It's nothing new for the New York Islanders not to have a highly regarded prospect pool. Fans have grown accustomed to seeing their team at nearly the bottom of every published list. After all, GM Lou Lamoriello has traded the organization's last four first-round picks. Building a top prospect pipeline is hard, if not impossible, when you're not selecting a player until day two of the draft each year.
Nevertheless, there are prospects in the system that fans are intrigued and optimistic about, yet a new prospect ranking suggests those expectations should be tempered. On Tuesday, Scott Wheeler, national prospect and draft reporter at The Athletic, published his annual Top 50 NHL prospect rankings. Over 20,000 words of analysis cover those 50 prospects and 77 honorable mentions; none were written on players in the Islanders system.
Wheeler points out that the Islanders are the only team not to have a player in either the top 50 or among the over 70 honorable mentions, though he acknowledges that four players, William Dufour, Matthew Maggio, Calle Odelius and Samuel Bolduc, all received strong consideration.
This past January, Wheeler ranked the Islanders as having the 27th-best prospect pool in the league, noting that they had a "glut of OK to solid prospects" that had a chance at becoming NHL players but no one with star potential.
While Bolduc has a chance to become a third-pair defenseman on the team next season, if Wheeler is going to be proven wrong, it'll likely be because of two players - Maggio and Dufour. Both are going to have ample opportunity to showcase their skill this season in Bridgeport as part of a young roster under new head coach Rick Kowalsky.
When introduced earlier this week, Kowalsky spoke highly of both players. Maggio led the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with 54 goals and 111 points in 66 games last season and made his AHL debut after his Windsor team was unexpectedly ousted early in the playoffs. "He wants the puck, he knows where to go on the ice, and he works to get there," said Kowalsky. "He's a competitive kid. And the biggest thing is he's a good kid.”
Meanwhile, Dufour scored 21 goals in his first AHL season after being named the 2021-22 QMJHL MVP. He made a one-game cameo for the Islanders against the Boston Bruins before being sent down after being on the ice for two goals against in limited ice time. "He's big, he can shoot, he can score," Kowalsky said of Dufour. "He's very good on the power play. He has to work on his quickness, his intensity, and his heaviness on the puck at times"
Time will tell whether either Maggio or Dufour can crack a future Top-50 skater ranking, but the first step will be proving they are deserving of more than just a consideration for honorable mentions.