This New York Islanders season is over. At least as far as achieving any team success. The time has come to consider the future.
Fans of all NHL teams, not just the New York Islanders, like to use this winter break to size up their future prospects by watching the World Junior Championship. I have time off from work. The family is doing something holiday related while I humbug.
And I have to admit that I am enjoying watching Mathew Barzal toy with Latvian teenagers. Barzal looks as good as McDavid, Crosby, Gretzky, or Tavares did in the WJC
Ok, they each played this tourney as a seventeen-year-old, and Barzal is nearly 20. But it’s fun to watch him dipsey doodle around countless nondescript kids and fantasize about him doing that in the NHL.
Keifer Bellows is nowhere near a star for this USA team. He’s a fourth liner, and getting time as a power play specialist. He’s a stocky guy, unafraid to shoot from anywhere, and willing to get grimy in the corners, but wasn’t even taking a regular 5-on-5 shift by the end of the Russian game.
Bellows has some Okposo in him. A broad-shouldered, NCAA enigma. For better or worse.
Otto Koivula plays almost the same role for Finland. Except as the tournament went on he got more ice time, moved from the third line to first, and gained the staff’s trust.
Of course, that staff was fired before the relegation game. So how much merit to you give their assessment? Otto’s climb may be due to more bad play by his teammates that his own success. I don’t even remember him getting a shot on goal.
However, all of that you can, and probably have seen for yourself. I’m using my free time to explore the much wider world of Islander prospects. I’m only going to comment on players I have been able to see at least three times. So nothing on the Colin Adams or Linus Soderstrom’s of the world.
And only one snide cheap shot at Andong Song. With a career total of zero points, he is the one Islander draft pick who seems to be living up to the max potential we all thought he had on draft day.
My Junior Scouting Credentials
While everything I state is based on my opinion, you should know that you can trust me. I’m the guy who watched the WJC a few years ago and thought Scheifele should not be getting first line minutes ahead of Ryan Strome, and that Shane Gostibehere was way too weak defensively to play in the NHL.
I’m the guy who wrote in another publication that Anders Lee was the second best New York Islander prospect on his Notre Dame team, behind Robbie Russo. With scouting credential like that…
I caught five Bridgeport games in December. Three featured Joshua Ho-Sang. He made good use of the word pointless. One, because he was held off the scoreboard. Also because all his crazy skill set did was let him Boitano around the ice looking for good scores from the East German judge. There didn’t seem to be a point to all of his flash.
More on Barzal: He Was Ready All Along
There was one play where he did a double Blake Comeau zone orbit, where he tantalizingly avoided at least two aggressive attacks… and then lost the puck and slammed his stick on the ice moping as the play went the other way.
There’s something great in him. Less than 50/50 it ever comes out.
Michael Dal Colle couldn’t be more different. I saw him get hit hard, score a goal, work a power play, lose his footing, and his expression never changed. Not a single prospect at Bridgeport knows more about what to do with, and without, the puck, than Dal Colle.
I wish the Sound Tigers had an elite center prospect. MDC’s ability to get open, create space, work the boards, is wasted right now. Not that I see a genius in him, but I think I see a hockey player.
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Devon Toews is the smartest prospect down there. He is a year away from being a dominant AHL defenseman. Maybe best in the league. But what can be expected from a guy who doesn’t have a single physical skill that rates as a plus on an NHL level?
Toews isn’t destined to be a point per game producer in the NHL, just as Campoli and Gervais weren’t. Lots of Defensemen pile up points in junior and college: Hamonic, Pelech, Pedan, Kichton, De Hart, all overlapped as New York Islanders prospect point per game producers a few years ago.
When his career ascends to a league where his skills are no longer way above average, Toews can’t make up for it with size and strength the way Hamonic and Pelech (kind of) did as they moved up the ranks. But what we might have on our hands here is another de Haan/Hickey type who does a little of everything with some hustle and some smarts.
Beyond The Sound Tigers
Beyond that, nothing. Graham (despite a point per game), Leduc, Verhaege, Finn, Burroughs, Schempp. The best players are non-prospects Bernier and Kearns.
I got to see all three CHL defensemen play in the past two weeks. They are all less than ideal body types, with terrific point totals, and very hard names to spell. I like Mitch Vande Sompel best of the three. He seems like he might grow into the frame. And he has a neat little habit of finishing checks by pinning a guy’s stick to the wall.
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Parker Wotherspoon is not unlike Toews. No skill stands out as above average for an NHLer, but he is better at most things than the average junior player. He’ll likely continue to put up points and have to completely change his game as he goes pro next fall.
Imagine Pulock’s shot in a feisty package the height of Johnny Gaudreau, and the width of… well, Gaudreau’s height. David Quenneville is such a square that I don’t remember a player ever being built like that. Think of an NFL fullback. This guy is fun to watch.
I remember hearing that the secret to Detroit’s drafting that created the 25-year playoff run was that they looked for a guy with at least one above average skill. David Quenneville fits that mold. He isn’t the well-rounded prospect that Toews, Wotherspoon, and Vande Sompel are.
NCAA prospects, aside from Bellows, who I already mentioned, are interesting. Not good, but interesting. Taylor Cammarota was drafted as a USHL scoring leader matriculating into Minnesota. He was an ok freshman who made the USA’s WJC team and has gotten worse in each of the three subsequent years.
Taylor is too small, too slow, not skilled enough to rise above the third line on an NCAA team in his senior year. His teammate, Defenseman Jake Bischoff has gotten better each year. And finally, in this, his last season of eligibility has attained the level of, “pretty good”.
If he played this soundly as a freshman, manned the power play point this well as a sophomore, I’d be more hopeful. He is “pretty good” now. Maybe he is a late bloomer worth signing. But if so, he surely starts with the Monarchs and not the Tigers.
I have saved this one for last, because he was the guy I was most looking forward to seeing; Doyle Somerby. His giant frame and his prep school name are irresistible. He wears a letter for his team and coaches rave about his steadiness and leadership. I didn’t see it.
In last year’s NCAA playoffs I thought he was slow footed and prone to panic when defending a forecheck. He doesn’t seem to see breakout opportunities and just dumps pucks to open areas hoping for the best. He can’t turn well either.