In the second category of prospects that I’ll go over will be five players who are entering or are already into playing professional hockey either in the ECHL, AHL or NHL. The main criteria to this list is potential, who has the best chance at seeing legitimate ice time in the NHL. Let’s get to them.
At number 5, Stephon Williams. Williams began his professional career playing in 7 ECHL and 34 AHL games respectively this season. His ECHL stint was a demotion, but he came back with a different/better mind set. Having said that, If he and recent prospect graduate Christopher Gibson do indeed return as a tandem for Bridgeport, you’re looking at a split season from the two of them and the competition should only be healthy benefit for both. The down side to Williams is that his entry-level contract was signed for two years, meaning he will not be on this list next year. His potential with the Islanders would be an emergency call-up, but that would mean a plague of injuries to at least 2 goalies.
At number 4, Josh Ho-Sang. Quite simply, it’s put up or shut up time for Ho-Sang. He begins his professional career this coming season after making a deep run in the OHL playoffs. He’s going to see a familiar face as he may be on a line with former Ice Dog teammate and current Sound Tiger, Carter Verhaeghe (acquired in the Michael Grabner trade). They’re both going to hit the weight room and I would not be surprised if Michael Dal Colle is on their left-wing side to form a potentially sick scoring line in the AHL. There are no more excuses for Josh, it’s time to show the critics, coaches and fans that Garth Snow made the right choice in drafting him in the first round.
Number 3 belongs to Michael Dal Colle. Dal Colle replaces Ryan Strome on this list of professional prospects because he’s the one forward in Bridgeport who could see the NHL in the fewest amount of time. There should not be a rush to bring him up as all of the young Islanders, save for Tavares, spend some time in Bridgeport to work on their speed and get used to the timing of the game. If the Islanders do land a left winger for the John Tavares line, does Dal Colle become a trade asset down the road? Maybe. Would he be one at this years draft? You never know. I will become more concerned with his future as the Expansion draft gets closer. Dal Colle was a goal scorer at the junior levels, and should be able to translate some of that consistency to the professionals. The question with Dal Colle, along with Ho-Sang is this: What else can he do besides score?
The number 2 ranked professional prospect goes to Adam Pelech. Pelech, a former defensive pairing to Griffin Reinhart in the World Junior Championships and Scott Mayfield in Bridgeport has played in 92 AHL games so far. He was a surprise call-up and received 9 games in the NHL last season. He did not look out-of-place and many fans believe that he might make the Islanders team out of camp. Unfortunately, this is where I will respectfully disagree. My first reason is that I believe the number one ranked professional prospect will make it on the team over Pelech, reasons I will go over in a bit. Pelech is a stay-at-home defenseman who’s not expected to put up flashy numbers. He keeps his game simple and from the limited time he had in the NHL, did not look out-of-place. Is he a better defenseman than say, Scott Mayfield? I would go yes. But why would the Islanders bring up Pelech if he was not going to be a top six defenseman? Mayfield will be a 7th or 8th defenseman probably playing a limited role and hopefully getting in half a season of games. Pelech’s development would be more suited to play as many games as possible with Bridgeport and if the Islanders return to the playoffs, it would not shock me to see the Islanders pull a “Alan Quine call-up” towards the end of the season and have Pelech finish the regular season and see time in the playoffs over Mayfield. Could Pelech be called up during the seasons if injuries begin to mount up? Absolutely, which is why I have Pelech where he is: A good defensive call-up who could be a top six defenseman in the near future for the Islanders.
The number one ranked professional prospect is Ryan Pulock. Pulock will be the reason Adam Pelech will not make the team out of camp, injuries aside. The Islanders need his shot to help improve the offense. He had 3 points in 6 games in the playoffs and made a statement that he belongs in the NHL. I asked myself: If Pulock is a top 4 defenseman now? I decided no, but I wanted a public opinion on that same question, so I ran a poll on twitter and I got a decent response from the polls, replies and messages (Thank you all for helping!) and the results showed that the fans agreed with my original thought: 54% said no, he’s not while 46% said yes. So as of October 1st, will we see Ryan Pulock in the top 4? Probably not. Could we see him in the top 4 by April 1st? That’s a good possibility, injuries aside. I would love to see Pulock and Hickey paired together to start the season. The offense from both and Pulock learning Hickey’s positioning techniques will help him develop into a top 4. With Travis Hamonic rescinding his trade request, there’s no need to speed up Pulock’s development in the NHL. However, to see him go back to the AHL to start the season because he’s not a top 4 defenseman would be worrisome.
Tomorrow, I’ll go over the top drafted junior prospects who may where the Islanders jersey someday.
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