As much as I love covering the draft in the early summer, it’s also important for me to continue observing those draft picks as they progress and develop throughout the course of the next year or two. In the case for the New York Islanders some hockey websites include prospects that are in Bridgeport, since their definition of a professional is the NHL. I tend to disagree with that. My definition of a professional is someone who is still property of the Islander via a restricted free agent and is getting paid in the ECHL, AHL or NHL. You will not see players mentioned like Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield, Sebastian Collberg on this particular piece, but you will be getting updates on them coming up in the Bridge Report in a few days. Having said that, let me go over the players in Islanders junior ranks you should keep an eye on.
1. Left winger Michael dal Colle: As far as I’m concerned, the World Junior Championships is the last big experience Dal Colle needs to take in and put it under his belt. Forget his numbers this year as the Oshawa Generals are not that great, but may still make the playoffs. Playing against the best in the world is exactly what he needs now and if team Canada wins gold, there’s nothing left for him to prove. When the tournament is concluded and if the Oshawa Generals continue to struggle, it will either be a quick exit for Dal Colle which in turn the Islanders can send him to Bridgeport where the Sound Tigers are sure to make the playoffs this year and give him the experience of a professional hockey playoff run or the Generals can trade Dal Colle (like they did John Tavares) and allow him to make a deeper run at a consecutive Memorial Cup Championship.
2. Center Mathew Barzal fell into the Isles laps at last years draft after making the Griffin Reinhart trade with Edmonton. Let me be clear that if Barzal had been healthy the previous season, he would’ve been a top five pick and he is showing that the Islanders were very smart to pick him up. He too appears headed to the World Junior Championships for team Canada and pairing him with Dal Colle sounds very enticing. Like Dal Colle, Barzal’s numbers are not needed as he’s merely gaining the experience needed to take the next step in into the professional ranks. Barzal definitely has an NHL future, but with the Islanders looking at another 100 point season as of this post, the amount of depth the team has and the contract status of Frans Nielsen still in play, all you can hope for Barzal is to stay injury free and get as much experience as possible.
3. Right Wing Josh Ho-Sang Ho-Sang did not get an invite from the World Juniors again despite putting up great numbers this season. In my humble opinion, this might be a set back in his development as I was hoping to see how he would play against the best in the world and notice if he could take his game to that level. His Niagara team should make the OHL playoffs, but my hope is that he can quickly end this chapter of his life and come to Bridgeport with a clean slate and put this year behind him. His off ice news has already been well documented, but if the Isles don’t want to see him regress any further then getting Ho-Sang to the AHL sooner will be beneficial.
4. Left Wing Anthony Beauvillier Beauvillier is Barzal but on the left side. Another great pick at last years draft by Garth Snow and again, I’m not concerned about his numbers. When you get invited to the World Junior Championships for team Canada, you’re doing something right. Soak up as much winning and experience if he makes the team and the Islanders will be well represented for team Canada.
5. When the NCAA tournament comes around, listen for the name Kyle Schempp of Ferris State. He’s having a career year so far and may make a case for Bridgeport’s team next year.
6. Goalie Linus Soderstrom Soderstrom is returning to the World Junior Championship again for team Sweden. I have always seen a pattern with Garth and drafting players who participated in the WJC. Soderstrom is still a few years away but, he’s one to watch during this tournament against Canada and the US.
7. Goalie Ilya Sorokin I think the one prospect that is completely under the radar in terms of discussion is Sorokin. Could I see him being a number one goalie in the NHL? Yes. Could he be for the Isles? Yes. He’s dominated the KHL and by dominating he’s got a goals against average under 1 and his save percentage is .961. He’s only 20 years old but is not playing as much as he should be. At some point he’ll be a regular starter in the KHL and then we’ll see how he handles the rigors of a longer season.
8 & 9. Defenseman’s Devon Toews and Doyle Somerby are two defenseman in the NCAA that are names to look for. Toews is playing for Quinnipiac University and is one of the best records in the NCAA. Somerby is your late round, poor man’s version to Scott Mayfield and is having a breakout year for Boston University. I could see Toews playing in Bridgeport next year and Somerby may get a chance if he continues to shine this year.
If I were to rank the players based on what they’ve accomplished so far and future potential, it would probably look something like this:
1. Dal Colle
What you can expect from this crop of prospects is that at least 7 of these players should see time with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Some may even see Brooklyn but I do believe that the cupboard is full with enough talented prospects that making decisions about future free agents becomes easier for Garth Snow.