It is no secret that the New York Islanders have a wealth of top-notch prospects in their organization waiting for their opportunity. It is also no secret that the team is struggling, primarily on defense, through the first twelve games. Across the Islanders’ twitterverse people everywhere are begging for Garth Snow to call anyone up from the team’s AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers to fill the holes left by the current roster.
On Wednesday October 30th 2013, I had the opportunity to watch the Sound Tigers play against the Hartford Wolf Pack and I knew instantly I had to write this article and enlighten the Islander fans who may not have the opportunity to watch the Sound Tigers play.
There were eighteen players and one goalie who played last night in Bridgeport’s five to three loss in Hartford and not a single one of them is ready to step foot onto NHL ice. There is one player who was scratched that I am optimistic about but did not get to watch play and that is Andrey Pedan. I cannot confidently comment on his playing ability or readiness but there is a possibility that he will be the first defensive call-up to Long Island.
Aside from Pedan there was one player in last night’s game that impressed enough to earn a maybe next to his name in the scouting report. Ryan Strome was the only player who appeared to be close enough to ready where a call-up would not be out of the question but he is not first-line NHL ready. Strome did impress on most of his shifts throughout the game and with two-assists improved his point-per-game season to eight points in seven games. Strome’s vision and hockey IQ are NHL ready, but he did not appear to be ready for the speed he will encounter at the NHL level. He was able to make smart passes and was strong with the puck in the corners and along the boards, but he was unable to create his own time and space with the puck. Strome also seemed a step behind in the defensive zone and with the speed difference from the AHL to the NHL a step behind in Bridgeport does not translate well to Long Island. Strome will be a dynamic player for the New York Islanders, it is only a matter of time. Time that the Islanders’ organization and fans must be patient with if they hope to see the full potential of Ryan Strome. Expect to see Strome in the NHL this season if the team continues to fall short of expectations, but he definitely makes the team next year out of training camp.
Calvin de Haan was once touted as the Islanders top defensive prospect until he was bitten by the injury bug. Through seven games this season de Haan has zero points and is a minus-eight. Numerous injuries have slowed his development and caused concern among many. Last night de Haan appeared to be the quite comfortable along the blue line and still shows promise as a high-end prospect that Islander fans can look forward to watching for many years to come, just not yet. de Haan made poor decisions with the puck and often failed to pick up his assignment in the defensive zone. The Islanders currently need a solid defenseman they can rely on not someone who still needs to develop their game. Defenseman take longer to develop than forwards do so patience is also a must with de Haan, he’ll get there but on the depth chart he is still behind Donovan.
There are high expectations for Mayfield, who is playing in his first full season with the Sound Tigers after joining them for seven games last year when his University of Denver career ended. Mayfield is a gifted defenseman who should make his way onto the Islanders team before long. He currently has one goal and is even on the year, which is more than most of the Sound Tigers can say. Mayfield is only twenty years old and one season out from playing in the NCAA he impressed on Wednesday making good decisions with the puck and playing a solid defensive game. He is currently a little slow and needs to get stronger before breaking into the NHL, he is a solid defenseman but is not quite there yet.
Aaron Ness is entering his third full season with the Sound Tigers and has played in nine games with the New York Islanders. He is one of the smartest defenseman I have seen and he his good on his feet however his size is a major concern. Listed at 5-feet 10-inches tall and 185 pounds Ness is undersized for an NHL defenseman. He reminds me
of Thomas Hickey, who is a talented offensive defenseman but his size hinders his ability in the defensive zone.
Yes, Anders Lee has a couple of NHL games and a couple of NHL points under his belt, no Lee is not ready to play at the NHL level. Playing alongside one of the most gifted players in the AHL, Ryan Strome, Lee often looked a few steps behind and seemed to lack the confidence with the puck needed to play at the NHL level. If Lee is able to develop his game the way Josh Bailey has he can be a key factor to the Islanders’ future. He has the talent and his size is an asset that you can not overlook. Lee is an exciting prospect but after watching him play in Hartford he is far from NHL ready.
In all the Islanders have a promising FUTURE it is important to remain patient. I know that the team gave their fans something to be excited about last season and the feeling that the rebuild is coming to an end is prominent, but the team is not a Stanley Cup contender this season. The Islanders should be a competitive team in the Metropolitan division and they should make the playoffs, but when all of their prospects; Strome, Mayfield, Lee, de Haan, Pedan, Brock Nelson, Ryan Pulock, Griffin Reinhart fully develop, the Islanders will become a force to be reckoned with night in and night out.
-Shane Blackburn (@ShaneBNHL)