Islanders Top 20 prospects

By Tom Liodice
Islanders Top 20 Prospects at a Glance

1. Sean Bergenheim, LW
2. Wade Dubielewicz, G
3. Petteri Nokelainen, C
4. Justin Mapletoft, C
5. Ryan Caldwell, D
6. Robert Nilsson, RW
7. Jeremy Colliton, C
8. Bruno Gervais, D
9. Frans Nielsen, LW
10. Stefan Blaho, RW
11. Evgeny Tunik, C
12. Dmitri Chernykh, RW
13. Igor Volkov, LW
14. Arto Tukio, D
15. Blaine Down, C
16. Jan Holub, D
17. Wes O’Neill, D
18. Blake Comeau, RW
19. Chris Campoli, D
20. Steve Regier, LW

1. Sean Bergenheim, LW (2002 Draft Pick, 1st Round 22nd overall)

Moving to the top of the Islanders Top Prospects list, Sean Bergenheim knew he had to be doing something right when he was paired up on a fourth line on the second day of training camp in 2003. Islanders head coach Steve Stirling knew that Bergenheim was special, and Stirling kept him on the top club giving him a “tryout” in the big leagues. Bergenheim played 18 games with the Islanders last year, notching a goal and an assist. He made himself known for his speed, work ethic and effort. Put out on key penalty kills, he was relied on to get in deep in the zone and work hard along the boards.

This year Bergenheim will spend his first full year in North America, playing for the Islanders AHL affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He made a big splash with the Sound Tigers last spring by being the Tigers second leading scorer in the playoffs, notching 2 goals and 3 assists. Expect Bergenheim to be on either the top two lines this season with the Sound Tigers, and if NHL play gets underway, don’t be surprised to see him as a staple in the Islanders penalty killing unit and as a third to fourth line grinder.

2.Wade Dubielewicz, G (Undrafted Free Agent, signed 5/26/03)

Wade Dubielewicz came into the 2003-04 season as a virtual unknown. He had a record setting season at the University of Denver (highest save percentage in university history), but Dubielewicz was getting over a torn hamstring that sidelined him for more than six weeks. After losing his first two games in his first professional action, he quickly picked his play up, posting 20 wins with 9 shutouts this season for Bridgeport. He also shattered the AHL GAA record with a 1.38 GAA and captured the Dudley “Red” Garrett Memorial Award for the AHL’s Rookie of the Year. Islanders fans also got to get a small, but impressive glimpse of Dubielewicz. “Dubie” was given the call as an emergency back-up goalie against the Flyers when Rick DiPietro went down with the flu late in the season. When Garth Snow had to leave the game due to a groin pull, Dubielewicz was thrown into his first taste of NHL action against on of the NHL’s toughest teams down 2-0. Dubielewicz proceeded to supply two shutout periods for the Islanders and gained his first NHL win.

Due to the NHL lockout, Dubielewicz will spend the season in the AHL with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Due to his performance last year, don’t be surprised if Sound Tigers Coach Greg Cronin gives him the nod as the No. 1 goalie. Expect to see him playing with the Islanders once the NHL lockout gets settled, serving as a backup to Rick DiPietro.

3.Petteri Nokelainen, C (2004 Draft Pick, 1st Round 15th overall)

Petteri Nokelainen makes his debut into the Islanders Top 20 Prospects list after being chosen as the Islanders first pick in the 2004 Draft. Nokelainen’s pick came to a shock of many draft followers, as his name was not mentioned as a potential first round pick. But Nokelainen was dubbed as one of the safest picks of the draft. His solid two-way play and his true competitiveness can draw comparisons to current Islander Michael Peca. He makes very few mistakes and can always be counted on. He is expected to continue playing in Finland this season, but being projected to become a sure NHLer in the future.

4.Justin Mapletoft, C (1999 Draft Pick, 5th Round 130th overall)

Justin Mapletoft saw split time between the AHL and NHL last season, mainly as a call-up for then-injured Dave Scatchard last season. He filled in well as a fourth line center and had five points and six penalty minutes in 27 games. Being called upon for key faceoffs and killed many penalties. He is an excellent two-way player with a lot of potential. He will play with the Sound Tigers as one of the many NHL-caliber prospects this year in the AHL as a first or second line center as he did last year.

5.Ryan Caldwell, D (2000 Draft Pick, 7th Round 202nd overall)

After being signed to a two-year contract two weeks ago, big defenseman Ryan Caldwell rounds out the Top Five for the New York Islanders. Caldwell is coming off an impressive year with the University of Denver, captaining them to the NCAA Championship, their first since 1969. He also backed up his impressive year with impressive numbers, putting up 15 goals and 12 assists in 42 games. Despite his size being listed as 172 lbs., Caldwell is as tough as they come as he posted 96 PIM. Caldwell will be suiting up for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers this year in his first taste of professional hockey. Don’t be surprised to see the tough defenseman in an Islander uniform in the next two years.

6.Robert Nilsson, RW (2003 Draft Pick, 1st Round 15th overall)

Dropping a few spots on this year’s list, Robert Nilsson had a relatively sub-par year compared to his previous year with Leksands of the Swedish Elite League. After setting scoring records for player his age in the 2002-03 season, Nilsson was getting limited playing time, being relegated on the fourth line and being scratched some games. This led him to get transferred to Switzerland where he got more playing time and almost equaled his scoring even with many fewer games than in Sweden. Nilsson this year has returned to Sweden, this time playing for Djugardens in the Elite League, where he will continue to develop his skills for the next year or two.

7.Jeremy Colliton, C (2003 Draft Pick, 2nd Round 58th overall)

This 2003 second round draft pick proved to be a very strong pick for the Isles. Colliton is coming off his second straight 20-goal season with Prince Albert of the WHL, and upping his career high in points by two from last season’s total. Colliton is a very smart player who plays well in the physical areas of his game. He is excellent both ways and is also very smart in front of the net and possesses outstanding leadership skills. This year Colliton returns to Prince Albert for a third straight season. He has the potential to become a solid second line center for the Isles in the near future.

8.Bruno Gervais, D (2003 Draft Pick, 6th Round 182nd overall)

Bruno Gervais made a splash in Islanders training camp last year, catching coach Steve Stirling’s eye, and lasting all the way to the final cut. Stirling applauded Gervais’ smarts behind the blueline, his stay-at-home approach and outstanding leadership skills. Before he was sent back to Acadie-Bathurst (his junior team) he was signed to a three-year rookie contract for his efforts. Unfortunately a serious knee injury set him back all of last season, as he was not able to contribute much for his struggling Titans. This year, Gervais will be playing for the Sound Tigers in the AHL, hopefully to rebound from last year’s disappointment. Expect him to be a Top 4 defenseman for the Tigers this year.

9.Frans Nielsen, LW (2002 Draft Pick, 3rd Round 87th overall)

Frans Nielsen is coming off a career year at Malmo in the Swedish Elite League, nearly doubling his point total from the previous season. Nielsen is a phenomenal playmaker and has incredibly soft hands. He’s an excellent two-way player and could easily play defense if needed. One of Nielsen’s downsides is his size, at 6’1, 171 lbs., he has to bulk up a little bit if he wants to make it to North America. Nielsen is back with Malmo for another season this year and looking on to improve on last year’s career year.

10.Stefan Blaho, RW (2003 Draft Pick, 4th Round 120th overall)

In his first year of North American hockey, Stefan Blaho put up some impressive numbers for a rookie, notching 8 goals and 8 assists in 51 games in the OHL. He also did not have a very hard time adjusting the more physical style of North American hockey, notching 58 PIM in his time there. Blaho is a strong forechecker who of course is not afraid to get physical. He’s also not afraid to drop the gloves for his teammates. He is back with Sudbury for another year, hoping to get fully adjusted with the North American play.

11.Evgeny Tunik, C (2003 Draft Pick, 2nd Round 53rd overall)

In his first year with a Super League team, young Evgeny Tunik posted a respectable season, scoring 2 goals and 3 assists in 34 games by playing mostly on the team’s fourth line. He is a big guy who isn’t afraid to make any physical contact, but doesn’t tend to mix it up physically. One downside of Tunik’s has been his consistency; much like has been criticism of his fellow countryman and Islander, Oleg Kvasha. Expect him to take on a little bit more of a prominent role with St. Petersburg in his second year of the Super League.

12.Dmitri Chernykh, RW (2003 Draft Pick, 2nd Round 48th overall)

Dmitri Chernykh had an average year in his first full season with the Russian Super League. He is average sized at 176 pounds, and doesn’t like to mix it up physically much, posting no penalty minutes last season. Chernykh has a great shot and it has sniper-like tendencies. He tends to shoot a little too much and forgets about passing it sometimes. He will spend this year again with Moscow.

13.Igor Volkov, LW (2003 Draft, 8th Round 246th overall)

Igor Volkov is coming off a career year at Salavat Yulayev, posting his best numbers in Russia with 11 goals and 13 assists in 45 games. This is very impressive due to his relative youth in the league. Volkov is a strong player along the boards and has very strong stick skills. This year he will continue playing with Salavat for his fifth season with the team. He already has posted 3 goals and 3 assists in 10 games.

14.Arto Tukio, D (2000 Draft, 4th Round, 101st overall)

Arto Tukio, playing most of last year with fellow Islander and top prospect Sean Bergenheim, put up numbers that were very similar to his previous season with Jokerit, notching 4 goals and 12 assists in 54 games. Tukio is a very good playmaker on the blue line and can see the ice very well. He is a good skater, but because of his size at 180 pounds is not a very physical player. This year, Tukio will be playing in Sweden with Vasta Frolunda HC Goteborg, and with the Isles short on defensive prospects, he could make a play for Bridgeport in the next few years.

15. Blaine Down, C (Undrafted Free Agent, signed 7/22/02)

Injuries seemed to have plagued Blaine Down for most of his minor league career. Last year injuries caused him to only appear in 51 games for the Sound Tigers. In those 51 games, Down played a pivotal role in the Tigers record 20-game unbeaten streak. He mostly played centering a second line, and showed excellent flashes of speed and determination. His size, grit and determination is comparable to current Islander Jason Blake (who was also an undrafted free agent.) Down will be with the AHL’s Sound Tigers this year, acting as a second to third line center. If he would be called up to the Islanders in the near future, expect him to be a solid third to fourth line grinding center.

16. Jan Holub, D (2001 Draft Pick, 7th Round 197th overall)

Jan Holub came into his own physically last year at HC Liberec. He increased his penalty minutes by three and a half times this year. Holub is developing very well and has been turning heads with his coaches for his steady play. He is continuing to play with HC Liberec this year, as he continues to hone his craft in Europe.

17.Wes O’Neill, D (2004 Draft Pick, 4th Round 115th overall)

The Islanders drafted Wes O’Neill in 2004 in the fourth round, though a year ago he was a projected Top 10 pick. O’Neill is a strong guy at over 200 lbs. and relies mainly on his body positioning and physical force. Questions abound about his decision-making in his transition game, as he tries to move the puck through traffic in the middle of the ice, as opposed by going for the simple clear. This year, O’Neill will continue to play with Notre Dame as he will growing in a top-two defenseman for his school.

18.Blake Comeau, RW (2004 Draft Pick, 2nd Round 47th overall)

The Islanders drafted Blake Comeau in the second round of this summer’s entry draft. Comeau is a character player, not afraid to mix it up physically, as he works hard every time he steps onto the ice. His 123 penalty minutes, which would normally be a team-leading statistic, was only fourth for his Rockets. He is a hard worker, and not afraid to get in deep along the boards and chip the puck out into play. His 33 points last year was a career high for him, but he has much more scoring potential in him. This year, Comeau is playing for the Rockets for another season looking to add on to his physical prowess and improving his scoring numbers. He could fit into a second to third line winger on the Islanders in the next few years.

19.Chris Campoli, D (2004 Draft Pick, 7th Round 227th overall)

The Islanders drafted Campoli in the seventh round of this year’s entry draft. He has outstanding offensive abilities, posting career numbers last year with 20 goals and 44 assists in 67 games. Campoli isn’t afraid to mix it up physically as well. He also likes to make the simple play by moving the puck accurately and quickly. The Islanders were immediately impressed with his character and numbers, and signed him to a two-year rookie contract. Campoli is currently now taking part in training camp with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, and has a fairly good shot on making the team.

20.Steve Regier, LW (2004 Draft Pick, 5th Round 148th overall)

The New York Islanders drafted Steve Regier in the seventh round after being passed up in the 2002 and 2003 drafts. Regier was the leading scorer for the WHL champion Medicine Hat Tigers, with 60 points in 72 games. He also not afraid to get dirty and mix it up physically, posting 111 penalty minutes. The Islanders rewarded Regier’s strong play in the WHL with a two-year contract on his birthday. Regier is now practicing with the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers in training camp and hopes to become a part of the team for the coming season.

Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.