With the month of August already here, it gets to be very quite when it comes to New York Islanders news, but that doesn’t mean Islanders fans don’t have time to analyze their team and begin making their predictions for the upcoming season. One prediction that has been analyzed quite a bit is the roster spots of Michael Grabner and Kirill Petrov. The Islanders are full and there doesn’t appear to be a spot available except for the press box at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Will the Islanders repeat last year and run with a full (humor) 15 forwards, 10 defenseman and 2 goalies?
To get a better picture is to find out about the Bridgeport Sound Tigers roster and see if anything fits. Bridgeport has been responsible for many of the New York Islanders players development and eventual promotion to the NHL. Does Bridgeport have anyone on the cusp ready for an NHL advancement? Let’s see. The roster is not yet in place, but many that will be written on here are a pretty sure bet to be on the team in October.
First line: Whitney, Quine, Halmo
Joe Whitney comes from the Albany Devils and should help with the scoring. He added 60 points in 60 games last year but the main person on this line to look at is Alan Quine, the Islanders 6th round draft pick in 2013. His numbers have steadily improved in the AHL, but has yet to see any action with the parent club. Mike Halmo is a name Islanders fans are familiar with as he has been seen on the fourth line for the Isles when called up.
Second line: Vaive, Leblanc, Collberg (The late bloomers line)
Justin Vaive is a great story. This guy has been around every possible League and has improved every time. He received a two-way contract from the Islanders this year so there is no going down to the ECHL. He’s a big (6’6″ 205lbs), raw, power forward that tallied 14 goals and 32 points in 62 games for the Hartford Wolf Pack. He’s no slouch to the international tournaments either, posting 3 goals and 6 assists in 7 games for Team USA’s under-18 World Junior tournament in 2007.
Louis Leblanc was recently signed by the New York Islanders and if he shows any kind of progression, can still turn into a bottom 6 two-way forward in the NHL, so playing on the second line would be perfect for him. The 2009 former first round pick of the Montreal Canadiens had 29 points in 71 games for the Norfolk Admirals last year and has seen some NHL time when he was with Montreal. Last year the Admirals were at the bottom of the point standings with Bridgeport, but it’s believed Leblanc will play center this year, his natural position, instead of right wing.
There are two words that associate with Sebastian Collberg: Thomas Vanek. He was part of the deal that came back in that trade with Montreal. If there was a player who could have a breakout year, it’s Collberg and he has to. He registered 18 points in 43 games last season. Not something you want to see your first year. He was sent down to the ECHL and tore it up while he was briefly there, but this year he must come out ready and prepared if he wants an NHL future. There’s no denying he still has a tremendous wrist shot, but Collberg must put it all together this year.
There’s a high risk, high reward with this second line. There’s an opportunity for growth and advancement here so when you’re in the AHL and the focus is on development, the Islanders can take that chance. As for the third line, You have AHL veterans Justin Florek (LW) and James Wright(C/LW) (who had a one year stint with the KHL last year). Look for those two to put up some decent numbers, but their right winger is still in question. As of now, there is no one I could put in there because the bottom three players are just that, and the only other person I would think of putting on that third like is Halmo. Let’s not beat around the bush here: This Bridgeport team may not be a playoff team come seasons end. Keep that into perspective.
And this is where you can begin to predict. The third line and possible first line right wing position, for now, is open. Do you slot Petrov, a two-way contract right wing in there so that he gets used to the North American game? Would playing in the AHL hinder Petrovs’ development due to the lack of not-yet-ready talent on Bridgeport? Would it be easier for Petrov to just get extra practice time in the NHL before making his debut? Does Michael Grabner get paid 5 million dollars to play on the top line for Bridgeport in the AHL or sit in the press box in the NHL? Will either player hinder any development of the younger players by taking up more ice time? Obviously training camp may answer some of those questions, especially if there are injuries to other Islanders players and there may be other camp invites who may win that spot in Bridgeport, but for now, I’ll let you predict what happens.