Islanders Top 20 prospects

By Jeffrey Bausch

With the trade of Robert Nilsson and Ryan O’Marra to the Edmonton Oilers in the Ryan Smyth deal, the New York Islanders Top 20 list is quite different than the August version.

1. Kyle Okposo, RW
2006 first-round draft pick (7th overall)

From magazine covers to game-winning goals, Okposo has all the makings for being a future NHL star. He’s been an integral part of his college team, the powerhouse Minnesota Golden Gophers, where in 31 games played he’s totaled 17 goals, 18 assists for 35 points to go along with 28 penalty minutes. Okposo also represented Team USA at the 2007 World Junior Championships. The team’s hard-fought efforts resulted in a bronze medal.

Blessed with great hands and a keen vision on the ice, it’s his aggressive style of play that makes him a lock for the NHL in the very near future.

2. Jeff Tambellini, LW
Kings 2003 first-round draft pick (27th overall) – Traded to the Islanders in 2006

Tambellini has proven that no matter what team he’s playing for, he’s going to make his presence felt quickly. He has absolutely dominated his AHL opponents with his swift skills and ability to finish plays. His success in the minors earned the attention of the coaching staff in the NHL as he has already received a call-up to play for the Islanders for 13 games. In the NHL, Tambellini quickly scored his first NHL goal of the season while playing on the fourth line. It seems like no matter where Tambellini is placed in the lineup, he’s able to make the adjustments necessary to succeed.

In 42 games played for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Tambellini has 24 goals, 22 assists for 46 points and 34 penalty minutes.
 
3. Frans Nielsen, C
2002 third-round draft pick (87th overall)

Nielsen made history when he became the first player from Denmark to play in the NHL on Jan. 6, 2007 and wasted no time adding to the records by also becoming the first player from the country to score a goal in an NHL game on Feb. 24.

While he’s made terrific strides in the NHL this season playing 15 games, a majority of his time has been spent in the AHL. In 44 games played for the Sound Tigers, Nielsen has 13 goals, 20 assists for 43 points and 8 penalty minutes.

Nielsen had a personal 12-game point-scoring streak that carried into January when he was first called up to the NHL. His quick feet and crafty hands coupled with his ability to set up plays have made him an instant favorite amongst the coaching staff.

4. Blake Comeau, RW
2004 second-round draft pick (47th overall)

Comeau has earned enough respect from the Islanders organization to have already gotten a trip up to the NHL this season. He made his NHL debut in December and played over the course of three games, recording no points. When down in the AHL, Comeau picked up right where he left off, continuing to be a force offensively. In 50 games this season, Comeau has 11 goals, 24 assists for 35 points and 24 penalty minutes.

Comeau suffered a sprained ankle and ended up missing the last seven games of February. The effects of not having him in the lineup were best evidenced by the Sound Tigers’ dismal 8-7 record. He’s a huge contributing factor to the team’s success and the impact he has on the game has been noted by the Islanders coaching staff – when the opportunity arrives, expect Comeau’s name to be called back to Long Island again.

5. Rhett Rakhshani, RW
2006 fourth-round draft pick (100th overall)

Rakhshani is quickly making a name for himself in the upper NCAA rankings. Surprising everyone except maybe himself, Rakhshani has become one of the leaders on the Denver Pioneers squad that is ranked in the top 10 in the nation and was responsible for bringing an end to Okposo’s Minnesota Golden Gophers 21-game winning streak. He has recorded nine goals, 23 assists for 32 points and 34 penalty minutes in 36 games played. He is one of three rookies on team this season to have recorded over 30 points.

Rakhshani also earned MVP honors for his efforts in the Denver Cup tournament back in December. His game is expanding, as he’s becoming more of set-up man than a finisher, which is certainly fine by his linemates. The sudden offensive success has greatly increased Rakhshani’s value within the Islanders organization.

6. Jeremy Colliton, RW
2003 second-round draft pick (58th overall)

Colliton’s efforts for the Sound Tigers this season earned him a short stint in December to play with the Islanders.

Upon making his return to the Sound Tigers in January, Colliton unfortunately suffered a strained rotator cuff, forcing him to miss 12 games. After coming back from the injury, though, he was able to pick back up right where he left off, even getting himself a four-game point scoring at one point. In 45 games for the Sound Tigers, Colliton has 10 goals, 12 assists for 22 points and 32 penalty minutes.

Colliton has his eyes set on making it back to the NHL. Barring any future big injuries, there isn’t anything that’ll get in his way if he puts his mind to it. He’s got the stuff that’ll eventually make him a solid middle of the roster player on any NHL team. 

7. Dustin Kohn, D
2005 second-round draft pick (46th overall)

Kohn has proven this season to once again be among the Islanders top defensive prospects. While he hasn’t scored as much as the Brandon Wheat Kings coaching staff would like to see from him, he’s been consistent with setting up his teammates, establishing a career high in assist totals so far this season. In 55 games played, Kohn has scored 5 goals, recorded 38 assists for 43 points to go along with 69 penalty minutes.

Kohn’s plus/minus is also noteworthy. He has consistently maintained a plus rating, proving that when he’s out there, good things tend to happen. Kohn’s offensive ability, when combined with his defensive mindset, make him a force to be reckoned with on the blue line.

8. Wes O’Neill, D
2004 fourth-round draft pick (115th overall)

O’Neill is concluding his collegiate career with a noteworthy season for the jaw-dropping, #1 nationally ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish. In his second full season as alternate captain, O’Neill has played 34 games, recording 0 goals, 16 assists for 16 points and 32 penalty minutes.

O’Neill has made the right decision to go the full four years at Notre Dame. He has steadily matured into a smarter player and has bulked up his 6’4 frame to a solid 200+ pounds. In the years to come, O’Neill will provide the Islanders with some much needed size and intimidation on the line.

9. Petteri Nokelainen, C
2004 first-round pick (16th overall)

Nokelainen’s regression has become a point of concern for the Islanders. He has not put up the offensive numbers anywhere near what was expected of him, even as the defensive-minded forward that he was drafted as. But he’s recorded only six goals this season while playing on one of the Sound Tigers more talented lines. His inability to finish plays may be the one hindrance in keeping Nokelainen out from making the jump to the NHL. In 53 games for the Sound Tigers, Nokelainen has 16 points and 49 penalty minutes.

There is one positive note to say about Nokelainen this season — he has avoided the injury bug that has seemingly plagued him throughout much of his career. With the increased amount of professional-level games under his belt, perhaps everything will eventually click for him and he’ll fulfill his potential.

10. Andrew MacDonald, D
2006 sixth round draft pick (160th overall)

MacDonald continues to develop nicely for the New York Islanders. He’s having another solid season with the Moncton Wildcats, a level that he seems to have outgrown. He’s had many point-scoring streaks throughout the current season, the longest being an eight-game point scoring streak that saw him net 13 points total. In 58 games played this season, the defenseman has netted 13 goals, 40 assists for 53 points and 73 penalty minutes.

MacDonald has remained at the top of the league in scoring among defensemen and has a career high in goals scored, the most he’s recorded since he played for his previous coach, Ted Nolan.

11. Shea Guthrie, C
2005 third-round draft pick (76th overall)

Guthrie has emerged as a leader in his second season on the Clarkson Knights team. His offensive numbers have taken a jump, setting a career high in goals while also being among the team’s leaders in assists. In 31 games played, Guthrie has scored eight goals, recorded 20 assists for 28 points and 28 penalty minutes.

The maturation of Guthrie both on rink and in the locker room is a great thing for the Islanders organization. His game is not too far off from being at the professional level and his name will certainly be one to keep in mind in the coming years.

12. Tomas Marcinko, C
2006 fourth-round draft pick (114th overall)

Marcinko has steadily improved over the course of the season with the OHL Barrie Colts. He came out of the gate strong, generating a decent amount of offensive numbers in his first few months. In 52 games played this season, he’s scored 18 goals, 18 assists for 36 points and 50 penalty minutes.

The WJCs gave this Slovakian the chance to showcase his skills on an international stage. Scouting reports reported that Marcinko was among the Slovakian’s best players. Currently he is playing on a very good team with solid players surrounding him that will hopefully ensure the continued improvement of his skills.

13. Sean Bergenheim, C
2002 first-round draft pick (22nd overall)

After a slow start in the Russian League, Bergenheim jumped over the Swedish Elite League where he was suddenly able to find greater success. His offensive numbers have been consistent throughout, averaging nearly a point per game. In 36 games played, he has recorded 16 goals, 17 assists for 33 points and 80 penalty minutes.

This is helpful to a forward whose confidence took a shot at the beginning of the season when the Islanders organization refused to renegotiate his contract after he failed to show up at training camp. Bergenheim has a lot of fences to mend if and when he makes the trip back over to the Islanders and that factor alone weighed heavily in his drop in the rankings.

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

In his third season with the Sound Tigers, Steve Regier has fit in nicely, putting up consistent numbers that keep him in the middle of the Sound Tiger pack. He’s earned time on the special teams but hasn’t succeeded enough to the point of garnering call-up attention from the Islanders. In 58 games played, Regier has notched 14 goals, 19 assists for 33 points and 43 penalty minutes.

Regier will need to step up his game in order to get to the next level. His numbers in the AHL are mediocre at best and so long as he continues producing the way he is, he’s going to stay in the AHL. He will need to work hard to earn a spot at next year’s training camp.

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

Ogorodnikov had some difficulty in adjusting to the AHL level, the result of which being his demotion to the ECHL. The move in leagues has proven to be a blessing in disguise, as Ogorodnikov has made most of the change, seemingly scoring at will for the Pensacola Ice Pilots. In 34 games played, he has registered 14 goals, 20 assists for 34 points and 32 penalty minutes.

Ogorodnikov is coming into his own in the ECHL, developing the confidence he needs in order to compete at the AHL level. He’s sure to get another shot at making it back on to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers roster and once he gets back on the team, it’s going to be up to him just how far he’s willing to go with it.

16. Jesse Joensuu, LW
2006 second-round draft pick (60th overall)

It has been a productive year for Joensuu. In 50 games played, the young forward has recorded nine goals and 16 assists for 25 points for Assat Pori in the SM Liiga. These are career marks in goals, assists and points. Joensuu has also participated in the WJCs, acting as a major part in getting Team Finland to the bronze medal game where they eventually fell to the USA.

Standing at 6’4 and weighing 205 pounds, it’s safe to say that Joensuu already has the size to be a major force in the NHL. He’s got good hands and a strong skating ability, but his acceleration leaves little to be desired. He will need to work hard to improve this skill in order to make the eventual transition over to professional hockey in North America.

17. Shane Sims, D
2006 fifth round draft pick (126th overall)

Hard-hitting defenseman Sims is picking up right where he left off for his defending champion USHL Des Moines Buccaneers team. He’s proven to be a solid asset on the blue line for the team, and has the statistics to back it up. In 41 games played, Sims has scored seven goals, 12 assists for 19 points and 104 penalty minutes.

His efforts this season earned Sims a trip to the USHL All-Star Game. He’s rounding out his game nicely, learning how to create and finish plays while also playing with an edge to his game that makes him intimidating to go into the corner against. If he continues down this path, he’s sure to become a very effective defenseman for the Islanders organization.

18. Jase Weslosky, G
2006 fourth-round draft pick (108th overall)

While Weslosky is not a major contributing factor to the St. Cloud Huskies successes, he can certainly give himself a pat on the back for the effort he’s putting up so far this season. He’s played only five games this season — winning all of them — and has posted a 1.81 GAA along with a .928 save percentage.

Young and talented, Weslosky is expected to take over full-time netminding duties for the Huskies next season which will serve as a better measurement of both his ability in net and his ability to carry a team throughout the course of a season.

19. Masi Marjamaki, LW
2005 fifth-round draft pick (144th overall)

At the beginning of the season, hard-nosed forward Marjamaki had difficulty in finding his game after he lost both his linemates to free agency. He has since started to find his way around the rink, due in large part to his having been placed on a line with fellow prospect forwards Jason Pitton and Nokelainen.

Marjamaki is a character player who is both big and agile, with decent hands. He needs to learn is how to adjust more quickly to a game that is constantly changing. His maturation process is key to his making it to the next level of play.

20. Brian Day, RW
2006, sixth-round pick (171st overall)

In 27 games played for Governor Dummer (USHS), he has scored 20 goals, 18 assists for 38 points and 16 penalty minutes. Day is a power forward with excellent hands who likes to drive to the net. He has many years ahead of him and seems willing to commit the time necessary to getting to the next level.  He will attend Colgate University in the fall. 

Missing the Cut

Robin Figren of the WHL was drafted in 2005, third-round pick (70th overall). Figren has played 55 games this season in the WHL, recording 10 goals, 15 assists for 25 points and 50 penalty minutes. One hopes that this is simply an off-season for Figren who’s proven to be quite good in seasons past.

Doug Rogers of the ECACHL was drafted in 2006, fourth-round pick (100th overall). In 29 games played, he’s scored 6 goals, 15 assists for 21 points and 16 penalty minutes. Rogers is a strong forward and very good in the faceoff circle. This season he has put up solid numbers on a largely inconsistent team. 

Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future.  Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.