Islander Prospect Update

By Bill Bennett

Islanders Hockey’s Future Player Rankings:

Today we start with the top five players in the Islanders Organization.

We look into why they were ranked where they were and what should be expected from them in the future.

Rick DiPietro # 1:

DiPietro is the Islanders number one prospect in the organization because of his draft status and potential. The goaltending issue was decided for the Islanders at the trade deadline, however one reason the Islanders felt DiPietro was ready is based on how impressive he performed when he was called up and how he did not look out of place against National Hockey League competition or in pressure situations.

One thing that stands out now is an ability to recover from slow starts in games and shake off bad goals or mistakes.

What is clear is the experience with the Sound Tigers over the last two seasons has taught him to play more in control and there is a maturity in his game that was not there in his rookie season with the Islanders or a good part of his first season with Bridgeport.

Rick still tends to over handle the puck and seems a little nervous at times, but this is a much more mature player who got to play a lot of hockey last season with almost ninety starts, after a rookie season where he was on three teams and also participated in both the WJC and the World Championships.

The Islanders and the fans will have to live with some growing pains but they have something here that is part of the answer in goal as DiPietro starts to adjust to life as a full-time NHL goal tender next season. It will be very interesting to see how he reacts to some big-time pressure in the final weeks of the season and perhaps the NHL playoffs.

Justin Papineau # 2:

Papineau should be a name familiar to many Islander fans, he was one of the players who was part of the Zigmund Palffy trade rejected by the NHL in the summer of 1999 with the Kings. Like another former Islander, Mike Rupp, he re-entered the draft and was taken in the second rd by the St.Louis Blues in June 2000.

He is ranked second here because of his goal-scoring ability in an organization where there are few pure goal-scorers and play makers combining his ability with speed. Clearly he has caught the attention of Islander fans who have been watching his early games with Bridgeport, where he has worked well with Trent Hunter and has seven goals in his first five games.

Mike Milbury made an interesting trade in dealing for Papineau. He is not what can be called a young prospect at age twenty three, his defensive game and his toughness need to be improved, and he is a center on a team that is deep at the position and has Justin Mapletoft.

The Blues have depth at the NHL level and could afford to be more patient with Papineau. Since the trade deadline the Islanders no longer have much NHL depth and even with all forwards healthy, there is a good chance the Islanders may have to give Papineau (a left-handed shot) a look this season.

Trent Hunter # 3

Hunter gets the ranking as the Islanders number three prospect in the organization because he has grown into a true power forward with the Tigers over the last two seasons. A tough call ranking someone third who was a sixth round pick of Anaheim in 1998, but it’s well earned considering how he has grown into a player who made the decision easy for Bridgeport to make him their top right wing mid way thru last season.

Hunter, listed at 6-3, has tremendous hands, is a gifted goal scorer, and is a solid defensive forward. He plays a rugged up and down game and is virtually unstoppable down low with has combination if size and soft scoring touch. He was also named to the American Hockey League All-Star team and left a very good impression on Islander fans in the playoffs last season and in the Tigers run to the Calder Cup Finals.

One problem for Hunter could well be the Islanders basically cleared the way for him last summer. He did not come into camp ready and did not win a spot many felt was his to lose. On a team where several prospects have gotten several call ups since the season started he has not made enough of an impression with the Isles. Another potential problem for Hunter is that there are few openings on right wing at this time. He may see time as a depth call up, but for now it’s tough to say where he fits the puzzle unless another spot is opened for him, he has the skills and ability to force the Islanders to find a spot for him.

Justin Mapletoft # 4

Mapletoft, has been nothing short of a steal for Mike Milbury in the fifth rd of the 1999 draft. Justin is ranked fourth here because how quickly he has appeared on the NHL radar for the Islanders and because of his MVP season in the WHL. There is a maturity about Mapletoft’s game that makes him look like he belongs in the NHL. With the trade of Claude Lapointe at the deadline, there is a good chance he will get that chance full-time next season. He has already been called up once since the deadline and had a goal in his only game vs Edmonton after an impressive camp and call up earlier in the season where he had his first NHL goal.

Mapletoft is an excellent puck handler with intelligent hockey sense, a very crafty pivot who is smart around the net. He uses his wingers effectively and gives soft passes to team mates. He is very dangerous in low slot and has a great snap shot with a quick release. Also, Justin possesses great acceleration and cycles puck down low with poise. He is a solid two way player who went to Bridgeport and decided to commit himself to learn the defensive game. His plus/minus has been excellent with the Tigers both seasons, his scoring increased toward the later half of his rookie season.

Mapletoft’s downside is he needs to continue to put up points. His numbers did drop off from late last season with the Tigers when he was sent back to the Tigers earlier this season. In the long run the question for Mike Milbury is do you want him in a fourth line role as center or a move to a wing where he can see time on the top lines ?

Sean Bergenheim # 5

Bergenheim checks in at number five on our list of Islander prospects. The reason he is ranked fifth here is because he was considered the fastest player in the 2002 draft. He also made a standout impression at the WJC and was one of Finland’s leading scorers in the tournament.

It’s going to take some time for Bergenheim, he plays with an excellent Jokerit team and in a league where the players are older than him, it’s not easy to find playing time and he has been a healthy scratch in games. His season stats almost match his stats in the WJC, but as he gets more seasoning and more game responsibility his numbers should also improve.

Next up # 6-10


Mike Bray is still on the protected list of the Montréal Rocket but he was released from his major card on November 20th, 2002 to Halifax Oland Export Junior A team.

Islanders recalled Justin Papineau today.

Mattias Weinhandl has played the required number of games at the NHL to be listed as a graduated prospect by HF prospect criteria.

Quick overview of the Isles deadline trade with Edmonton.

Brad Isbister/Raffi Torres for Janne Niinmaa, second and fourth round picks.

Tough trade for the Islanders to make, especially including Torres in the deal. Raffi can easily become a top line player, despite some feeling his potential is that of a third line player. Isbister is a very tough move also, but from the Islanders end, despite his injuries he has not performed as he did in first few seasons and it seems a change was best for both sides.

On the other end of the trade, Mike Milbury gets an excellent two-way defender in Janne Niinimaa in a league where players of this ability at this age on the backline are not usually available and is a major upgrade for a defense that was a solid unit

Milbury also gets a chance in what is considered a deep draft to finally build up his prospect base this summer.


Best of luck to Claude Lapointe, Chris Osgood, Brad Isbister and Raffi Torres.

National Hockey League:

Mattias WeinhandlNew York IslandersNHLRW/LW426152110-4

Marcus PaulssonSaskatoon BladesWHLLeft Wing5613183120-7
WJCSweLeft Wing60336-1
Mike Bray Montreal RocketQMJHLDefense904471E
Cory StillmanKingston FrontenacsOHLCenter4219244341-2


Andy ChiodoSt, Michaels MajorsOHLGoaltender57261863.010.915
Brad ToppingBrampton BattilonOHLGoaltender47231722.990.912

U.S College:

Brian CollinsBoston UniversityHockey EastCenter40101424123
Byran PerezMichigan TechWCHALeft Wing348182656-9
Ryan CaldwellUniversity of DenverWCHADefense38514195818


Justin MapletoftBridgeportAHLCenter591225374512
New York IslandersNHLCenter92242-1
Trent HunterBridgeportAHLRight Wing6327356235-4
New York IslaandersNHLRight Wing804445
Mattias WeinhandlBridgeportAHLRight Wing2391221142
Eric GodardBridgeportAHLRight Wing43224154-9
New York IslandersNHLRight Wing1600043-3
Blaine Down Bridgeport AHLForward478111930-5
Marco CharpentierTrentonECHLRight Wing39131932811
Graham BelakCincinattiECHLLeft Wing40101157-7
TrentonECHLLeft Wing200015-1
BridgeportAHLLeft Wing2500043-2
Dustin WoodTrentonECHLDefense593232626-6
Daniel TetraultTrentonECHLDefense366111734-4
Rick DiPietroBridgeportAHLGoaltender34161082.140.924
New York IslandersNHLGoaltender82322.320.917
David St.GermainTrentonECHLGoaltender32151342.760.903


Sean BergenheimJokeritsm ligaForward3833645
Franz NielsenM.I.F RedhawksSELForward4736910-6
Arto TukioJokeritsm ligaDefense4961016244
Juha Pekka KetolaLuko RaumaFNLCenter192121473-12
Dimitri AltarevDizenlist PenzaRHL1Forward3117183568
Johan HalvardssonHV-71SELDefense3901114-1
Radek MatejovskyKeramika PtzenCze ExtraRight Wing4271118126-5
Jan HolubLiberecCzeDefense212244
Per BraxenholmMorrumSwe Defense250006-2
Alexei StonkusLokomotiv YaroslavlSuperleagueDefense90002
Roman KukhtinovSalavat YulaevSuperleagueDefense47471166
Team RussiaDefense300080
Vladimir GorbunovCska MoscowRHLRight Wing30551046