The New York Islanders open their 2007 training camp on Friday, Sept. 14 in Moncton, New Brunswick. Once again they spent much of their offseason picking up proven NHL veteran talent to fill the roles of those departed — including (newly-appointed captain) Bill Guerin, Mike Comrie, Ruslan Fedotenko, Andy Sutton, Josef Vasicek, and Jon Sim. This means that, once again, there will be few spots on the Islanders roster for prospects out of camp.
At forward, the two prospects most likely to crack the Isles opening night roster are Jeff Tambellini and Sean Bergenheim. Tambellini appears to be the most NHL-ready of all the Islanders prospects, with 48 games of NHL experience behind him to go along with a terrific amount of skill and speed. Bergenheim, meanwhile, brings a mean streak with him. Coupled with skilled hands and an accurate shot, he also bangs along the boards well and chases after the puck hard. He lacks discipline, enough to keep him out of the top-5 in the Islanders top-20 prospect ranking, but many in the organization believe that he will flourish into a reliable player once he’s under the tutelage of coach Ted Nolan.
Petteri Nokelainen was traded to the Boston Bruins for center prospect Ben Walter this week. At 23 years of age, Walter played in 10 games last season for the Bruins. He won MVP for their AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins, scoring 24 goals, 43 assists for 67 points and 58 penalty minutes and should now be regarded as one of the Islanders top prospects. He’s a solid two-way player but needs to better position himself defensively at stopping neutral zone breakouts. If Walter continues his previous success with the Sound Tigers, expect him to get a call-up to the Islanders soon.
Also waiting to receive the invite to Uniondale is center Frans Nielsen who saw time with the Islanders last season and left a good impression with the Islanders coaching staff. Nielsen, considered soft by many scouts, has worked hard to build up his on-ice conditioning and impressed many at the Islanders prospect camp this summer. Also on the Islanders’ speed dial is Blake Comeau, the physical right winger who’s not afraid to bang around the body and dig for the puck. Nielsen and Comeau should figure to get the call mid-season if and when any of the regular season Islanders are injured and/or become suspended.
Newcomers Sean Bentivoglio and Trevor Smith, both undrafted former collegiate players, have a lot to prove to many in the Islanders organization. Both Bentivoglio and Smith are far too skilled to not find success early on with the Sound Tigers. Speaking of young Sound Tigers with a lot to prove, the youngest alternate captain to ever earn the "A" for the Sound Tigers, Jeremy Colliton, had his time with the Islanders last season cut short by injury. He also missed this summer’s prospect camp with a shoulder injury. Colliton needs to rebound in a big way this season and silence his critics by piling up on the stats. Newly-drafted Max Gratchev, meanwhile, is prepared to begin his quest at playing in the NHL and should make it on to the Sound Tigers roster at the beginning of this upcoming season.
Among prospects to note who received invites to training camp are Robin Figren, Tomas Marcinko, Masi Marjamaki, Jason Pitton and Steve Regier. All should see some preseason game time before heading to the Sound Tigers for the season.
It is unlikely that any Islanders prospect defensemen will see significant time in the NHL this season. Youngsters Bruno Gervais and Chris Campoli stand to hold onto the roster spots they showed they so deserved during last season’s playoff series against the Buffalo Sabres.
Recently signed prospects Dustin Kohn and Andrew MacDonald have both received invites to training camp and figure to earn spots on the Sound Tigers roster this season. Both have found success at the junior level. Playing at the professional level should take some adjusting but by mid-season should have it down.
Jamie Fraser was a walk-on last season at the Islanders training camp. He is 21 years old and played in 43 games with the Sound Tigers last season, scoring three goals, 11 assists for 14 points. He is an offensive-minded defenseman and has the jump in his step to join rushes up ice. Martin Frechette earned a minor league contract after an impressive debut at the Islanders prospect camp this past summer. He is 21 years old and played in 70 games with Gatineau of the QMJHL last season, totaling 23 goals, 50 assists for 73 points. Freschette in addition to being offensively talented, is a very physical player and has proven not afraid to throw his body around. Both will compete for depth positioning on the Sound Tigers roster this season, although it’s likely that Fraser, already with the AHL experience on his resume, will be the first to get the call-up when the time comes.
The Islanders first draft choice in the 2007 draft was 18-year-old Mark Katic. Many on the Islanders coaching staff were impressed with him at the Islanders prospect camp, particularly with his speed and willingness to get involved in physical play along the boards. At 18, Katic will return for his third season with Sarnia of the OHL this season after a taste of camp.
In addition, the Islanders seventh-round selection in the 2007 draft, Simon Lacroix, will get some valuable experience by attending training camp this year. Lacroix will return to Shawinigan of the QMJHL this upcoming season.
The Islanders solidified this position with the 15-year signing of starter Rick DiPietro. There’s little room for prospects to come up through the system, short of injury, which former minor leaguer Wade Dubielewicz took advantage of late last season. For his heroic efforts, which snuck the Islanders into the playoffs, he has all but assured himself a spot as DiPietro’s backup for the 2007-08 NHL season.
Michael Mole will return to the Sound Tigers this season but will have to compete to be for a spot with recently-signed free agent Joey MacDonald. There are two additional camp invitees, Maxime Ouellet and Mike Morrison.
Sept. 17 Thrashers (@ North Bay, ON)
Sept. 18 Bruins (@ St. John’s, NF)
Sept. 19 Canadiens (@ Moncton, NB)
Sept. 21 Canadiens (@ Montreal)
Sept. 24 Rangers (@ Uniondale)
Sept. 26 Devils (@ Lowell)
Sept. 28 Rangers (@ New York)
Sept. 29 Devils (@ Bridgeport)
Sept. 30 Bruins (@ Boston)
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