New York Islanders Top 20 ranking features cornucopia of talent

By Josh Buckingham

Griffin Reinart - New York Isladers

Photo: Griffin Reinhart leads a deep and diverse group of defensive prospects for the New York Islanders. Reinhart was selected fourth overall in the 2012 NHL Draft. (courtesy of Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)

The New York Islanders continue to reload and restock their deep and talented prospect pool year after year thanks to great work by Garth Snow and his team. Four selections from the 2013 NHL Draft have made the cut into the top 20 prospects list as big things are expected of these youngsters.

1. (1) Ryan Strome, C, 8.0C
Drafted 1st round, 5th overall, 2011

Forward Ryan Strome has established himself every but the NHL. In four seasons with the Niagara IceDogs (OHL) he amassed 336 points in 269 games. Upon completing his junior career, Strome joined the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and added seven points in 10 AHL games. The numbers alone prove he is extremely gifted offensively, but he also passes the eye test with his sick hands and creative playmaking abilities.

He has a great chance at starting this season with the Islanders and there have been rumors of him possibly starting on the wing with John Tavares and Matt Moulson. Regardless of where he starts the 2013-14 season, he has a very bright career ahead of him.

2. (2) Griffin Reinhart, D, 8.0C
Drafted 1st round, 4th overall, 2012

The son of longtime NHL defenseman, Paul Reinhart, Griffin is entering a very critical time in his career. He is a very long and lengthy defender standing at 6'4. He uses his great reach to disable the opposition and always seems to be in good position. Overall, he is a very steady defender. The two main things he needs to improve upon are his skating and nastiness. If he can harness these two skills he will be a force to be reckoned with.

Due to CHL/NHL bylaws, Reinhart is not eligible to play in the AHL this season. Because of this he will most likely return to his captaincy role with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL. He projects as a top pairing defenseman in the next few years.

3. (NR) Ryan Pulock, D, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 15th overall, 2013

Ryan Pulock's greatest asset is his absolute cannon of a slap shot. This makes him a big threat offensively and on the power play. His shot is not only fast, but he has great control over it as well. He is thickly built, weighing over 200 pound, and is also not afraid to throw his body around and intimidate the opposition. Some scouts believe that his skating is somewhat of a concern, and though he is not a speedster, he is much faster than he gets credit for.

Next season he will most likely return to his role as captain with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL. He will also fight for a spot on the 2014 U20 Canada WJC team. Pulock projects as a top pairing defenseman in the next few years.

4. (5) Brock Nelson, C, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 30th overall, 2010

Nelson experienced a tremendous rookie season in Bridgeport last year. In 66 games he tallied 25 goals and 27 assists. He then performed admirably in series deciding sixth game of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He thrives off using his size to his advantage and being in the right place at the right time. He is very strong on the puck and loves to drive the net for the dirty goals. The one knock on his game is that he is not the strongest skater, but for his size he is above average.

He should start with the Islanders this upcoming season and could be poised for a breakout campaign. It will be very interesting to see where he starts and if it will be in a top six role. Overall, Nelson should become a top six forward when he is fully developed.

5. (3) Matt Donovan, D, 7.0B
Drafted 4th round, 96th overall, 2008

Donovan may have the inside track to snagging the job opened up by the departure of Mark Streit. He has shown to be one of the top offensive blueliners at the AHL level, posting more than 40 points in each of the last two seasons.

He has a booming slap shot and plays with a lot of poise. He is not afraid to jump into the play offensively. Another asset to his game is his ability to throw his body around and punish the opposition. Like Pulock, Donovan has a very solid build weighing over 200 pounds that he is not shy about using. He has been very patient waiting in the wings and his time to shine should come sooner rather than later. He projects as a top four defenseman with offensive upside.

6. (6) Ville Pokka, D, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 34th overall, 2012

Pokka is a very intriguing prospect due to the fact that he plays in the top professional league in Finland against grown men. Last season, he really started to settle in and began to improve his game at the highest level Finland has to offer. He has also put together two very impressive U20 WJC tournaments and appears poised to dominate for his native Finland in 2014. He is a very well rounded defensemen that is much better offensively than his numbers imply. He has a lot of offensive upside and this could be the year that he breaks out.

He will return to play for Kärpät where he will hopefully experience an expanded role in his third season with the club. It will be very exciting to see how he progresses this season and in the long-term he projects as a top four defenseman with offensive upside.

7. (12) Kevin Poulin, G, 7.0C
Drafted 5th round, 126th overall, 2008

Poulin is a very talented goaltender who is both competitive and durable. He is however streaky. Last season, Poulin spent a fair amount of time backing up Evgeni Nabokov, posting a 1-3 record and a 3.02 goals against average in five starts. He also saw some relief duty in the NHL playoffs and acquitted himself well.

For the 2013-14 season, the backup role to Nabokov is Poulin's to lose. Given the age of Nabokov, Poulin should see a fair amount of starts, particularly in back-to-back game situations. Assuming he continues to progress, Poulin projects as a starting goaltender in the NHL.

8. (8) Adam Pelech, D, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 65th overall, 2012

Pelech experienced some tough luck this offseason after reinjuring his surgically repaired wrist at Team Canada's 2014 U20 WJC camp. He was forced to withdraw from camp due to the injury, but his wrist should be healed in time for him to compete in camp with a much-improved Erie Otters squad. This should be a very exciting season for Pelech as the Otters have built up a very competitive team including the likes of: Connor McDavid (2015 draft eligible), Dylan Strome (Brother of Ryan, 2015 draft eligible), Andre Burakovsky (WSH), and Oscar Dansk (CLB).

Pelech is a very competitive player and great teammate. His game is well rounded and he is steady in his own zone. With his drive and compete level he should be able to make an impact on the Islanders blue line in the next few years.

9. (9) Anders Lee, C, 7.0C
Drafted 6th round, 152nd overall, 2009

Lee was a pleasant surprise at the end of last season joining the Islanders for two games at the conclusion of his college career at Notre Dame. In his first NHL game he recorded a goal and also added another assist for two points in two games played. He then remained with the team throughout the playoffs as a member of the "black aces". He is a very mature player for his age and developed very nicely at the collegiate level.

Like many of the other Islander prospects, Lee is very big and lacks breakaway speed, though makes up for that in other ways. If he can improve his skating ability he has a very good chance of becoming a very effective middle of the lineup forward. For now he will most likely start his season in Bridgeport.

10. (10) Scott Mayfield, D, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 34th overall, 2011

Mayfield surprised many by deciding to turn pro at the conclusion of his sophomore campaign at the University of Denver. He got a taste of playing against grown men by playing six games in Bridgeport. He is another big and rangy defensemen who brings some snarl to the table. He loves to intimidate the opposition and make their life as miserable as possible. If he can continue to fill out his large frame, he will be a very scary defenseman to play against.

He should start the season in Bridgeport and continue to work on his skating ability. He has the potential to develop into a versatile top four defenseman in the NHL.

11. (11) Anders Nilsson, G, 7.5D
Drafted 3rd round, 62nd overall, 2009

The reason Nilsson is ranked lower than fellow goaltending prospect Poulin is due to durability issues. He is gifted physically and is extremely talented but needs to put it all together and stay healthy. This will be a very pivotal season for him, as he will start the season in Bridgeport with Poulin ahead of him on the organizational depth chart. This should be good for his game, as he will be given the chance to start a lot of games and hopefully take over the starting job. Nilsson has the potential to be a number one goaltender, but comes with more risk than Poulin.

12. (7) Kirill Kabanov, LW, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 65th overall, 2010

Due to a poor season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers last year, Kabanov's ranking has dropped five spots. He has great potential, but has yet to demonstrate his offensive skill in the AHL. Despite his mediocre skating ability, he has a large body and is not afraid to drive to the net. That is why he could still develop into a second or third line winger.

Hopefully he can remain healthy this season and enjoy a very strong sophomore season in Bridgeport. If he performs well he could have a chance to be called up for a game or two and get a taste of the NHL.

13. (NR) Taylor Cammarata, C/W, 7.5D
Drafted 3rd round, 76th overall, 2013

Cammarata is an extremely skilled but diminutive forward who dominated the USHL the past two seasons. Last year he led the league in goals and points and earned USHL Player of the Year honors. He is the first of three Waterloo Blackhawk alumni on this top 20 list; the others are goaltenders Eamon McAdam and Stephon Williams.

Standing at just 5'7, his size is always going to be questioned, but the ability to put the puck in the net makes him valuable. This summer he was invited to the USA U20 WJC Camp where he held his own as an underager. He is currently enrolled at the University of Minnesota where he will embark on his freshmen campaign and should play a prominent role with the Gophers. Overall, he is a boom or bust prospect due to his size and abilities.

14. (NR) Eamon McAdam, G, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 70th overall, 2013

McAdam struggled this past season with the Waterloo Blackhawks, managing a 3.45 goals against average through 31 starts. However, his numbers do not reflect his ability and potential as a prospect. He has all of the physical tools to be a successful goaltender and most goaltenders do not blossom until a few years after being drafted.

He is currently enrolled at Penn State where he will compete for starts. At the moment, it is unclear his potential, but he does have a shot at becoming a starting goaltender down the line.

15. (15) Johan Sundstrom, C, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 50th overall, 2011

Sundstrom is a big forward that enjoyed a pretty impressive rookie season in Bridgeport last year. He posted 32 points in 59 games, which is not too shabby for his first season playing in North America. He is more defensive oriented that most of the other prospects as he plays a very responsible two way game. Given his abilities he could become a very serviceable third or fourth line forward in a year or two. For now he will continue to develop in Bridgeport and should be relied on heavily in the coming year.

16. (16) John Persson, LW, 7.0D
Drafted 5th round, 125th overall, 2011

Persson is another big Swede that can put the puck in the back of the net. In his first full season in Bridgeport, he buried 17 goals in 65 games. He thrives off driving the net and playing a straight-line game. His game complements superstars given his ability to create space for his linemates. Persson will return to Bridgeport for the 2013-14 season. He has a decent chance at becoming a full-time NHL forward if he continues to develop and improve his skating.

17. (19) Robbie Russo, D, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 95th overall, 2011

Russo jumped up two spots on the top 20 list thanks to a great sophomore season at Notre Dame. In an expanded role he recorded 23 points in 41 games playing against some of the best in college hockey. He is a solid defenseman and a fierce competitor. It will be very interesting to see if he can build off last season and dominate at the NCAA level this coming season. Given his drive he has a chance at becoming a contributor at the NHL level down the line.

18. (17) Calvin de Haan, D, 7.0D
Drafted 1st round, 12th overall, 2009

De Haan continues to trend downwards given his unfortunate injury history. He is a supremely talented prospect that has a lot of upside if he can stay healthy. He acquitted himself well in his first pro season in 2011-12 but was injured for the majority of the 2012-13 season, appearing in only three regular season games.

For the 2013-14 season, de Haan must stay healthy and continue to try and develop his puck-moving game at the pro level. He remains a long-shot at this point, but he could develop into a serviceable puck-moving defenseman in the NHL.

19. (18) Andrey Pedan, D, 7.0D
Drafted 3rd round, 63rd overall, 2011

Pedan is a hulking defenseman that can do it all. He is still very raw as a prospect and will need to develop in Bridgeport and should not be rushed along. He has a great slap shot and is not afraid to engage in the rough stuff. Pedan is another prospect that is boom or bust given his abilities. This upcoming season will be very important in his development.

20. (NR) Stephon Williams, G, 7.0D
Drafted 4th round, 106th overall, 2013

Williams posted better numbers than fellow prospect McAdam, but he is also 15 months older and that makes a big difference in the development of goaltenders. He was passed up in the 2011 and 2012 NHL Drafts, but an outstanding freshman season Minnesota State University put him on the map. For his breakout season he earned multiple WCHA honors including: All-Rookie Team, First All-Star Team, Goaltending Champion, and Rookie of the Year. Williams has good size for a goaltender and should continue to develop nicely as long as he does not experience a sophomore slump this upcoming season. If he continues to improve at the rate he is now he could be making an impact at the NHL level in the next few years.

Follow Josh Buckingham on Twitter via @JoshTBuckingham

Related Articles