Some key Isles rookies have started to show flashes of promise in recent games, offering hope for their future with the club. Some strong performances in the last two games have highlighted the impact of the first-year players on the Islander lineup, and the early signs of merging with what appears to be a club in the process of gelling into a cohesive unit.
Rookie defender Calvin de Haan scored his first career NHL goal on Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The goal ultimately stood as the game winner as the Isles skated to a 5-3 victory. This on the heels of his first two points, a pair of assists, the previous night in the 7-3 rout of the Dallas Stars. De Haan spent nearly 24 minutes on the ice, well above his season average, and landed five hits in addition to the landmark goal. He played a solid all-around game and showed a lot of poise for a kid just 20 games into his NHL career.
Beyond de Haan’s emergence some other Islander rookies are showing strong hints of their projected promise. Brock Nelson scored in the game against the Stars, in the same game in which Ryan Strome potted his first career goal. Against the Leafs on Tuesday, Nelson made several smart plays of the sort that go unnoticed by casual fans, belying a maturity and intelligence beyond his years. One play in particular saw Nelson, who projects as a solid two-way forward, tying up the puck behind his net, shaving crucial seconds off the clock rather than throwing a blind pass up the middle in an attempt to clear the zone. It’s the type of play that often leads to a turnover, and Nelson wisely chose to play it smart.
With other emerging regulars such as Matt Donovan, Anders Nilsson and Aaron Ness contributing to varying degrees, and others such as Anders Lee and Johan Sundstrom biding their time in Bridgeport, the future of the Isles is beginning to show dividends on what will hopefully be a bright future.