NY Islanders prospect pool thrown cold water in The Hockey News rankings
The NY Islanders prospect pool has been ranked in the bottom third of NHL prospect pools in various rankings over the last couple of years. Recently, The Hockey News threw more cold water at the Isles prospect pool in their 2023 Future Watch issue.
The Hockey News ranked the Islanders' prospect pool 25th in the league (last year they were ranked 30th). They identified the Isles pipeline as "thin and unproven" as well as "hard-pressed for a player in their system who could quickly make contributions at the NHL level".
The pipeline became even more depleted after the Bo Horvat trade. While it was no doubt a home run for the organization, the deal did send their top prospect Aatu Raty (ranked 35th overall on The Hockey News Top 100 prospects in the latest future watch) to the Vancouver Canucks.
Despite a lackluster review, there are still some players in the system that can contribute and help the Islanders moving forward.
Top Ten List
The Isles' new top prospect since the departure of Räty is William Dufour who is currently ranked 94th on THN's list. Dufour, the 21-year-old winger (a 2020 fifth-round pick) has both size and skill and has been having a strong season in Bridgeport (19 Goals, 37 Points, 55 Games). The hope is sometime next year Dufour can be in the Islanders' lineup as a solid third-line winger.
Samual Bolduc ranks second, a defenseman who was a second-round pick in 2019. Bolduc has improved this season (10 Goals, 33 Points, 51 Games in Bridgeport) and looked good at times with the blue and orange in his six-game stint this season. If Scott Mayfield who is a pending unrestricted free agent were to leave this off-season, Bolduc would be the team's number one internal option to fill his spot.
The other interesting name is Ruslan Iskhakov who is the Isles fourth-ranked prospect. Iskhakov has taken a big step in Bridgeport this season (14 Goals, 44 Points, 53 Points) but the small center (5'9, 165 lbs) has yet to get a call-up to the NHL.
The other prospects on the Isles THN's list are all in the 18 - 20 age range and have derived from the last two drafts. 21-year-old forward, Alex Jefferies, has been turning heads in the NCAA playing for Merrimack University and was recently named 2022-23 NCAA Hockey East All-Star. He's ranked as the Islanders' seventh-best prospect.
Need Some Graduations
Lou Lamoriello and the Islanders would really benefit from some internal graduates in the pipeline to the NHL roster. From a cap standpoint, having regular NHLers on entry-level contracts are crucial for organizations to be successful.
The Islanders will have several veteran players who will become unrestricted free agents after both this season and next. That list includes Josh Bailey, Cal Clutterbuck, Pierre Engvall, Hudson Fasching, Matt Martin, Scott Mayfield, and Zach Parise. Certainly, Lamoriello will go to work and either re-sign some of the aforementioned or bring in some new blood via free agency to fill out the roster. However, it could save him a couple of bucks if a player or two can step into an everyday role at the varsity level. Iskhakov has certainly continued to show he wants a shot, and Arnaud Durandeau was impressive in his short, four-game stint this season.
It seems like the Islanders won't draft in the first round of the NHL draft for a fourth year in a row this summer which means that Lamoriello and his scouts will need to hit on their second-round selections or later. Finding a possible hidden gem in the later rounds in the 2023 Draft for the Isles is something they need to take a big step forward with their pipeline.
It's a tall order, but the Islanders have a history of hitting prospects in later rounds such as Anders Lee who was a sixth-round pick in 2009, or Adam Pelech a former third-round draft pick in 2012. 65th overall. THN threw cold water at the Isles prospect pool and they certainly have their reasons, but if the Islanders pipeline is anything like the team we see on the ice, they'll surely look to prove people wrong again and again.