Big things expected from New York Islanders prospects in 2013-14 season

By Josh Buckingham

Ville Pokka - New York Islanders

Photo: Defenseman Ville Pokka is one of many very talented defensive prospects in the New York Islanders system. (courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Coming off an improbable playoff berth in 2013, the New York Islanders enter the 2013-14 season with high expectations. They are still a very young club with a lot of promise and should only get better with experience.

Below are several prospects who are expected to make an impact this season.


Top Pro Prospect
Ryan Strome, C, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)

Many believe Strome would start the season with Isles and potentially on the first line with John Tavares and Matt Moulson. Instead, the Islanders decided to send him to Bridgeport to start the season so he could play key minutes.

Strome has an uncanny skill set, combining good speed with nifty hands and puck-skills. He also buries his chances when given the opportunity. Through four games with the Sound Tigers he has recorded three assists. He should eventually be given the opportunity to debut with the big club if he continues to play at a high level in Bridgeport.  

Bounceback Prospect
Calvin de Haan, D, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)

Calvin de Haan, a once highly touted prospect, has dealt with chronic shoulder problems his entire career. He now appears healthy and ready to take his game to next level. This will be his third stint in Bridgeport and his entry-level contract is up at the end of the season. He has already played in four games, one more than he played all of last season.

Though he has yet to a record a point this season, he has been a very steady presence on the blue line. He is not he biggest guy on the ice, but is a great puck mover. Assuming he stays healthy and continues to perform well, he should see a call-up to the NHL at some point this season.

Matt Donovan, D, New York Islanders (NHL)

Donovan earned his spot with the Islanders out of training camp. He played admirably in four of the Isles first six games, scoring his first NHL goal to go along with one assist. His goal came on the man advantage as he has been seeing regular time anchoring the power play.

Donovan possesses a very powerful point shot that he can keep low for deflections, and he can also hammer it when given an open lane. He makes smart decisions from the back end and is not afraid to use his stocky frame to punish an opponent. His skating has improved a lot since turning pro and, along with his puck-moving ability, is the main reason for his success at the NHL level thus far.

If Donovan can consistently perform at a high level, he should stick with the Islanders for the long haul. Like de Haan, his contract is up at the end of the season so there is a lot on the line.


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

Reinhart exceeded all expectations with an impressive training camp and preseason. He played so well that he was in consideration of making the team, but instead was sent back to Edmonton to continue developing as the captain of his Oil King squad. His preseason is definitely an indication that there are great things to come for this youngster. His skating has drastically improved over the offseason and it showed in his preseason performances. He still needs to bulk up a bit more and fill out his massive frame.

If the Oil Kings do not advance deep into the playoffs we could see him play a game or two with the Islanders, but he will most likely report to Bridgeport at the conclusion of his junior season.  

Offensive Breakout
Ryan Pulock, D, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

Pulock is off to a hot start returning to captain his Wheat King team, recording two goals and five assists his first five games. He is finally fully healthy after playing through some nagging injuries last season.

He is a hard-nosed defensemen that can do it all. He can hit, shoot, pass, and skate at a very high level. He is expected to have a big season offensively if he can stay healthy. It will be very interesting to see if he makes the U20 Canadian WJC roster. He should have a very good chance of making the team if he continues to dominate the WHL.

New Team in 2013
Viktor Crus Rydberg, C, Plymouth Whalers (OHL)

Crus Rydberg decided to leave his homeland of Sweden to report to the Plymouth Whalers who drafted him with 41st pick in the 2013 CHL Import Draft. He is off to a great start scoring two goals and adding four helpers through eight games. It is a very good sign that he has settled in quickly to the North American style of play. It comes as no surprise due to his grittier style, which is not typically associated with European players.

He will continue to acclimate himself to the smaller rink and should play a pivotal role with the Whalers. He plays a solid two-way game, which should continue to improve. He is a long-term project and will most likely play another year in OHL following this season.


Top Amateur Prospect
Taylor Cammarata, F, Minnesota Golden Gophers (Big 10)

Cammarata joins the Golden Golphers as a very highly touted recruit with lofty expectations. Though he lacks size, his skill set is off the charts. He is an offensive dynamo and he should be able to put together a very productive freshman season.

It will be very interesting to see if he makes the USA U20 WJC squad. If he starts to put up some points at the collegiate level he will have a very good chance of making the team.

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

Entering his junior season, Russo is set to be the anchor of the Fighting Irish blue line and will relied upon heavily throughout the season. He is a fierce competitor and very difficult to play against. He also has a lot of offensive upside given his heavy shot and skating ability. He is not afraid to jump into the play and push the pace offensively. This season he should improve upon his 23 points in 41 games last season.

Freshman to Watch
Eamon McAdam, G, Penn State Nittany Lions (Big 10)

It appears McAdam will start the season off playing second fiddle to Matt Skoff who has retained his starting job for the Nittany Lions. McAdam will be given some opportunities to start, and will have to seize them, as they may not occur frequently this season. For now, he will bide his time until he receives his first NCAA start.


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

Pokka is currently playing in his third full season SM-liiga. He has always had a lot of offensive potential, but in the past struggled to put up high-end offensive statistics playing against grown men. That is expected to change however, as he has gained a lot of strength and will play a more prominent role for Karpat this year.

He sees the ice very well and makes great breakout passes. He does the little things right and is a very well rounded rear guard. Look for him to dominate in his third U20 WJC. Pokka should fight for a spot with the Islanders next season if he decides to make the jump across the pond to North America.