Since I went to work an hour or less after Michael Grabner was sent to the Toronto Maple Leafs, I did not do any research on the players the Islanders had received in the trade. So after reading up and talking to a few Toronto Marlies fans, many were saying the same thing: They just needed a place to play more minutes. So Bridgeport is the perfect place for this group.
The first player I looked at was defenceman Matt Finn. Since I cover the draft, he was a name that I had remembered. Finn took the same path as Griffin Reinhart did, playing in 4 years for Guelph of the OHL, winning the OHL championship and losing in the Memorial Cup finals to Reinhart’s Edmonton Oil Kings. From there he went on to play for the Marlies last year but was limited to 28 games. From what I gathered up, it was strictly a numbers game and it’s with many other junior players making the jump to the pro level: the pace. Finn has the offensive potential, but needs to bulk up and work on his speed. If he plays a full season in Bridgeport, that should be a good indication of where he’s at as a pro.
The second player I was intrigued with was Carter Verhaeghe of the Niagara Ice Dogs. He’s coming off two back to back 80 point seasons, but was also the center for Islanders prospect Josh Ho-Sang (who was sent back to Niagara today for being late to the first day of training camp). Back in the 2012-13 season, he also played with current Islander Ryan Strome and Bridgeport Sound Tiger defenceman Jesse Graham. His goal should be to become a number two center behind Alan Quine and he’ll learn the ropes of being a pro this year. Having said that, there shouldn’t be much of any kind of pressure except to learn and to adjust to the pace of the professional level.
The other two players with AHL experience, goaltender Chris Gibson and defenceman Tom Nilsson, had much bigger roles with the Marlies and both had even seen some playoff time last year. This is a good thing for Bridgeport who needed some experience with most of the top drafted players already with the big club. I would like to see what happens with the goaltending situation as Gibson will have to battle Stephon Williams and Kevin Poulin for some ice time. The final piece of the trade was big left winger Taylor Beck. He spent all of last year with the Nashville Predators, but only averaged 11 minutes a game. There’s another connection here as Beck was teammates with Finn during the 2010-11 Guelph OHL season along with former Isles prospect Andrey Pedan. If Beck does not make the Isles out of training camp, Beck and Finn could be reunited and Beck has a history of lighting up the AHL. There’s enough forwards on this team to make something happen.
So for me, Bridgeport looks full thanks to this Michael Grabner trade. Are these prospects going to make the big club anytime soon? Save for Beck, probably not and that’s a good thing. Toronto was an organization not well known for properly developing young talent so these players are coming into the right environment and will not be rushed. Garth Snow has restocked an AHL prospect pool that was depleting due to graduations and having many draft picks still in college.
There’s enough mix of veterans and youngsters on this team that could compete. With the addition of Nilsson and Finn It’s pretty clear the first two call ups will be either Pulock or Mayfield should neither make the club. Having said that, wouldn’t shock me now if either one of them made the team out of camp. As for the forwards, if Beck is sent down and not claimed off waivers, he’ll be joining 60 pointers Alan Quine and Joe Whitney to go along with a slew of players who need to prove that they’re ready to take another step in their development. Overall, the Sound Tigers are stacked. Who makes the team will be for another time.