Islanders AHL prospects season review

By Jeffrey Bausch

In addition to the prospects who received call-ups to play with the New York Islanders this season, the organization had six additional prospects with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

The most notable news this season for the Sound Tigers was the trade of prospect Robert Nilsson on Feb. 27. Nilsson, along with Ryan O’Marra, were both sent to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for NHL All-Star Ryan Smyth. Nilsson’s absence hurt the Sound Tigers, who finished with a record of 36-37-1-6  — 11th in the Eastern Conference.

Petteri Nokelainen, RW
Islanders 2004 first round pick (16th overall)

Things did not go as well as planned during Petteri Nokelainen’s freshman season with the Sound Tigers. He got off to a slow start following off-season knee surgery for patella tendonitis and the coaching staff felt it best to give him a game off here and there to rest the knee and get it back to shape. This resulted in his not having recorded his first professional point until November and his first professional goal until December. Nevertheless, Nokelainen played through it all, that is, until he suffered a broken finger that caused him to miss out on an additional 14 games. All in all, the right winger played in 60 games, totaling six goals, 10 assists and 16 points, finishing -11 and with 51 penalty minutes.

Next season has to be a big year for Nokelainen — he’s entering the last year of a three-year contract with the Islanders. He’ll need to shake the injury bug which has seemingly followed him around for much of his career, something the Islanders knew when they drafted him in 2004. He was selected for his speed, powerful hitting, defensive responsibility and offensive potential. There were flashes of brilliance throughout the season, particularly in his defensive game, where he was never reluctant in going down to block a shot and always eager to deliver a big hit. He’s a Michael Peca type of player, capable of doing all the small things right in leading a team to victory. But if Nokelainen turns in the same results of this past season, his stock will drop sharply.

Sergei Ogorodnikov, C
Islanders 2004 third round draft pick (82nd overall)

1986-01-21 Sergei Ogorodnikov’s first season playing with the Sound Tigers was a bit of a roller coaster ride. Considered an offensively gifted player, Ogorodnikov had a lot of difficulty finding the back of the net throughout the first half of the season. He didn’t score his first professional goal until November and had difficulty setting up plays in the offensive zone. Such troubles earned him a trip to the Islanders ECHL team, the Pensacola Ice Pilots. The Ice Pilots, statistically, were not a good team this season, but Ogorodnikov made the most of his time there, finding his offensive game despite the team’s poor play. Eventually he was called back up to the Sound Tigers and finished the season on a high note, scoring a goal in the team’s last game of the season. Ogorodnikov played in a total of 27 games for the Sound Tigers, netting three goals, three assists for six points, a -9 rating and 10 penalty minutes.

Ogorodnikov having been sent down to the Ice Pilots in his first season of professional play is not worrying — yet. He worked on many of the basics in his game, including defensive-zone coverage and winning faceoffs. The fact that he found success and showed improvement is a positive sign of things to come. This is the first season of professional play in North America for the young prospect and a certain amount of hiccups are to be expected.

Masi Marjamaki, LW
Bruins 2003 second round draft pick (66th overall) – Re-entered 2005 draft and was chosen in the fifth round by the Islanders (144th overall)

Many were wondering this season — where did Masi Marjamaki go? In his second full season with the Sound Tigers, his most impressive stat was that he played in all but two of the team’s games. However, during those 78 games, he compiled a team-worst plus/minus of -27. There were periods when he was benched for his poor play, particularly his inability to make smart decisions on the ice. Last season, Marjamaki enjoyed a tremendous amount of success playing on the "3M" line, alongside former Sound Tigers Matt Koalska and David Masse. Such results were definitely not the case this year, where he played on a line with Nokelainen and Jason Pitton. Marjamaki’s season ending stats: six goals, 11 assists, 17 points, -27 and 80 penalty minutes.

The Islanders selected Marjamaki for his strong work ethic, physical play and ability to stick it out around the net. He does all the dirty work and has been described as a pest to play against. However, the one thing holding him back from being along the lines of the next, say, Matthew Barnaby, is his inability to create and finish plays. If Marjamaki doesn’t break out of this sophomore slump by next season, he may not be part of the Islanders organization much longer.

Jason Pitton, LW
Islanders 2004 eighth round draft pick (244th overall)

1986-05-23 One of the bright spots on an otherwise dismal season for the Sound Tigers was the breakout development of Jason Pitton. A deep selection in the draft, Pitton has surprised many with his growth and maturity in only his first year of professional play. He was put on the Sound Tigers roster for his speed and ability to hit. One of the more important things he learned this season was that the more he hit, the more ice time he earned which, in turn, led to more offensive chances. Of course, all this hitting led to many fights throughout the season, some being highlight victories for the up-and-comer. Much of his game this season was focused on utilizing his size (6’2) and speed to developing into a player who can stay at the professional level for seasons to come. Pitton played in 76 games, collecting nine goals, 10 assists, 19 points, with a -11 and 65 PIM.

Pitton has been described as the quietest member on the team and also the hardest working. He knows that he has a long road ahead of him and is working alongside some of the veterans on the team in making himself a better player. There are many aspects of his game that still need developing, particularly his defensive zone coverage. But with the commitment he’s shown this season to becoming a better player, one could expect him to be much better in this area and many others by the start of next season. There’s no guarantee that Pitton will make it to the NHL, he’s an underdog many would want to root for.
Andrew MacDonald, D

Islanders 2006 sixth round draft pick (160th overall)

Andrew MacDonald played most of the season in the QMJHL, and was called up for the Sound Tigers final three games of the season. He recorded no points, an even plus/minus and totaled three shots. MacDonald recently signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Islanders. MacDonald is offensively gifted and should see a lot of time with the Sound Tigers next season.

Jamie Fraser, D
Signed as a free agent, 2007

The Bridgeport Sound Tigers added some offensive depth on the blue line with young Jamie Fraser. He started the season with the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays, then played two games with the Syracuse Crunch on a PTO. Fraser played 43 games with the Sound Tigers, putting in three goals, 11 assists for 14 points, with a -3 and 16 penalty minutes. He is expected to see a major increase in playing time next season.

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