Islanders Top 20 prospects

By Gregory Maker

The Islanders have picked in the middle of three last four NHL Entry drafts. Their first round picks have all shown potential and make this list’s top four. The later rounds have not been as kind to the Islanders although they were able to secure defensemen Bruno Gervais and Chris Campoli in the sixth and seventh rounds respectively.

Newcomers to the list include 2005 draft picks Ryan O’Marra (round 1), Dustin Kohn (round 2), Shea Guthrie (round 3), Masi Marjamaki (round 5), and sophomore Matt Koalska who performed well for Bridgeport of the AHL in his rookie season. Petteri Nokelainen leads the list again and is ranked 46th on Hockey’s Future’s Top 50 prospects.

Top 20 at a Glance

1. (1) Petteri Nokelainen, C
2. (NR) Ryan O’Marra, C
3. (2) Sean Bergenheim, C
4. (3) Robert Nilsson, LW
5. (4) Jeremy Colliton, RW
6. (5) Chris Campoli, D
7. (8) Bruno Gervais, D
8. (NR) Dustin Kohn, D
9. (6) Wes O’Neill, D
10. (7) Ryan Caldwell, D
11. (9) Igor Volkov, RW
12. (10) Frans Nielsen, C
13. (NR) Masi Marjamaki, RW
14. (11) Evgeny Tunik, RW
15. (13) Blake Comeau, RW
16. (12) Sergei Ogorodnikov, C
17. (NR) Shea Guthrie, C
18. (14) Dmitri Chernykh, RW
19. (15) Steve Regier, LW
20. (NR) Matt Koalska, C

1. Petteri Nokelainen, C, 16th overall, 2004

Nokelainen remains first on the Islanders Top 20 list. He had a break-out season with SaiPa Lappeenranta of the SM-Liiga in Finland in 2004-05 with 20 points (15 goals, 5 assists) in 52 games.

Nokelainen’s ability to play two-way hockey is what makes his game. He positions himself well, whether that is starting an odd man rush or wrestling in the corners of the offensive zone. Needless to say, he is a top choice to kill a penalty. However, his offensive skills are average all around. His willingness to use the slapshot is a good sign of confidence, but he may not have what it takes to match the numbers of the best defensive forwards in the game. The largest question mark is his speed, which is mediocre for a player of his quality, yet he still seems to improve.

Nokelainen, 19, signed with the Islanders during the offseason. After a strong camp, he made the team and is off to a good start with two points in four games, while averaging just 4:24 in ice time.

2. Ryan O’Marra, C, 15th, 2005

O’Marra was the Islanders top pick in the 2005 NHL entry draft. O’Marra ranked second in scoring for the Erie Otters of the OHL last season with 63 points (25 goals, 38 assists) in 64 games.

O’Marra, 18, was a key member of the gold medal winning Team Ontario in the under 17 tournament where he scored eight points in six games. He was an assistant captain on Team Canada in the August 2004 under 18 championships. O’Marra scored five points in five games and played in the 2005 CHL Top Prospects game doing very well in the skating categories in the skills contest. O’Marra is a very skilled center with a good set of wheels. He handles the puck well and has a very good shot. He can score from many areas of the ice and does not shy away from playing in traffic. O’Marra possesses excellent leadership skills.

After attending Islanders prospect camp on Long Island, O’Marra was sent back to Erie for the 2005-06 season.

3. Sean Bergenheim, C, 22nd, 2002

Bergenheim, 21, played 18 games for the Islanders in 2003-04 recording a goal and an assist. In 61 games for Bridgeport last season, Bergenheim recorded 29 points (15 goals, 14 assists) en route to a selection to PlanetUSA in the AHL All-Star Classic.

Bergenheim is fast and quite a strong player altough he isn’t very big. He has good puckhandling skills and is more a speedster than playmaker. The 5’11 202-pounder should make an impact with the Islanders in the near future. Assigned to Bridgeport to start the season, he has three points in three games.

4. Robert Nilsson, LW, 15, 2003

Nilsson, son of former Calgary Flames’ great Kent Nilsson, looks to follow in his father’s footsteps as an elite NHL player. Last season, Nilsson played 23 games in the Swedish Elite League for Djurgardens IF Stockholm scoring 6 points (2 goals, 4 assits) in a league full of NHL players due to the lockout.

Nilsson, 20, combines a great skating technique with fine technical skills, excellent passes and tremendous hockey sense. He is more of a playmaker than a sniper but is still capable of putting the puck into the net, although he could work some with his finishing skills. Nilsson is quite fond of using his body. He likes to throw a good hit every game and plays with a lot of grit in the offensive zone. When comparing Nilsson to other young players his maturity and strength stands out. He is totally fearless on the ice and plays well through traffic. Only one weakness really stands out, his defensive game.

Nilsson impressed the team with a strong training camp. Thus far he has no points in four games with the Islanders, averaging 12:16 in ice time.

5. Jeremy Colliton, RW, 58th, 2003

Colliton, 20, a native of Blackie, Alberta finished his junior career last season with the Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL. Colliton was limited to only 41 games in 2004-05 due to a knee injury, but still managed to finish thrid in team scoring with 46 points (16 goals, 30 assists). The leader, Aki Seitsonen, a prospect of the Calgary Flames, finished only six points ahead of Colliton although he played 16 more games.

Colliton is a strong skater, who plays well along boards and in physical areas. The 6’2 195-pounder is smart around the net, and has good playmaking skills. He has very good two-way player potential, and is very tough on the puck. Colliton is tough for defenders to handle low in the offensive zone and possesses outstanding leadership skills.

After a strong training camp, Colliton was assigned to Bridgeport of the AHL to start his pro career. He has two goals in three games thus far.

6. Chris Campoli, D, 227th, 2004

Campoli had an outstanding rookie season for Bridgeport last season finishing second on the team with 49 points (15 goals, 34 assists). Campoli ended the season fourth overall in scoring by all AHL defensemen and third overall among defensemen in goals including seven goals on the power play and two shorthanded leading to a selection to the AHL All-Rookie Team.

The North York, Ontario native is not fancy offensively but makes the simple plays, moving the puck quickly and accurately. Campoli plays the angles well in his own end.

The 21-year-old made the team out of camp and is +2 with one goal after four games. He is averaging 13:20 in ice time.

7. Bruno Gervais, D, 182nd, 2003

Gervais was solid for Bridgeport last season. In 76 games, the 21-year-old recorded 30 points (8 goals, 22 assists) on an injury-plagued team. The Loungeuil, Quebec native was paired with fellow prospect Chris Campoli for most of the season. Gervais’ development is going well but has slowed since he made the final cut as an 18-year-old.

Gervais is one of the most skilled offensive, finesse defensemen in the AHL with a lot of upside. He needs to work on his skating as he fills out over the next few years. Gervais is considered one of those players who has an innate feel for the game and brings plenty of intangibles. He should play most of the season in Bridgeport, but has a chance to play some games on Long Island.

In three games, Gervais has two points for Bridgeport.

8. Dustin Kohn, D, 46th, 2005

Kohn joins the Islanders organization after being selected in the second round of the 2005 NHL entry draft. The 18-year-old led the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL with 35 assists last season and finished fourth on the team with 43 points in 73 games.

The 6’1 182-pound defenseman saw his offensive output rise from just nine points one season ago. Defensively Kohn became much more reliable. Involved in all special teams activity, Kohn saw a spike in confidence as the Hitmen coaching staff increased his ice time. Although the Edmonton, Alberta native finished just two points shy of finishing amongst the top ten defensemen in the league for total points, it was his top 50 finish in plus/minus that Kohn took even greater pride in. Both of these statistics earned Kohn a position on Team Cherry in the CHL Top Prospects game. At the conclusion of the 2004-05 regular season, the Calgary Hitmen named Kohn the club’s top defenseman.

After attending Islanders’ training camp, Kohn returns to Calgary for his third season in junior hockey.

9. Wes O’Neill, D, 115th, 2004

O’Neill is the top-rated college prospect in the Islanders’ system. At 6’4 200 pounds, he already has the size, he just needs to sharpen his skills. O’Neill improved in all aspects of his game during his sophomore season at Notre Dame. The Windsor, Ontario native finished the season with a career high in points (20) and goals (6) in 38 games. O’Neill was a -21 for the season, but such numbers are to be expected from a player who logs a ton of ice time on a struggling team.

O’Neill is a big and strong defender who plays a solid two-way game. He is not afraid to hit, relying on his size to intimidate opponents who challenge him into a physical confrontation. O’Neill frequently joins the rush, with his long stride enabling him to keep up with more fleet-footed forwards. His 73 shots (second on the team) are also a strong indication of his prowess in the attacking zone. O’Neill plays in all situations for the Irish, and often times is set up on the power play to deliver one-timers on net. He has improved with his decision-making, although he is prone to attempting long distance passes that occasionally end up on the opposing team’s sticks.

O’Neill returned to Notre Dame for his junior season.

10. Ryan Caldwell, D, 202nd, 2000

Caldwell, another late round selection for the Islanders, has shown he can play at the pro level. The 6’3 195-pound Deloraine, Manitoba native delivers some of the hardest checks in the AHL. In 73 games, for Bridgeport last season, Caldwell, posted 21 points (2 goals, 19 assists). Caldwell did not play terribly well defensively in what was his rookie season out of the University of Denver, finishing with a -16.

Caldwell is a big, tough, hard hitting defenseman who is starting to fill out physically and starting to come in to his own as a player. Caldwell is known to be a good passer who likes to stay back in the defensive zone and make the simple plays with good instincts.

Caldwell, 24, will start the 2005-06 season in Bridgeport and has a shot to play for the Islanders in the near future.

11. Igor Volkov, LW, 246th 2003

Volkov, 22, has seen his numbers increase in each year he has played in the Russian Super League. The 6’0 185-pounder recorded 28 points (15 goals, 13 assists) in 53 games last season for Ufa Salavat Yulayev and Moscow Dynamo in 2004-05.

Volkov is a good two-way player who is strong along the boards and has solid stick skills. Volkov remains with Ufa Salavat Yulayev this season, with four points in 14 games.

12. Franz Nielsen, LW, 87th 2002

The 21-year-old Swede is now playing for Timra IK of the Swedish Elite League. Nielsen played 166 games over the last four seasons for Malmo IF of the SEL.

Nielsen is a very good skater with great quickness and nice soft hands. He is a phenomenal playmaker and possesses a great sense and passion for the game. He also has a solid shot which he uses in every possible situation. He is very aware of his duties as a center and he seems to enjoy playing defense. The negative side is his size and strength.

Nielsen is becoming established in the Swedish Elite League. He has tons of talent and also seems to have the right passion for the game and desire to become a good player. He needs to bulk up a bit and develop in his own tempo in Sweden before trying his luck in North America. Nielsen is aiming to make history as the first Danish born player to make the NHL.

13. Masi Marjamaki, RW, 144th, 2005

After failing to come to contract terms with the Boston Bruins, Marjamaki re-entered the draft in 2005. The 6’2 202-pounder has signed with the Islanders and begins his pro career in Bridgeport this season.

Marjamaki is a solid player that has shown steady improvement. Though he’s an agitator with a gritty style of play, he’s also an adept stickhandler who can maneuver the puck well. Increased ice time has helped his game tremendously and he’s demonstrated an ability to put up some points. He also brings a highly developed work ethic and leadership skills to his game, something that has earned him a spot as team captain in Moose Jaw, and will no doubt help his progress further down the line.

The biggest upside for Marjamaki is that he’s a tireless worker who is continually trying to improve his craft. He may need to add a little bulk to survive the NHL, especially if he continues to play a very physical style of game. He has been assigned to Bridgeport and has one assist in three games.

14. Evgeny Tunik, RW, 53rd, 2003

At almost 6’2 and 205 pounds, Tunik does not tend to mix it up physically too much, but does not shy away from contact when he is in traffic. He plays aggressive hockey and goes through people. Tunik fights very hard next to the boards and is very effective in retrieving the puck. He has a very strong shot with a fast release. He shoots hard and often. He is a sniper and is good at what he does.

Tunik has greatly improved his skating. Tunik likes to do everything himself, but can back up this style of hockey with an impressive array of skills. He has great, soft hands and is a great puck handler, able to go right through people without appearing to do much.

Tunik is currently assigned to the Sound Tigers.

15. Blake Comeau, RW, 47th 2004

In three seasons, the 19-year-old has recorded 103 points (39 goals, 59 assists) in 190 games with the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL. Comeau has improved his goal total each year.

At 6’1 198 pounds, Comeau brings big game experience, participating in the Memorial Cup Tournament for three consecutive seasons including a championship in 2004.

A multi-dimensional player, Comeau is a very smart puckhandler with strong offensive instincts. He combines strong skating, an accurate wrist shot, and a knack for protecting the puck from attackers. Comeau is very good at making drives into the offensive zone with the puck on the end of his stick, looking for opportunities to pass or shoot. He plays a gritty game down low, and battles well along the boards and displays excellent spade work in the corners.

Comeau has begun his fourth and final season with the Rockets.

16. Sergei Ogorodnikov, C, 82nd, 2004

Ogordnikov, 19, continues his development with CSKA Moscow of the Russian Super League this season. At 6’1 185 pounds, the Urkuresk, Russia native has already played two games this season. Last season he played 17 games as an 18-year-old recording 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists).

Ogordnikov will play in Russia this season and it is not known if or when he will come to North America.

17. Shea Guthrie, 76th, 2005

Shea Guthrie was taken out of St. George’s High School in Newport, Rhode Island in the 2005 NHL entry draft.

Guthrie, 18, enjoyed an excellent senior year with St. George’s, playing a vital role in leading the Dragons to their first ever ISL/New England Division II title. He finished his final season with 50 points (26 goals, 24 assists). Guthrie earned numerous honors for his outstanding season that included the ISL’s Eberheart Division MVP, a selection to the All-England Division II First Team as well as the NEPSIHA and U. S. Hockey Report (USHR) Division II Player of the Year awards. He was also named to the Boston Globe’s All-Scholastic Team for the second year in a row.

Guthrie attends Clarkson University of the ECAC in Potsdam, NY as a freshman along with the Islanders sixth round selection defenseman Tyrell Mason.

18. Dmitri Chernykh, RW 48th, 2003

Standing at approximately 6’1 and 196 pounds, Chernykh is an average sized winger. He is quick on the ice, but is not very aggressive. He does play physical hockey, and will rarely make a hit. However, if he is hit, he has been known to have a mean streak and return the favor.

Chernyk’s weapon of choice is his wrist shot which is usually precise, though not very powerful. Chernykh has good hands. He handles the puck well.

Chernykh sees the ice well. He interacts well with his linemates on the ice and can make some great set ups. When Chernykh is on the top of his game, he knows where to be and has many scoring chances. One downside to Chernykh’s current game is that he tends to play by himself sometimes, trying to do everything on his own. Though he is a winger, he is very responsible defensively.

Chernykh hasn’t played in the Russian Super League since 2003-04, showing a stall in his development.

19. Steve Regier, LW, 148th, 2004

Regier had an impressive rookie season for Bridgeport of the AHL last season recording 22 points (7 goals, 15 assists) in 75 games for an injury-plagued Sound Tigers team.

At 6’5 200 pounds the Edmonton, Alberta native isn not afraid to mix it up physically and get his nose dirty, and he can also put the puck in the net. He was in the top ten in scoring for Bridgeport as a rookie. Regier returns to Bridgeport this season to continue his development. He has no points in three games thus far.

20. Matt Koalska, C, 154th, 2000

Koalska, a fifth round selection by the Nashville Predators in the 2000 NHL entry draft rounds out the Isles Top 20. Koalska is a valuable player with big game experience. While a member of the Twin City Vulcans of the USHL, he helped lead the team to a Junior A National Championship. Koalska, a product of the University of Minnesota won two consecutive national championships in 2002-03 and 2003-04.

At 5’11 190 pounds, Koalska is a shifty player with decent puckhandling skills. His shot is decent but could use work. He’s not a huge goal scorer, but is very sound defensively. He can work on his strength. Koalska, who scored a goal against Norfolk in an AHL game at the Nassau Colisseum last season hopes to make it there in the future. Currently he is playing for Bridgeport, with two points in three games.

Jason Ahrens, Andrew Kaltenbach, Pekka Lampinen, Janine Pilkington, and D.J. Powers contributed to this article. Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.