Rookie Report: Trent Hunter

By Stephen J. Holodinsky

Rookie Report-Trent Hunter


There are some rookies who step
from the draft table right into the NHL and proceed to wow ticketholders
everywhere, then there are those that finish out their junior careers and make
a small detour in the AHL before graduating to the big club. Then there is
Trent Hunter. It’s been a long and arduous climb to the show for the New York
Islanders rookie, a climb that has taken him five years to complete.


Originally drafted in the
sixth round by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in 1998 as a gangly kid playing for the
Prince George Cougars of the WHL, he showed little in his first two seasons of
junior to suggest that he had what it took to reach hockey’s highest level.
However in the 1999-2000 campaign Hunter exploded for 46 goals and 49 assists
for 95 points in only 67 games and the Isles sent a fourth round pick to
Anaheim in order to secure the young winger. From there it was on to
Springfield for his first taste of the AHL where he acclimatized himself with
the level of play scoring 18 goals and 35 points in 57 games. However, it was
the year after that he really turned the heads of the Islanders brass. In
2001-2002 the right winger put up 30 goals to go along with 35 assists in 80
games with the Isles new AHL affiliate in Bridgeport Sound and earned himself a
post-season call-up to play against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round
of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.


Although the team would
eventually lose the series four games to three, Hunter had made enough of an
impression that the higher ups had him penciled into a starting role with the
big club next year. Alas, it turned out to be too much too soon. The big flanker
lasted only eight games into the NHL season before being demoted back down to
Bridgeport Sound. Once there though, he picked up right where he had left off
the year before, putting up 30 goals and 71 points in only 70 games and was the
Tigers top scorer in the post season with 7 goals and 4 helpers in nine playoff
games. That earned him another ticket to the Nassau County Coliseum for
training camp where this time, he stuck.


For the most part this
season young Hunter has played with veterans Shawn Bates and Jason Blake on
what must be one of the best checking units in the NHL. The two veterans, both
shutdown defenders in their own right, have found that the rookie, a very good
two-way player, fit right in with them. This is due, says Hockey’s Future’s Pat
Wallace, to the strapping winger’s defensive positioning. “Hunter,” he
elaborates “puts himself in the (right) locations in the (neutral and
defensive) zones, creating turnovers that lead to chances for teammates.” Of
course, committing to defense, especially for a young player is a rarity but
Wallace states that “Hunter’s two best assets are his positioning and


That is not to say that the
winger lacks offensive skills. A quick look at the teams scoring stats where
Hunter leads the way with 15 goals and 29 points in 41 games, puts paid to that
notion. Wallace points out that the youngster “anticipates the feed down low or
in the slot very well.” That said he doesn’t simply wait for the puck to come
to him, “he works along the boards to generate chances for his line.” His work
ethic and steadily improving game have found him getting increased amounts of
powerplay time as the season has progressed.


So is Hunter, who now weighs
in at 210 pounds, a finished product? By no means. There is still work to do.
How might he progress? One need only to look to the Phoenix Coyotes’ Captain
Shane Doan to see another winger with a shutdown defensive game and good hands
to see that as long as he works hard, the future indeed looks bright for Trent