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.
The Islanders recently had three players named to the AHL All-Star Game, although only one player was able to represent the Lowell team. Defenseman Zdeno Chara and Ray Giroux were slated to appear at the All-Star Game but niether was able to participate. Zdeno has emerged as a solid blueliner for the Islanders and was not released to compete in the All-Satr festivities. Zdeno was named an All-Star despite appearing in only 23 games during which he registered two goals and four points, but was a fan favorite. Rookie defenseman Ray Giroux has blossomed as a capable defenseman but suffered a broken wrist prior to the All-Star weekend. Prior to his injury Giroux was one of the hottest players in the AHL as he was named December’s Rookie of the month with 10 points in 11 games to lead the Lock Monsters. That left only left winger Sean Haggerty to compete for Lowell. Sean demonstrated his speed and puck handling abilities by winning the puck relay at the skills competition. Another Islanders’ prospect that has flourished as of late is Adam Edinger. He is the hottest player in the CCHA and has taken over the scroring lead on the strength of a recent hot streak, with at least a point in 14 of his last 16 games. Should Adam continue his current tear lokk for him to challenge for the Hobey Baker Award.
Today the New York Islanders have decided to promote 4 of their biggest prospects, Jason Holland (d), Steve Webb (rw), Vladamir Orszagh (lw) , and Zdeno Chara (d). They will replace the injured Dennis Vaske, Ken Bellanger, Bryan Berard, and Rich Pilon. Holland and Webb were called up Friday for Saturday’s game against the Panthers. Holland played, Webb was a healthy scratch. After a strong game by Holland, the team demoted him and Webb back to Kentucky (AHL). They played for Kentucky against the Phantoms and then were recalled today along with raw rookies Zdeno Chara also from Kentucky and Vladamir Orszagh from Utah (IHL). Chara will become the leagues tallest player at 6’9″ with an appearance tonight.