Usually around this time of year I am writing up different draft eligible player profiles for Isles Talk and by the morning of the draft, I’ll pick who I believe the Islanders will take. I got pretty good at it in recent years as I have predicted Ryan Pilon, Michael Dal Colle, Ryan Pulock, Griffin Reinhart, Calvin de Haan and I let my pit bull pick John Tavares. That prediction article will be coming up later on this week, but after the Islanders did not have a first round pick, Islanders general manager Garth Snow made a huge trade (Reinhart for what would eventually become Barzal & Beauvillier) at the draft last year, I was unprepared to give any info. This time around for the Islanders, as I have stated before, is a transitional period for the franchise so I will be going over some of the prospects the Islanders currently have, and then by the end of the week I will go over the different scenarios the Islanders could make at the draft.
Now This is a different kind of list than you would see on other web sites, but I strongly urge you to go over to them, especially Light House Hockey to get a good view of the prospects. For the purpose of these next few articles, a prospect is someone who has not completed their respective entry-level contract, so my rankings will be different from other sites. I break down the prospects into three categories: Drafted, players who are drafted by the Islanders but cannot play professionally because of their age or decision to stay in college etc. Professional prospects, players who are in their entry-level contracts. Finally we have the graduates, players who have completed their entry-level contracts and are restricted free agents for the first time. So the Islanders do have a graduating class of prospects and I’ll be going over their roles, if any, for the Islanders next season.
At number 4, the first graduate that I’ll talk about is goaltender Christopher Gibson. Gibson signed as a free agent with the Toronto Maple Leafs and came over in a trade with a group of other players for Michael Grabner. To illustrate what Gibson has become as a player so far is easy: 20 ECHL games, 99 AHL games and 4 NHL games. All four were played with the Islanders and he was brought up due to injuries. He’s now the fourth goalie behind Berube, Greiss and Halak. At 23, there’s still room for improvement but we’re looking at a backup role at best for Gibson in the Islanders organization.
At number 3, Scott Mayfield. When Mayfield was first drafted he was viewed as a project but if he panned out, could be a top 4 defenseman. After graduating from being a prospect, he looks like might replace Brian Strait as the teams 7th or 8th defenseman. He’s bigger than Strait, but his skating needs to improve if he wants to make into the top 6. He’s played in 200 AHL and 6 NHL games. If Mayfield does make the team out of camp, my feeling is that the Islanders will still sign a veteran defenseman like they did last year with Marek Zidlicky and Mayfield may get the J.F Berube treatment where Mayfield will get plenty of practice time to get his game ready for the NHL and the goal is that Mayfield can play at least half the season and not look out-of-place.
At number 2, Alan Quine. After originally being drafted in 2012 by the Detroit Red Wings, Quine re-entered the 2013 draft and the Islanders selected him in the 6th round. He’s a player who spent minimal time in the ECHL, (7 games) but worked his way up to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and is certainly considered home-grown. He went on to play 195 AHL games for Bridgeport and finally got the call for the last two games of the season. Before the playoffs had started, most of us probably would have Mayfield ahead of Quine in any rankings, but after putting up 5 points in 10 playoff games, not only does Quine move up, but my feeling is that he’ll be a bottom six forward for the Islanders heading into this upcoming season and quite possibly be on a line with Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck. Why? well, in Quine’s first 12 games he’s recorded 6 points. Matt Martin usually averaged about 15 over the course of the entire season. I’m not saying Quine will record 40 points in his first full NHL season, but asking him to put up 25 points may not be so far-fetched. The catch with Quine will be any free agents the Islanders sign. If Frans Nielsen does resign and IF Mikhail Grabovski returns from his concussion issues, Quine would be the 13th forward or he could be exposed to the waiver draft at the beginning of the season, where he might get picked up. All of this will begin to unfold as the season gets closer, but none-the-less, the Isles have drafted another player who could improve the team.
Finally at number 1, Ryan Strome. After graduating from being a prospect, there is something fans have to realize about his recent extreme up and down seasons, he was still a prospect. Strome, who unlike his fellow teammates on this list, does not turn 23 until July 11th. He played in 55 AHL and 189 NHL games respectively, having played in a total of 15 NHL Playoff games and scoring 8 points. We know what Strome is, a top 6 forward who can play right-wing and if asked, can play center which is what he was when the Islanders drafted him. I admit, in 2011 I had hoped the Isles were going to select defenseman Dougie Hamilton then of the Boston Bruins, but I’m glad Strome is here now. Strome still has some untapped potential, and in my humble opinion, will be able to produce Kyle Okposo like numbers starting next year, especially if the Isles get a left winger to compliment both Islanders captain John Tavares and Strome. Could Strome lead the team in points one day? Maybe, but what he needs to do now is put last season behind him and get ready for more responsibility this year because he’ll need to help Tavares carry this team for a few years.
Coming up on the next article, the Professional Prospects.