winning goal (he was two for two during October and two for three in November). Ogorodnikov has hit rough spots during the course of the young season, including a -4 rating during his first six games and being scratched in three November games. However, these are the pains every young gun goes through in the new league and Ogorodnikov is no different. So far this season, he has scored two goals and two assists, a -4 plus/minus rating and eight penalty minutes in 18 games.

Jason Pitton, LW
Islanders 2004 eighth round draft pick (244th overall)

Much like Ogorodnikov, rookie Jason Pitton is also going through the rough transition to the big leagues. A big, strong left wing, Pitton played in five of the first seven Sound Tigers games during October, registering his first career AHL point, an assist, on Oct. 27. He was scratched twice that month, on Oct. 14 and Oct. 22.

When November came we finally saw Pitton register his first career AHL goal, the game winner no less, on Nov. 17. He was scratched twice again in November, on Nov. 4 and Nov. 12. He’s worked hard, particularly along the boards where he’s begun winning more battles. He’s scored one goal, and three assists for four points with a -6 plus/minus rating and 16 penalty minutes in 20 games.

Steve Regier, LW
Islanders 2004 fifth round draft pick (148th overall)

Left wing Steve Regier has proven to be a solid selection for the Islanders organization. Good at both ends, Regier is a key component to both the power-play and penalty-killing units alike. He recently re-signed with the Islanders over the summer.

Regier continues to heat up as the season moves on. He recorded four points in seven games in the month of October, including a two-point night against the rival Hartford Wolfpack at the beginning of the season. During November he scored nine points in 13 games with a +4 rating and three multiple-point games. At this point in the season, Regier has a total of seven goals, seven assists for 14 points with a plus/minus rating of +3 and 12 penalty minutes in 24 games.

ECHL

Pensacola Ice Pilots
Record: 5-16-1-1
Last in the American South Division
Last in the ECHL

Luciano Aquino, RW
Islanders 2005 seventh round draft pick (210th overall)
First season in the AHL/Second season in the ECHL

It’s been a bit of a rough going with Islanders prospect Luciano Aquino so far this season. He started out playing in five of the Sound Tigers’ first seven games, with two healthy scratches. He scored his first career AHL goal in the first game of the season, one of his most impressive accomplishments for the Sound Tigers (the other being his having scored the game-winning shootout goal against the Hershey Bears on Oct. 21).

In November, however, he struggled to stay on the team’s roster. He played in only eight of the Sound Tigers 13 games during the month. With his speed, Aquino gets plenty of chances, he just fails to capitalize on them. As a means of getting him more ice time, the Islanders decided to send Aquino to its ECHL affiliate, the Pensacola Ice Pilots on Dec. 1. In Pensacola, Aquino has registered one assist and eight penalty minutes in two games. On Dec. 11, Aquino was recalled from Pensacola. With the Sound Tigers, Aquino has two goals and one assist in 13 games.

Notes

The most noteworthy transaction to have taken place this year is the trading of Islanders top defensive prospect, Ryan Caldwell, to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for forward Eric Boguniecki. Caldwell, at 6’3 and 200 pounds, was one of the Islanders top defensemen, listed by Hockey’s Future at 17th on the Islanders prospect depth chart.

Blake Comeau, formerly of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, was recently called up to play for the New York Islanders. Coach Ted Nolan cited his hard work ethic and ability to fit in on the checking line as reasons for bringing this him up. To date, Comeau has registered six goals, 13 assists for 19 points in 22 games with the Sound Tigers. He has not registered a point, with an even plus/minus in two games in the NHL.


Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.