Islanders NCAA prospects update

By Jeffrey Bausch

The New York Islanders have seven collegiate prospects – three in the WCHA, three in the ECACHL and one in the CCHA. There are four forwards, two defensemen and one goaltender. The future of these Islanders prospects is bright as they are all enjoying successful seasons with their teams, having garnered five "Player of the Week" awards collectively.

WCHA

Kyle Okposo, RW

University of Minnesota Golden Gophers (19-1-3)

2006 first-round draft pick (7th overall)

pan style=”font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;”>Freshman forward Kyle Okposo has all the makings of a star. As charismatic as he is gifted with handling the puck, he has already become one of the more popular players on the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. He scored a highlight reel goal by putting the stick between his legs and collected his first hat trick. On Oct. 31, Okposo was named WCHA Rookie of the Week following three goals in a two-game sweep of Colorado College. Dec. 5 was a tremendous day for Okposo, who was again named WCHA Rookie of the Week after a three-point weekend against rival Minnesota State, which helped continue his team’s 16-game unbeaten streak. On that same day he was also named to the U.S. National Junior Team, where he played on the team’s top two lines and was instrumental in capturing the bronze medal at the recent World Junior Championships.

The University of Minnesota hockey environment is conducive to Okposo’s development as a player. He has an excellent support system both on the roster and in the coaching staff. The team holds the No. 1 ranking in the nation. Currently, Okposo leads all rookies on the team in points, with 16 goals and nine assists for 25 points to go along with a +17 rating and 26 penalty minutes in 23 games played.

Rhett Rakhshani, RW

Denver University Pioneers (14-6-2)

2006 fourth-round draft pick (100th overall)

In his freshman year for Denver University, Rhett Rakhshani is off to a strong start, averaging close to a point per game. The Pioneers have enjoyed success as well, going undefeated in the month of November with a 5-0-1 record. A rookie from California, Rakhshani has shown no shortcomings in his game so far and has lived up to the hype in being considered one of the nation’s top freshmen forwards. On Nov. 14th, Rakhshani was honored with the WCHA Rookie of the Week award for stats that included one game-winning goal (with :15 seconds left), 11 total shots on net, a +2 rating, four hits and two blocked shots, in the two-game sweep of Wisconsin. He was again named Rookie of the Week on Jan. 2 for his performance in the Wells Fargo Denver Cup in which he was named Most Valuable Player after collecting three assists in the tournament. 

Rakhshani has proven to be the very definition of a well-rounded player. He leads all rookies on his team and ranks third overall in points. He has shown no hesitance in going after the puck along the boards, in the corners, or in the neutral zone. This aggressive style of hockey and playmaker’s touch make Rakhshani a definite prospect to keep an eye on. To date, he has put in five goals, added 20 assists, for a total of 25 points, a -1 rating and 26 penalty minutes in 28 games played for DU.

Jase Weslosky, G

St. Cloud State Huskies (14-3-3)

2006 fourth-round draft pick (108th overall)

For both freshman goaltender Jase Weslosky and the St. Cloud State hockey team, this will be a learning season. Weslosky is learning the collegiate game as backup to returning All-American Bobby Goepfert. The Huskies, on the other hand, are coming to understand that they have something special with Weslosky. While he’s played in only five games this season, he’s certainly racked up the highlights. In his first start, Weslosky earned a victory with a 28-save performance. In his second game, he shut out the Clarkson Golden Knights, including two saves against fellow Islanders prospect Shea Guthrie. For his 24-save effort in that game, Weslosky was named the first star.

St. Cloud State has used Weslosky sparingly thus far in the season but each time he’s been put in, he’s proven to be smart, patient and quick in the crease. His numbers are very telling of his ability and when Goephert finishes his senior year this season, the Huskies will inherit a quality starting goaltender for the next three seasons. To date, Weslosky has posted a 5-0-0 overall record, with nine goals allowed for a 1.80 goals-allowed average, 116 saves, and a .928 save percentage.

ECACHL

Shea Guthrie, W

Clarkson Golden Knights (13-5-1)

2005 third-round draft pick (76th overall)

Coming in with the expectations of exceeding last season’s All-Star statistics for the Clarkson Golden Knight hockey team, second-year forward Shea Guthrie had difficulty finding the net at the beginning. However, while he may not have been contributing in that particular statistical category, he was busy setting up plays and recording assists, leading to a six-game point scoring streak from Oct. 14th to Nov. 11th, including a two-game stretch in which he recorded five points in two games. In December, Clarkson competed in the Badger Showdown. The Golden Knights won the championship, beating Lake Superior State 3-2, with Guthrie having scored the game-winning goal. Recently, he totaled three assists in a surprising victory over the reigning NCAA champion Wisconsin.

Guthrie has since risen to be among the offensive leaders for the Golden Knights and has begun scoring with more consistency. For the most part, he seems to be getting back into the groove of things and the second half of the season will be telling of how he’s maturing as a hockey player. To date, Guthrie has recorded five goals, 12 assists for 17 points and 20 penalty minutes in 20 games this season.

Doug Rogers, C

Harvard Crimson (7-10-0)

2006 fourth-round draft pick (119th overall)

A big and mobile centerman, Doug Rogers is playing well for the Harvard Crimson. The freshman is patient with the puck and sets up plays very well. In only his second collegiate game of his career, Rogers notched his first goal when the Crimson lost to fellow Islanders prospects Guthrie and Tyrell Mason of the Clarkson Golden Knights. For Rogers personally, November was a good month for him, one that saw him tally 9 points in only 11 games played. The team, however, did not fare that well, dropping out of the top-20 national ranking and slipping to 3-9-0.

Rogers has leadership experience, having captained St. Sebastian’s School. He is currently second on the team in scoring and has done well on the power play, recording three of his points with the man advantage. He’s got three more seasons to go and is certainly a prospect to watch. To date, Rogers has recorded four goals, nine assists for 13 points and 10 penalty minutes in 17 games played.

Tyrell Mason, D

Clarkson Golden Knights (13-5-1)

2005 sixth-round draft pick (180th overall)

More along the lines of the defensive-minded defenseman, Mason has improved upon his game with the Clarkson Golden Knights. Last season, he recorded six points total and had a team-leading +10 rating. In the first six games of the season alone, Mason recorded three assists and tallied up a +7 rating. Continuing his stellar play into the New Year, he has already passed his statistical achievements of last season with seven assists to date. 

To go along with his teammate Guthrie’s efforts against Wisconsin, Mason also registered three assists in the impressive victory. Also, following Clarkson’s championship game win at the Badger Showdown tournament, Mason was named to the Badger Hockey Showdown All-Tournament team. Truth be told, he isn’t the type of player who will consistently put up big numbers game in and game out for his team. He is, however, the player you want guarding your team’s blue line. He makes smart decisions with the puck and knows how to turn the play around, as best evidenced by his plus/minus rating. To date, Mason has yet to register a goal, recorded eight assists for eight points and 38 penalty minutes in 23 games played.

CCHA

Wes O’Neill, D

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (17-4-1)

2004 fourth-round draft pick (115th overall)

Wes O’Neill passed on the opportunity to join the Islanders organization this season in favor of graduating with a degree and to also trying to help the Notre Dame Fighting Irish into the NCAA playoffs. At this point in the season, O’Neill has already seen tremendous success. On Oct. 20, there was the headline grabbing 7-1 defeat of the previously No.1 ranked Boston College. Shortly thereafter, on Oct. 23, O’Neill was named CCHA Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts in the Boston College game (two assists) and for his play against Providence (helped to kill 15 of 16 penalties). The alternate captain and his mates also won the school’s first hockey tournament since 1981, the Lightning College Hockey Classic. The team’s wins in the tournament included impressive shutouts of both Army and Air Force.

The Irish rode a nine-game unbeaten streak into the middle of November and saw their team’s ranking rise from 10th to fourth in the nation. They continued their strong play into December, winning six of their games, moving their overall ranking up to No. 3. The head coach of the Fighting Irish is, in fact, former Islanders assistant coach Jeff Jackson. To date, O’Neill has yet to find the net, registering no goals, 12 assists for 12 points, to go along with a +9 rating and 24 penalty minutes in 26 games played.

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