Another season is in the books for the Islanders, and despite having the worst record in team history since their expansion year there is hope for the Islanders. The Islanders have alot of young talented players (also adding Lindgren, Isbister, and Krog to the lineup) as well as a top five pick in the upcoming draft. Several Islander prospects had good rookie seasons and have graduated from the ranks of prospects.
During the last few months of the season Zdeno Chara emerged as one of the team’s best players. He was logging well over 20 minutes a game, saw time on special teams, and was a dominant physical force. Zdeno has made tremendous progress this year and has established that he will be a top 4 defenseman for many years.
Fellow rookie rearguard Eric Brewer also had a solid first season. He experienced some growing pains, typical of young defenseman, but was able to learn from and make up for his mistakes. His high talent level is very apparent in his play and he has shown great character and work ethic. Eric should continue to blossom in the next few seasons the same way in which Kenny Jonsson did. Brewer seems destined to be one of the top defenseman in the league.
Mike Watt also completed a solid rookie season. He played every postion and was placd in many different roles throuhgout the year. He has good size, is a shifty passer and has a surprisingly quick shot. Watt too, should continue to progress and become a reliable forward for the Islanders.
The Islanders have just added highly sought Jason Krog, winner of this years Hobey Baker award, to thier rich list of talented prospects. The Islanders beat out six other teams and signed Krog to a two year contract woth $2 million plus bonuses. Krog, 23, is expected to play in the NHL next season.
Jason had a stellar career at New Hampshire capped off by an historic senior season. Krog led the nation in scoring and became the first player since Paul Kariya to score 50 points in Hockey East play. Krog is a two-time All American, Hockey East Player of the Year, and was named to the NCAA All-Tournament team as he he led his wildcats to the nation finals.
The 5’11″ 191 lbs Krog finshed his career as UNH’s all time assist leader and second in scoring with 94 goals, 144 assists and 238 points in 151 games. He is the only player to be in the top 3 in Hockey East scoring for three consecutive years. Jason is a strong swift skater with an accurate shot. He has tremendous vision and is an excellent passer.
Playoffs have began in Canadian junior hockey and several Islander prospcts have picked up their games for a big playoff push. Chris Nielsen has recorded 7 goals and 10 points in 7 games and is one of Calgary’s leading contributors as he continues his excellent defensive play as well. Jeff Zehr has also had a strong start to his post season with 3 goals and 7 points in 6 games with 27 PIM to go along. This is Zehr at his best, he plays big and has a nasty mean streak along with a good goal scoring touch.
The NHL trade deadline has come and gone and the Islanders didn’t pull off the firesale that many expected. However their deadline deals did pick up a couple of talnted young players as well as some picks in the upcoming draft. The Islanders obtained Brad Isbister from Phoenix and Mats Lindgren from the Oilers. Isbister is a big physical winger with good hands and a nose for the goal. Phoenix insiders have reported that the Coyotes were reluctant to give up Isbister because some within the organization feel he can be as good as Keith Tkachuk. With the pick up of Isbister, only 21, and Zehr and Rupp in the system, the Isles should have at least one solid power forward who can score some goals while providing Palffy with some protection.
Roberto Luongo is once again making a bid to carry his team to the QMJHL Championship. He has won his last six starts and has been stellar, raising his save percentage ten points in this span. Roberto was also recently named the top prospect by The Hockey News.
Other hot Islanders propsects include Jarrett Smith, Adam Edinger, and Bubba Berenzweig. Edinger has had an outstanding season and finished just one point off of the CCHA scoring title. Adam is looking to leadd his Bowling Green team on a deep playoff drive in the coming weeks. Bubba Berenzweig had 8 points in his final eight regular season games and has his sights et on winning another national championship. Jarrett Smith is on a tear with 17 points in his last 11 games. This hot streak has carrired Jarrett to new career highs in goals, assists, and points.
In other news, the Lowell team recently welcomed back two of their best players, Warren Luhning and Ray Giroux. Both players had missed an extended period due to injuries, but have picked up right where they left and playing well.
Steve Valiquette’s stellar play in January earned him honors as ECHL Rookie of the month, as well as Goaltender of the month. Steve was stellar posting a 1.78 GAA during a month when his team experienced a rash of injuries and call-ups, making his performance is even more impressive. However, Steve is not the only hot Islanders prospect. Both Ray Giroux and Warren Luhning are having excellent season’s and were about to be recalled before they were injured early in 1999. Hopefully they will be able to regain their top form upon their returns.
Many of the Islanders top prospects have stepped their games up as of late. Mike Rupp has been coming on after Zehr was traded opening up a spot on Erie’s top line. Mike has posted 4 goals and 9 points in his last 10 games to go along with 18 penalty minutes. These numbers show falshes of Mike’s potential as a power forward. Sean Haggerty recently broke out of his post All-Star slump with 5 goals and 9 pts in his last 10 games as well. Bubba Berensweig also ended his drought with 7 points in his last 7 games. Vladimir Orszagh is enjoying a recent hot streak with 6 goals and 10 points in his last 10 games. And after not recording a goal in his first 30 games Evgeny Koroloev sparked the Lowell team with his first two professional goals in a recent game.