Brock Nelson, Griffin Reinhart among New York Islanders’ prospects to watch in 2012-13

By Josh Buckingham

Kirill Kabanov and Kirill Petrov - New York Islanders

Photo: Kirill Kabanov and Kirill Petrov are two of the many talented forwards the Islanders have drafted over the past five years. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

With the announcement of the move to the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn to start the 2015-16 season, the future of the New York Islanders is suddenly very optimistic. The team has stockpiled talented prospects over the past several years and many of them are starting to look like promising NHL players.

Below is a sample of some of the Islanders prospects who should be worth watching in 2012-13:


Top Pro Prospect
Brock Nelson, C, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)

After a breakout sophomore season at the University of North Dakota, Nelson decided to bypass his final two collegiate seasons to join Bridgeport. He is a highly skilled center with a very well rounded skill set. He has great size, which he uses to his advantage, making him more of a power forward than a playmaking center, like fellow prospect Ryan Strome. The best aspect of his game is his willingness to crash the net and make his living in the high traffic areas. He is also a very powerful skater, which makes him very hard to knock off the puck.

Nelson will continue to blossom at the AHL level before he is ready to step into a role with the Islanders in the near future. When he makes the jump to the Island he has the potential to be a second or third line center with a high offensive ceiling. 

Bounce Back
Nino Niederreiter, LW, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)

In 55 games with the Islanders last season Niederreiter posted a measly one goal and no assists, which was extremely disappointing for this promising prospect. The lockout could not have come at a better time for him as he is given the time to develop his game in Bridgeport and receive the top-six minutes he needs. He is the type of player that needs to play with skilled forwards in order to succeed. He is very a very crafty player that loves to have the puck on his stick. When he does not have the puck is a whole different story. His game away from the puck needs considerable improvement if he is going to be trusted to play at the NHL level. Nonetheless, this youngster has boatloads of potential.

If he can continue to dominate offensively in Bridgeport and improve his game defensively, he has a good chance to be given a shot with the Isles very soon. Hopefully his offensive numbers at the AHL level can translate when he makes the jump back to the NHL level. 

NHL-bound Prospect
Matt Donovan, D, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)

If it were not for the lockout Donovan could very well be playing for the Islanders on a nightly basis. He has proven to be a very potent offensive defensemen at the AHL level, which resulted him being awarded the chance to finish the season with the Islanders last year. His shot from the point is extremely heavy and accurate. He also has great vision on the back-end. He is not the biggest defensemen, but loves to throw his weight around. He has the potential to become a top four offensive defensemen and power play quarterback.

For now Donovan will continue to hone his skills in Bridgeport waiting on the NHL to return to normal.


Top Junior Prospect
Griffin Reinhart, D, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)

Reinhart has an unreal combination of size and skill. He has the ideal frame for an NHL defenseman standing a hulking 6'4, and has room to get even bigger. His positioning and reach however is what makes him such an effective shutdown defensemen as he makes it impossible for the top offensive players to have the puck for long. For how big he is, he has great wheels and is extremely mobile. He also possesses a very good shot from the point and great vision.

Reinhart will continue to gain valuable experience playing for a very talented Oil King team for at least the next year and will fight for a spot on the Canadian U20 WJC team. The ceiling for this youngster is second to none and he has the potential to become an NHL superstar.

Offensive Breakout
Ryan Strome, C, Niagara IceDogs (OHL)

After an offensive breakout in his draft year, Strome took a small step back last season, as he was unable to score at the same pace. This season he should be able to dominate his OHL competition considering he is a veteran playing in his fourth season. Strome has an amazing set of hands, which he uses to elude defenders and set up his linemates. He is definitely considered more of a playmaking center, but he proved last season that he can also put the puck in the net. He is also has very good speed, which helps him to be responsible at both ends of the ice.

Strome will continue to develop his game with the IceDogs and gain more valuable international experience with the Canadian U20 WJC team before he makes the jump to the AHL/NHL level. 

Unsigned for 2013-14
Andrey Pedan, D, Guelph Storm (OHL)

Pedan is another gigantic defensemen, but he has yet to be signed to an entry-level contract with the Islanders before entering his third OHL season. He has really progressed at the junior level becoming an offensive threat. Not only does he have offensive prowess, he is also a very nasty no nonsense defender. Though he is still a project, the Islanders should try there hardest to sign this youngster given his tremendous upside and progression since coming over to North America.


Top Amateur Prospect
Scott Mayfield, D, Denver Pioneers (WCHA)

Mayfield is yet another hulking defensemen that the Islanders have stashed in their deep prospect pool. He is a very solid and steady shutdown defender who is more than capable of shutting down the opposing teams top lines. He has a very rangy and lanky frame that should continue to get stronger as he matures at the collegiate ranks. He also loves to punish the opposition and makes their lives miserable.

As of now it appears the Islanders are happy with Mayfield continuing to develop at the University of Denver and they are not rushing him into the pros. Mayfield very well could play another season or two at the college level, but when called upon he should be ready to make an impact in Bridgeport or with the Islanders.

Offensive Breakout
Robbie Russo, D, Notre Dame Fighting Irish (CCHA)

Russo has never really been considered an offensive defensemen, but he has the skill set to develop his game offensively. This season he should be relied on much more after a very successful freshmen season in which he posted 15 points in 40 games. With the departure of a few key defensemen this past season he will be given the chance to receive more minutes and some power play time. He possesses decent size and is a very good skater. His shot is not the hardest, but it is very accurate and has great release.

He will continue to develop his game at the University of Notre Dame for the next few seasons. Hopefully he will be able to secure a spot on the US U20 WJC team. He is no lock for the team, but he has a decent shot given his outstanding leadership abilities and international experience.

Bounce Back
Anders Lee, C, Notre Dame Fighting Irish (CCHA)

Last year was in no way a disappointment for Lee, but his point production dropped from 44 to 34 points. This season there is no reason why he should not be able to get back to his point-per-game pace he posted in his freshmen campaign. Lee is a big center that really rounded out his game last season in all three zones. He is very responsible defensively and good in the faceoff circle. He also has quick release on his shot and is not afraid to drive the net hard. Overall, he is a very complete player. Look for Lee to continue to thrive and improve his game at the University of Notre Dame.


Top European Prospect
Ville Pokka, D, Kärpät (SM-liiga)

Most of the Islanders overseas prospects have already made the jump to play in North America leaving very few players left, but Pokka is a very promising young defensemen. He has great offensive instincts and a ton of offensive upside. His high-end skating ability allows him to jump into the play and push the pace of the game. He is also very confident with the puck and has great vision. He does not have the best size for a defensemen, but if he can add a few pounds to his frame he should be fine. Overall, Pokka is a very raw prospect that needs lots of playing time to develop. Hopefully he is able to get the right development in Finland so that he will be able to make a smooth transition to North American when the time comes.

Unsigned for 2013-2014
Kirill Petrov, LW/RW, Ak Bars Kazan (KHL)

Petrov was drafted in 2008, but has remained under contract with Ak Bars Kazan since being drafted. He has proven he has the ability to put the puck in the net at the KHL level, which is considered by most to be the second best league in the world. He is a big winger with a lot of speed and excellent hands. Though he would have to transition to the North American style of play he should be able to do so nicely given effective coaching and the time to develop.