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Islanders: Which Forwards Did Brent Thompson Develop?

LAVAL, QC - MARCH 02: Head coach of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers Brent Thompson looks on from behind the bench against the Laval Rocket during the AHL game at Place Bell on March 2, 2018 in Laval, Quebec, Canada. The Bridgeport Sound Tigers defeated the Laval Rocket 4-2. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
LAVAL, QC - MARCH 02: Head coach of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers Brent Thompson looks on from behind the bench against the Laval Rocket during the AHL game at Place Bell on March 2, 2018 in Laval, Quebec, Canada. The Bridgeport Sound Tigers defeated the Laval Rocket 4-2. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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Brent Thompson has been with the New York Islanders organization since 2011. Over that time, how many forwards did he develop?

When Lou Lamoriello was hired and decided to move on from Doug Weight, I wrongly assumed that Brent Thompson would get the boot as well. Thompson has been with the New York Islanders organization since the 2011-2012 season.

He acted as Bridgeport’s Head Coach before getting a promotion to Jack Capuano’s coaching staff for two seasons before returning to the Sound Tigers for the 2014-2015 season. For some reason, the Islanders liked what Thompson was doing and decided to keep him on board.

The reason why this comes as a big surprise is because the Islanders have had very little success when it comes to developing forwards.

Ironically, Thompson’s first year as head coach was arguably his biggest success story. In 2011-2012, Casey Cizikas who was a fourth-round pick just two years earlier dominated during his first year in the AHL.

He had 45 points (15 goals, 30 assists) in 52 games and got himself a spot on the AHL All-Star team. Thompson spoke very highly of Cizikas at the time

"“I relate him to (Ryan) Callahan, the captain of the Rangers,” Thompson said, invoking another two-way forward. “That’s what I see Casey Cizikas as, only for the Islanders.”"

While Casey Cizikas is still an important piece to the Islanders all these years later you can’t go without mentioning that Thompson’s biggest success at the forward position is a fourth-line center.

That’s not meant as a knock to Cizikas, who is a solid NHL player, it’s more of a criticism of Thompson for not getting the most out of the high-end talent.

Skipping ahead, in 2014 the Islanders had two first-round selections. They took Michael Dal Colle fifth overall and then Josh Ho-Sang 28th overall. Both Ho-Sang and Dal Colle played for their respective OHL teams through the 2015-2016 season before coming over to the AHL full time in 2016-2017.

This is the first example where we see no step forward from high-end offensive talent. Dal Colle in 2015-2016 had 35 goals and 80 points in the OHL and expectations were high for him as a top-five pick. He regressed.

In his first year in Bridgeport, Dal Colle put up 41 points (15 goals, 26 assists) in 75 games. It’s not awful, but for a top-five pick, he was expected to dominate that league as a 20-year-old. Well, he followed that up with 24 points the following year, an even bigger step back.

Granted, in year three he was much better in the AHL, 34 points in 34 games, he has been a flop at the next level with 17 points (7 goals, 10 assists) in 85 career games with the Islanders. A big swing and a miss on a top-five selection.

With Ho-Sang he was good in the AHL right away but never took that next step. After a semi-impressive stint with the Islanders in 2016-2017, Ho-Sang was bounced around from the AHL to the NHL the following two years.

Now, a member of the San Antonio Rampage, Ho-Sang has effectively been run out of the building. Sure, it’s not without some blame on the kid but isn’t it strange how someone who flashed at the NHL level wasn’t able to improve their game with their AHL coach?

Next, enter Kieffer Bellows. Bellows was taken 19th overall by the Isles in 2016. His first year in the AHL wasn’t until 2018-2019. Now, keep in mind he was coming off a monster 2017-2018 season in the WHL where he had 41 goals and 74 points. Expectations were high for Mr. Bellows in the AHL.

He had just 19 points (12 goals, 7 assists) in 73 games. How is that possible? Yes, he’s been better this season, 31 points in 52 games, it’s still hard to imagine someone at 21 years old still needing “that next step” with the skillset that Bellows has.

Then, there’s Oliver Wahlstrom. Wahlstrom is still young at 19 years old but with his skill set, you’d expect to see a little more scoring. He has just 10 goals in 45 games and had no goals in his nine-game stint with the Islanders. Unfortunately, Wahlstrom hasn’t shown that impressive scoring that made him the 11th overall pick in 2018.

Well, maybe he’ll have better luck with Simon Holmstrom since he’s a Lou Lamoriello guy and someone that the Islanders and only the Islanders seemed to love on draft night. Not quite. In 46 games, Holmstrom has just 15 points (8 goals, 7 assists). That’s five first-round picks in the last six years that haven’t done anything going through Bridgeport.

Mat Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier are exempt from this since Barzy hasn’t played a single game down there and Beau has just three games in the AHL. Regardless, five out of the Islanders last seven first-round forwards have struggled to produce in the AHL and expand their game.

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Is that solely bad drafting or is it the coach who is unable to develop these prospects? I’d lean towards the latter.

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