With most of the attention these days focusing on which players will stick with the big club, several Islanders prospects have started off their seasons in various leagues on a tear. In the Quebec league sniper Juraj Kolnik opened up with a goal and 6 pts in his first two games then added a hatrick to raise his totals to 4 goals and 9 points in only 3 games. Meanwhile goaltender Frederik Brind’amour was named defensive player of the week posting a shutout along with a 1.33 GAA and a .944 save%. Skilled pivot Justin Mapletoft who won the praise of Butch Goring in camp opened his season with a two goal three point performance, carrying Red Deer to a 4-4 tie.
As reported by HF’s own Peter Westermark Mattias Weinhandl has been paired with the Sedin-twins in MoDo, and Weinhandl has 1 goals and 2 assists with a +4 after three games. That line, featuring perhaps the three most promising 1980-born Swedes, is one of the most interesting ones to watch for the Elitserien-crowds. As a rookie in the Eliteserien Weinhandl is sure to put up impressive numbers on that line, and may prove to be a huge steal in the third round.
(Written by Bryan Kumiga)
The upcoming season should be very interesting for the Islanders organization. It is well known throughout the hockey community that the Isles posses one of the best assortments of prospects in the league and this season will be a critical one in the development of all this young talent. With training camp nearing there is always high expectations on prospects to make the big club, however it very unlikely that any Islanders elite prospects will make the NHL this year. The team is already the youngest in the league and has a host of unproven forwards who will finally get some quality playing time. Luongo, often regarded as the best player outside the NHL, will also most likely spend his season in the AHL. The player from this year’s draft with the best possibility of making the team would be Branislav Mezei. His is large, mobile, intelligent, plays within himself, and is already well adjusted to North American life. He is still expected to return to juniors while a young defense corps featuring Eric Brewer, Zdeno Chara, Kenny Jonsson, and Vladimir Chebaturkin continue to mature.
Most Islander fans cant even pronounce most of the Islanders late round picks this yera yet alone know much about their games. Team management is thrilled with their draft believing that they stole a few very good players and may have gotten some keepers that fell through the cracks. One of these players is right winger Juraj Kulnik. “Not many times can you get a guy this skilled in the fourth round,” said Isles scout Mario Saraceno. “He’s a goal-scorer and that’s how he will make it in the NHL.” Kolnik, who is Slovakian, notched 42 goals and 84 points in 62 games with the Rimouski Oceanic. The Slovakian sniper’s hot hand didn’t stop there as he netted nine more tallies in 11 playoff games. Not a bad rookie year. And according to Saraceno, Kolnik has his sights set on 60 next year. “He has tremendous hands,” said Saraceno. “He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but his ability to get open and avoid being checked makes up for that.” The Slovakian is fluent in English and should have no problem fitting in with the Islander locker room in the near future as countrymen Zdeno Chara and 1999 first-rounders Branislav Mezei and Kristian Kudroc will be there. Besides his goal-scoring talent, there’s a lot to like about the 5-11, 182-pound Kolnik, according to Saraceno. “He’s a hard worker and plays in traffic,” he said. “He kills penalties and has a pretty good skating stride. There’s of course some room for improvement in his overall game. The desire is there, however, and I think we got a keeper that fell through the cracks.”
Despite the flurry of trading activity in the Top 10, the Islanders managed to hold tight and select three players with their elite picks. As expected the four premier players were all gone when the Isles stepped up to the podium at the 5th position. Connelly is an ideal selection for them at this spot, he is a dynamic offensive talent with explosive one-on-one moves and great vision. Thankfully Milbury and the gang shyed away from the larger but less prolific Beech. The Isles have a glut of good young centers who seem to be capable number two men. Connelly has all the earmarks of a legitimate number one center, something the team has craved but not had in many years. He was on pace for 50 goals and 100 points before a broken leg ended his season. Had he stayed healthy and posted those numbers he would have been ranked at least fifth by everybody.
At the eighth pick the Isles once again made a solid pick with Taylor Pyatt. Pyatt has all the tools to succeed, blazing speed, tremendous size and strength, and great hands. The organization has been itching for a prime time power forward for many years and Pyatt seems to fit the bill. They also now have great depth at this position with Pyatt and the recent acquisitions of Josh Green and Brad Isbister.